January 28, 2019

Politeness – please get lost in translation

By admin-emal-163 Views-No Comment

Your multilingual ad copy sounds it swallowed a walking stick? By far the most common translation mistake is not losing things in translation but keeping them. Here are two stylistic devices that don’t work the same across languages.

Talk to readers directly

German and French organization still tend to speak of themselves and of their visitors in the 3rd pers. plural (he/she/it) instead of building direct rapport (we/you).

Modern English is the language of cool. Politeness is British, and the last time I checked they weren’t even selling their own umbrellas in London anymore.

(Also, if you’re a freelancer, please don’t refer to your business as we. There’s no disgrace in being small, just in faking big.)

Rule: English copywriting connects you and your buyers. Use direct language, always.


  • “The Opéra de Nancy welcomes visitors to its performances.”
  • “We’re the Opéra de Nancy – welcome to the show.”

Tell your readers what to do

Although Germany even has laws for sandcastles, you’ll be surprised that official writing rarely tells readers directly what to do. Officials tend to speak in axioms (“The law is thus, hence xyz is to be done.”) Many businesses copy this official tone in the hope of scaring their customers into buying. The problem also exists in France, because buyers should consider themselves lucky to pay 10 euros for a slice of DOC cheese

Internet English is more compact than a Korean convenience store. Anyone can be a bully – but American businesses are your FRIENDS.


  • “Tickets can be purchased, if desired, after following this link.”
  • “Buy tickets here! Give money, be happy, screw off! And yeah, let’s totally hang out some time ;)”

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