Don’t throw the baby out with the bath-water. Or, go easy on the decluttering

January will soon be here and it’ll be time to make yet another New Year’s Resolution to declutter. But sometimes it pays to be selective about what you throw out.

I submitted a bid recently for a contract to translate “documents relating to the policies and administration of the European Union”. To take part, you had to demonstrate your experience through “Letters of reference from customers, invoices, book covers, contracts clearly indicating the subject, language combination and number of pages or specimens of translations carried out by the tenderer”.

I’ve been translating for various Italian Government organisations on EU affairs since the 1980s (I know, that really dates me!). But how to prove it? Thankfully, my annual decluttering exercises are anything but successful and amongst my old papers I found an old invoice book. It contained an invoice from February 1996 (not quite the 1980s, but better than nothing) addressed to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers for “The translation from Italian to English of an article on Information, Communication and Culture during the Italian EU Presidency”. (I can’t believe I was still writing invoices by hand at that time).

I’ve no idea how I’ll get on with the tender but at least I had some evidence of long-standing experience to back up my bid. Phew!

By Marian Dougan

Published by Marian Dougan

Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster. From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group. She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options. Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland. She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.

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  1. Hello Marian. I couldn’t help but giggle a bit as I went through the same process, for the same thing (different language combination), at the same time, and with exactly the same problem, although I wasn’t bidding directly but through 2 of my favourite agencies. Still, actually proving over 10 years of experience in that particular field was no mean feat. What I learnt from it, as well as the need for caution when decluttering, was the even greater need for detailed invoices and for filing said invoices together with the corresponding purchase order. All too often, I have been going the easy route and just putting the customer reference number on an invoice with no description of the actual job. Did I indeed live to regret it! Hundreds of pages of speeches, reports etc. and no way to prove it. Thankfully, I have some lovely clients who were prepared to write letters to confirm it. I wouldn’t want to come knocking on their door time and time again so one of my new year’s resolutions is all to do with carefully thought out cluttering rather than decluttering!

    Good luck with your bid and a very happy Christmas to you and yours


    1. Hello Anne. This was one time Italian bureaucracy and the need for detailed invoices came in handy!

      Good luck to you too with your bid, and a Happy Christmas and Wonderful New Year to you and all the family.


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