30 March 2013

Like: FT punctuation

I like the way the FT uses punctuation marks in combination with full stops, commas and the like.

The following examples are from Lunch with the FT: Isabel dos Santos by Tom Burgis published on 29 March 2013:
“He didn’t know.” ... The tender process ... was, she says “fair”. ...
“Let’s do the bottle,” she says with a grin. ...
“It took them seven years ... otherwise they would have got the papers quicker.”
The conflict ended in 2002 and communism has long since given way to what one Angola expert calls “crony capitalism”.

I like it because it makes real sense to me. (It's also the way I punctuate my work, though I must add that it's not always understood.) It requires more thinking than the 'one rule fits all situations' approach adopted by  many style guides (including those of quality publications), but I find it intrisically pleasing.

What should we call it? The 'quotation marks inside or outside as dictated by logic' method?

25 March 2013

Product-specific terminology

In the latest issue of his highly regarded Tool Box Newsletter, Jost Zetzsche writes:
"If you have ever translated SAP products ... you know that everything you have ever known about computer-related terminology needs to be forgotten before you even sit down. ... Over the years, SAP's approach to supporting the external translation community has been a little capricious, but that has just changed with the amazing SAPterm project, a terminology resource with official translations of SAP terminology into 37 standard languages and 150,000 source entries. ... This reminded me of a talk I once had with Aiman Copty and Heinz Lueken, then the responsible representatives for translation at Oracle and SAP respectively. ... I asked Aiman and Heinz -- very naïvely, might I add -- whether this would not be a tremendous opportunity for these two fierce competitors to share terminology so that the customers would not be confused with contradictory terminology, a trademark of Oracle and SAP's history. I actually don't remember what their exact words were, but the gist was: "You've got to be kidding!" No, wait, I think they actually didn't say anything, they just gazed at me with serene and very pitying smiles on their faces."

I have quoted Jost at length to highlight just how company- and product-specific some areas of technical terminology can be and what an enormous mistake it can be if even a highly skilled translator fails to identify this type of context and go to the right sources.

22 March 2013

Grammar checkers reviewed

Mark Nichol of DailyWritingTips has reviewed a number of English language grammar checkers in an article entitled Grammar-Checking Software Is Soft on Grammar Errors.

I am looking for a better grammar checker than the one that comes with Microsoft Word, but I'm hardly tempted by any of those reviewed by DailyWritingTips. (I'm also looking for a better thesaurus -- specifically a thesaurus tailored to the needs of general and technical journalists... but that's another subject.)

Above, I wrote 'English language grammar checkers', but I suspect I should have said 'US English grammar checkers'. Indeed, it is interesting to note that most of the site promoting these products are aimed solely at users writing in US English.

I'm in the market for a grammar checked, but I want one that offers choices matching my personal preferences. These include:
  • spelling options (-is- vs. -iz-, US versus UK, etc.)
  • punctuation options ('inside' vs. 'outside' quotation marks, single vs. double  quotation marks, spaces around ellipses, bullet list punctuation options, etc.)
  • Oxford comma vs. optional Oxford commas
  • US vs. other adverb positioning options.
Although we sometimes appear to have a plethora of tools to choose from, there are occasions when users like me continue to search.

21 March 2013

Comment répondre quand le délai est trop court

Ma grande disponibilité et la qualité de mes prestations m'ont permis d'acquérir une solide réputation. Les documents importants sont systématiquement relus par un ou plusieurs collaborateurs expérimentés et si exceptionnellement une traduction ne donne pas entière satisfaction, elle n'est pas facturée.

Le soin que j'apporte à mes prestations exige du temps : 2 à 3 jours de travail sont la plupart du temps nécessaires, même pour un travail ne représentant que 4 ou 5 heures facturables.

La qualité qui m'a permis de fidéliser mes clients ne peut pas être garantie si l'on ne m'accorde pas le temps nécessaire.

12 March 2013

Business à la française

In Business à la française, FT columnist Simon Kuper reviews “Light at the End of the Tunnel: Practical Reflections on the French and British in Business”, published by the French chamber of commerce in Great Britain, describing it as “full of shrewd insights into both sides’ codes”.  Simon Kuper then adds: My only question is whether that’s much use. After 11 years in Paris, I reckon the main reason for Franco-British incomprehension isn’t clashing codes. It’s different languages. 

The guide’s insights into French business practices include:
• “Raising one’s voice or losing one’s temper may be seen as a sign of leadership” 
• The French “sometimes disagree for the sake of discussion and to test conviction”
• They make “greater use of … body expression in confrontational situations”
• Performance appraisals “start as a ‘one way’ process subsequently evolving into an emotional dialogue”
• “Criticism can descend into personal observations”.

More quotes:
• French business people “will potentially view humour as lack of seriousness”.
• Meanwhile, the French – like everyone else on earth – are baffled when Britons say inscrutable things like, “I agree with you, up to a point.” (Guide for foreigners: this means, “That’s insane!”) As a Dutchman I know in a British company complains, it’s tiring being in a workplace where nobody ever says what they mean.
• The greater Franco-British problem is language. Most French business people under 50 can now speak Globish: the simplified, dull, idiom-free version of English with a small vocabulary. It’s silly to expect more.
• It’s customary at this point to urge British schools to start teaching French again. But that probably wouldn’t help. When dealing with French people, only near-native French confers an advantage. Speaking mediocre French is worse than useless. If mediocre French is all you have, it’s much better to speak English, and force the French person to operate on your turf.
• Later ... just smile and say: “I agree with you, up to a point.”

07 March 2013

ALL CAPS, for and against

Despite a widely perceived drift among English-language graphic artists and layout specialists towards fewer capital letters (CAPS) and greatly reduced use of all capitals (ALL CAPS), there are still significant exceptions... and some very strong reactions.

Writing in the 2013-03-06 issue of Windows Secrets Newsletter, here's some of what Woody Leonhard had to say:
"Dropping Office 2013′s new SHOUTING CAPS look
It defies understanding, but Microsoft’s interface gurus decided that all Office 2013 menu (er, tab) names looked best in ALL CAPS! — perhaps to make New Office’s layout more touch-friendly. ...

Fortunately, it’s easy to get rid of the all-caps labels. ..."

I have to tell you that I'm 100% with Woody on this!

Night Jasmin and L'arbre de nuit

Following the two posts below ( Night Jasmin and L'arbre de nuit ), my colleague and reviser Graham Cross wrote: Just out of interest...