ITI Workshop – Writing with Clarity and Impact

By Sandra Young

On a crisp cold day in January I found myself trekking past Linford Wood towards the ITI offices for the “Writing with Clarity and Impact” workshop to kick off 2015. The workshop was given by Piers Alder, professional copywriter and professional development consultant, and has given me something to really sink my teeth into while working towards my CPD goals for this year.

The workshop, as the name suggests, looked at how to write clearly for maximum impact. While there was some focus on marketing copywriting, it mainly looked at the techniques used in this sector and how we can apply these to any writing that we do.

Here are some of the things we looked at:

Positive and negative wording – when possible use words that inspire people, not that dissuade them. Rather than saying that something will be ‘difficult’ it might be better to say ‘we will try’.

Nominalisation – many romance languages prefer nominalisation. In English this can be cumbersome and detaches the reader. Using verbs, on the other hand, engages the reader and makes them feel involved in the text.

Clichés – overuse of familiar turns of phrase can grate on the reader. You can engage a reader by giving an unusual twist to a common saying.

Shorter is better – you might think that using elaborate vocabulary makes you sound sophisticated. This is not necessarily the case. Communication is paramount. Be clear. This in English often means that shorter words of Anglo-Saxon origin are more effective than words derived from Latin.

Overall, I found the day to be stimulating and thought-provoking. It was packed full of activities to keep us fully engaged, which also gave us the chance to apply the techniques we had learned. I work primarily with medical and technical texts, and you can get carried away with “fitting with the norm” as regards standard phrasing and structures, so this workshop served to really make me think about how some of these structures come across, and how they can actually obscure meaning. That said, it’s important to be able to distinguish between necessary subject-specific language and language which can be used to make the text more readable. Something to speak with clients about!

How do I think this will impact my work? I realise that every genre has its specific style, jargon and register, and in many cases we must adhere to these norms. However, we cannot just blindly follow them as this leads to language stagnation. The workshop reminded me of the importance of looking at a text and asking myself, “What are they actually saying here?” This will help me to write more clearly in future and to ensure that the message being conveyed is clear to the target readership. Doing this will also provide me with some discussion points for clients, and will perhaps enable me to contribute to better writing tendencies in my fields of work.

I’ll round off with an exercise that we did at the workshop. We had to come up with 6 word stories, such as the famous Hemingway one – “For sale: baby’s boots, never worn.”

Piers gave us a few minutes to have a try. The one I came up with was:

Clean hands hide a bloody past.

Have a go and send us yours!

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CO-WORKING: AN ALTERNATIVE TO WORKING FROM HOME

When I started freelancing almost three years ago, I really enjoyed working from home. It was after about a year, when the novelty of working in my pyjamas wore off (!), that I started to feel quite lonely and isolated ‘at work’ and yearned for the buzz of office life.

Since August 2014, I’ve been working at Impact Hub in Islington, North London. It’s a global network of co-working spaces with a focus on innovation and social action – currently with 63 hubs across 5 continents. A huge range of businesses are based at the Islington branch, from social enterprises and charities to start-ups and consultancies. The Hub operates on a hot-desking basis and there’s a mixture of small teams of 2-4 individuals, as well as freelancers like me. Working around others has proved invaluable for my confidence, motivation and productivity, and my social life in general! When I worked from home, often not speaking to anyone all day until my housemates came back in the evening, I found the lack of human contact very difficult. So working from the Hub has definitely filled a void!

Co-working spaces are particularly good for people who can’t afford to rent their own office or have a separate office room at home, neither of which I can do whilst living in London! For me, not working at home means it’s easier to separate my work life from my home life, and I can ‘leave work at work’ and disconnect in the evenings. It also means I start work the next day feeling refreshed. Not only have I found that I’m more productive when I’m working at the Hub (mainly because I don’t have those all-too-familiar distractions) but I have become happier in general since I started working there.

The Hub has given me the opportunity to meet lots of new people, too, some of whom have become good friends. Lucky for me, some of them are from France, Spain and Latin America, which has meant I can practise my languages in person – a nice change from the written nature of translation. Most co-working spaces organise social events, which help if, like me, you’re shy or a little out of practice when it comes to networking. The Hub also organises film nights, Friday night drinks and even yoga classes, all of which take place on-site and are mostly free of charge.

Working from home can be great and has lots of advantages, but I wanted to write about co-working as an option for people who feel they need to change their working environment, as I did. Most places offer various membership packages from 1-5 days a week and often have ‘trial days’ so you can try it out before signing on the dotted line. If you’re based in London, there’s a good directory of ‘co-working offices’ on this site: www.coworkinglondon.com

I’ve focused on Impact Hub and London in this post as it’s the only place where I have experience of co-working. It would also be great to hear about your experience of co-working spaces or similar set-ups where you live. Or perhaps you prefer working from home? Let us know what you think in the comments section!

The Hub Islington

When I grow up, I want to be a translator!

OK, so it’s not up there with astronaut, fire-fighter, footballer or rock star as a dream job, but for as long as I can remember, I wanted to become a translator. While I didn’t know any actual translators, I knew I loved learning languages and wanted to continue working with languages, so the answer was obvious.

What I love about the profession is that you meet people from lots of different backgrounds, often with fascinating careers behind them. For this reason I wanted to share my journey with you.

As part of my degree studying French and German at King’s College, London, I spent my year abroad teaching English in a bilingual secondary school in Germany. This gave me an insight into teaching and it rather appealed to me. But I still wanted to translate, so after graduation I became Project Manager at Absolute Translations Ltd., a thriving company based in west London that counts as one of my best clients today.

Although I wasn’t translating as such, working in this role in a young company taught me a great deal about the industry. I was involved in every aspect of the company’s work – liaising with clients and prospective clients, calculating quotations, selecting the right translator for the job, carrying out quality checks, delivering assignments and invoicing. I was busy and I loved the variety of work.

After working in this role for two years, I decided that I wasn’t yet ready to embark on a lonely journey with my computer and a large pile of dictionaries: I wanted to work with people and teaching still spiked my interest, so I embarked on a PGCE in modern foreign languages at the Institute of Education, London.

Teaching was a great adventure and there was never a dull moment in the six years I did it. It was tough and rewarding in equal measures, and what I loved most was that I was never alone. From all the observations and feedback to collaborating very closely with other teachers, I was constantly learning and growing. I also loved working with children and this is the aspect I miss most.

In 2009 circumstances led me to live in Brussels and I decided it was time to turn to freelance translation. Though I had built a small client base by translating alongside teaching, it was clear that if I was to turn my hobby into a career, I needed a formal qualification. So I took a Masters in Technical and Specialised Translation at the University of Westminster, which turned out to be the perfect course for me. It was very hands-on and led by proficient translators with deep and varied experience, teaching me everything I needed to know and providing translation opportunities all around the world.

And so here I am. My one-year-old is keeping things interesting on the home front and working closely with the other bloggers is an added bonus to the fascinating work I do. After a short career in teaching, I’m enjoying the freedom of being my own boss and I’m glad the sound track to my day is no longer 30 children in an enclosed space with no mute button! That and the fact that I actually see projects completed.

The variety of subject areas and languages means no two days are the same: dealing with oil pipe laying in Brazil one day and press releases for the European institutions the next. Best of all, I get to do my own dream job every day while taking a peek at those of others!

Combining motherhood with freelance work

By Felicity Pearce

Freelancing. Sometimes we love it, sometimes we hate it. When we have real jobs we idealise it and fantasise about it, but never have I been more grateful for steering my career in this direction than when I became a mother (which happened, incidentally, many years before I thought it would).

There are still many issues facing working parents, particularly mothers, so I wanted to make this a positive post, focusing on how it is easy to make it work for you when you’re a freelancer.

When my firstborn came into the world, an amazing thing happened. I became a superwoman. I always suspected this was how it was from watching my mother, but it’s true. What actually happens is that time becomes such a rare luxury that it is really appreciated and not wasted. I can get three people ready in the morning in the time it used to take me to shower and my productivity levels are not comparable with pre-mum me. It is sometimes a question of adapt or die, but I’m still here, and still translating! I admit that I can’t pull all-nighters anymore, but rather than staying up and working until 2am, I will go to bed early and rise before 5am, while the house is still quiet and my brain is fresh. In the two hours before the rest of the brood wake up, I can do more work than I used to do in a day (it’s the best time for proofreading!). And in summer I get the bonus of enjoying the truly magical light of the new day, (pre-mum me only ever saw this phenomenon before bed, during the Erasmus era).

Here is an example of how my use of time has changed:

  • Two hours pre-mum: faffing on Facebook, answering an email or two, making tea, reading some articles (start real work after 2-3 hours).
  • Two hours now: tidy house, put wash on, answer all emails, do invoices, translate for 1 hour.

pie1

pie2

But on the subject of adapting, I do now prefer working in cafes and other spaces (something Claire will expand on here later), just to get away from all the chores calling out to me at home. And I don’t take the crazy big and urgent jobs I used to, just in case an unglamorous emergency comes up.

I also know couples where the dad loves working from home. Whichever way around (or even both, if the relationship can take it!), freelancing is a great way to implement flexible parenting, especially if, as in our case, this parenting takes place in an expensive city like London and far away from free babysitting grandparents.

Oh, and bilingual/trilingual kids. #translatorsdoitbetter

Our first blogpost

Welcome to the Deep End blog!

We are Claire Harmer, Katharine Mears, Felicity Pearce, Paula Pitkethly and Sandra Young, a group of English mother-tongue translators, and friends, who met while studying for our Masters in Translation at the University of Westminster, London. Our specialisms range from finance, medicine and law to education, marketing and international development.

Since graduating in 2011, we have each followed different paths, but all have ultimately led us to jumping in at the deep end and committing to freelancing full-time, with all the fear and freedom this brings.

Through The Deep End blog, we plan to share our experiences and advice. We hope that our unique individual journeys and specialisms will give the blog a wide-ranging appeal, both to those considering taking the leap into freelance translation as well as to the more established translator.

To give you a taster of some of the subjects we plan to cover in the coming months, these include co-working, moving into translation from the teaching profession, an overview of ITI’s recent copywriting workshop ‘Writing with Clarity and Impact’ and combining motherhood and translation.

So what are you waiting for? Jump on in!