Gerunds and translation?

Subject: Gerunds and translation?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: techwr-l List <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Debra Stamnitz <dstamnitz -at- yahoo -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 24 Feb 2008 07:51:42 -0500

Debra Stamnitz wondered: <<I've heard gerunds are bad if you plan to
translate the document. Is this true? We are getting ready to do our
first translation this summer.>>

Personally, I'd fire any translator who had difficulty with gerunds,
contractions, and a whole range of other things that "common wisdom"
tells us we should avoid in our writing. I'd also be sure to let my
colleagues know that the person wasn't a pro. I don't suffer fools
gladly when they devalue my profession*. (NOT a poke at Debra. Really.)

* 20 years hiring and evaluating the work of translators; 15 years as
a professional translator.

The only broadly useful criterion for writing for translation is that
the meaning must be clear in the source language. This leads to a
whole host of subsidiary rules, such as avoiding idiom, using words
consistently, simplifying sentence structures, shortening sentences,
choosing simpler rather than more complex words (except where jargon
is necessary*), and so on. But it's the clarity that is important,
not blanket proscriptions against what you should and should not do.

* Note the difference between good and bad jargon: the good is a word
or phrase that communicates precisely and efficiently within a
discourse community (e.g., "help authoring tool" in this group); the
bad is a word or phrase chosen to make the writer appear smarter than
the audience or to exclude readers from comprehension or used without
truly understanding the concept the jargon represents.

Bottom line: Whenever you see a rule of thumb espoused for writing
for translation, ask a question: "How does this rule increase the
clarity of the source text?" If it increases the clarity for native
readers of the language, the rule is probably worth following. If
not, exercise appropriate skepticism. At a minimum, ask an expert or
three why the rule exists.

-- Geoff Hart
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
***Now available*** _Effective onscreen editing_


Create HTML or Microsoft Word content and convert to Help file formats or
printed documentation. Features include support for Windows Vista & 2007
Microsoft Office, team authoring, plus more.

True single source, conditional content, PDF export, modular help.
Help & Manual is the most powerful authoring tool for technical
documentation. Boost your productivity!

You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- web -dot- techwr-l -dot- com -dot-

To unsubscribe send a blank email to
techwr-l-unsubscribe -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
or visit

To subscribe, send a blank email to techwr-l-join -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

Send administrative questions to admin -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.

Re: TECHWR-L Digest, Vol 28, Issue 20: From: Debra Stamnitz

Previous by Author: PDF vs Help?
Next by Author: Peer Review Process/Best Practices?
Previous by Thread: Re: TECHWR-L Digest, Vol 28, Issue 20
Next by Thread: How to and the Gerund Response

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads