Ask the Style Doctor

Ask the Style Doctor: Over breakfast and lunch at Translate in the Catskills, our instructors will be available in their capacity as professional style doctors and term surgeons. The Style Doctor takes a holistic approach, examining the text-patient in context and offering suggestions for short-term relief and long- term treatment.

All the instructors at Translate in the Catskills have strong track records in writing to convince; in most cases they have built their business on precisely this skill. Here’s your chance to submit your bugbears to them and leave with some useful tips. [Examples: How to render maîtrise in English (“mastery” just doesn’t do it) ; dealing with dynamique (noun and adjective) ; ou encore over-use of third-person forms in French business texts.]

Please add your examples below to give speakers time to prepare.

9 responses to “Ask the Style Doctor

  1. I would like to find a better EN translation for “tenir compte” than “take into account / consideration”. Example sentences below:
    1) L’évaluation biologique du dispositif tient compte des éléments suivants:
    2) des résultats d’essais biologiques réalisés sur le dispositif fini stérile afin de tenir compte des procédés de fabrication et de l’éventuel apport de substances toxiques

  2. I’m sure your query is going to spark many more, Joanne; thanks for getting the ball rolling. Q has been passed on to our medical staff. 🙂

  3. Joanne Archambault

    Here’s another one… when should “pouvoir” be translated as “may” and when should it be translated as “can”. I just had an editor change EVERY occurrence of “can” to “may” in an informed consent form that I translated!

  4. Translating “remettre en cause” also trips me up… For example:
    Cette nouvelle étape ne remet pas en cause la validité du procédé de nettoyage automatique initial.

  5. Dear Style Doctors,
    Now let’s talk about “acteur” in financial contexts. I think many of us dislike translating this as “player” (and I’ve gone to a lot of trouble to avoid it myself), but lately I’ve been wondering. Take a look at these examples from straight-up EN sources:

    Financial Times (Aug 3-9)
    [T]he Oman crude oil future contract is effectively sold to the market by one main player (Oman)

    Mr Barroso’s untimely letter last week demonstrated that he was no longer a central player in the eurozone crisis

    …Brussels was concerned about how the combination of Eurex and Liffe would create a dominant player in European derivatives.

    CEZ, the Czech utility, has become a big electricity player across central Europe.

    Washington Post (Jul 30)
    A Utah newspaper once described Huntsman Corp. as “nice guys in a nasty business,” as the company became a player in the Texas petrochemical industry.

    What do y’all think, and if I should avoid “player,” what should I use instead?

    Many thanks,
    Lillian Clementi

  6. Dear Style Doctors,
    I’d love some adult supervision on handling the adjectives “social” and “societal.” In many cases the writer seems to be making a distinction between labor relations (social) and larger social issues (sociétal), but not always. Here are some examples:

    1) Notre ambition va aujourd’hui au-delà d’une bonne gestion des conséquences sociales et sociétales.

    2) C’est de cette manière qu’il crée une valeur globale sur trois registres : économique, actionnarial et sociétal.

    3) La manière dont nous avons décidé de nous engager sur le plan sociétal aussi donne du sens : quand nous prenons l’engagement de réduire notre empreinte carbone … ou quand nous nous engageons … dans le soutien au tissu économique et social qui nous entoure….

    Lillian Clementi

  7. Dear Style Doctors,
    I’d like to be more methodical/efficient in approaching “dont,” as in the examples below (sorry they aren’t more challenging, but you get the point):

    Elle représente une facture d’environ 800 millions d’euros par an, dont 80 % pour la traction des trains et 20 % pour les bâtiments.

    Nombre et profils des permanents (donne une idée des moyens dont elle dispose)

    Possibilities I’ve come up with for myself (of varying usefulness, depending on context and sentence structure):

    …, including
    …, with X accounting for 80% and Y accounting for 20%.
    [end sentence.] Of this amount, X accounts for …..
    [Convert verb to noun] … the resources at its disposal/its available resources

    What else have you got in your bag of tricks?

    Many thanks–
    Lillian Clementi

  8. Dear Style Doctor,

    Could we have a general discussion on La Rentrée? How to handle it in translation? I just got a headline to review, “Back to Office” from a Canadian client and sure enough, the source was a Rentrée-themed brochure. My general approach (for advertising, anyway) is to use end-of-summer themes or fall/autumn or work in a back-to-school reference if the context warrants. I don’t have too many specific examples just now but would appreciate any feedback you might have on this very French term and concept.

    Best from,
    Susan Spies

  9. Lillian, in financial translation “acteur” often works well as “market participant”

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