Seven months into COVID-19 and I am so lucky to be unaffected. I have three friends — all young and responsible — who have contracted the disease and thankfully survived. None of them so far have had to be hospitalized. One had no idea he was infected; he went for a test only in order to be a responsible citizen (we live in the Netherlands).

Since the world is all different, I have been asking myself new questions. Are we all afraid? At some level? Will we be living alone soon? …


What now?

Coronavirus, COVID-19, lockdown, distance, gloves, no restaurants, weight gain. . . . I am trying to work from home but work has dried up. Will it always be like this? I will be alive, sure, I will survive the illness if I get it most likely, but what then? What now?


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President Barack Obama in the Oval Office with his advisors. h/t Pete Souza

How to even approach the decision about what form of English to use? Here’s some material about a few of the differences among English versions and secondly, what to consider for your company’s English language choices — with a shameless plug for American English.

It must be said upfront what is obvious ­– that there are many styles and versions of English. I am certain to attract criticism and condemnation no matter what I say. One of my clients does business in US, UK, Ghanaian, Indian, Kenyan, South African, Rwandan, Zimbabwean, Jamaican, and Singapore English and wonders which English she should choose for corporate material. She has a point. It is impractical to find and use ten different “Englishes,” but there has to be some way to make the material as readable as possible for all readers. …


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How to use CHANCE properly — and how to remember it

During a wonderful presentation and workshop, I heard a business owner pronounce words wrong, and I thought to myself “I can make a difference here.” Here is a cheat sheet for pronouncing the following words that are commonly mispronounced by Dutch speakers when they speak English. And how they should sound.

Company

Dutch

Price

Pronounce:

Company — it should sound like money; “come-pany” like come and some and money. Not like the French compagnie.

Dutch — it should sound like just, much, crust, trust. Not like douche/dootsh/deux-ch.

Price — € It should sound like nice, with an SSS sound. Not like wise with a ZZZ sound. …


This is how we learn English hacks??! Photo by Maria Lindsey Multimedia Creator

It’s winter and some of us need a soothing pastime that allows us to avoid going outside in the lousy weather but still gives us something productive to do. What do I do? Think about weird things in English and how can I help people writing in English.

Today I turned to The Chicago Manual of Style (Seventeenth Edition) to check up on the issue of singular nouns with plural verbs. We in the United States are all over the gender issue (he/she/her and they/their) so why not deal with the verbs issue too? …


Sign on a door in my city

Does good translating always matter, in every single piece of written text? For that matter, do good spelling and punctuation, correct vocabulary, clear style matter all the time? Why should that sign catch my attention?

It’s not an idle question to me since I deal in words. Words matter because meaning matters — if you can’t convey what you mean in such a way that the hearer can understand what you mean, are you communicating at all? Or what if a translation does not convey what the writer meant but conveys just the words and the original sentence structure, or the other way around? …


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American Book Center in Amsterdam

Read good books

Read good books

Read good books

Read good books

Read good books

Read good books

Read good books

Read good books

Read good books

Read good books

Read good books

Read good books

Read good books

That’s where we learn to string sentences and phrases together so that everything sounds right. Here’s a story from my day yesterday, copyediting away on a document. The subjunctive mood. Who knows about the subjunctive mood?! I am a copy editor and I was just told about it. …


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Nuance. When choosing a word, you might have many choices; but there will likely be a difference between even the closest two that is hard to pin down but is nonetheless real. And vital to what you are trying to convey.

I was reflecting on the words hurt and pain — no, I am fine, thanks for asking — so I did a quick search and found lots of articles online defining the differences. Some were more convincing than others, but I was struck that I did not see anything about hurtful and painful. What is the difference there? …


I work mostly with American English, meaning I use Merriam-Webster’s dictionary for spelling and one of the top style guides for American English, The Chicago Manual of Style, when I copyedit texts.

But I occasionally find myself dealing with a text that a client prefers be in British English, and I am thus cast adrift. So. I go right away to the Oxford English dictionary online — can you get more British — and then the trouble starts.

Here is a prime example: the word recognize. The online Oxford dictionary shows it spelled -ize, but it also lists a variation for British (in the British dictionary!) with -ise. My logic says I could use recognize, but my client prefers the -ise spellings so I use recognise. But which is it? …


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Translation or better?

I have been gone and now I am back. You will see stuff I posted in 2016 and then nothing, until now. Sorry for disappearing but you know how life is. At any rate, I hope we can accompany each other from here.

Words in English and how people use them or translate them are my passion. I am cursed; no mistake escapes me, no typo slips by me (except my own occasionally). But I can use that to make other people able to write in English which is deeply satisfying.

Speaking of translating, this is one of my favorites. Not only does the message speak directly to Dutch readers, but it conveys the same message in English without actually translating the words. That rocks. Is it a translation or something better?

Have a wonderful day.

About

Carrie Ballard

I love to support writers and translators. Writing in good English makes stuff work better. Schrijf met plezier in het Engels.

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