Translation clients, we need your briefs

A translation agency recently sent me a one-page (270 words) document, asking me to quote for “a re-write, not a straight translation”. I did my sums and sent off the quote, without thinking too much about it. The agency got back to me a couple of days later and gave me the go-ahead.

Fine. But when I sat down to start the project, I realised they hadn’t told me what the re-write was for. The text was a fairly standard promotional piece for a film production company. Name of company, date it was founded, directors they’ve worked with, client list, type of services and so on. But was it for their website home page? A brochure? Email marketing campaign? It could even have been part of the documentation needed to take part in a joint venture.

A quick phone call to the agency answered the question: the piece was for a new brochure, intended mainly for the US market. I did the re-write and sent off the text, telling the agency that I’d be happy to tweak or change the emphasis of the text, depending on the message their client most wanted to focus on. Or to cut or expand on the copy if necessary, for reasons of space or formatting.

Translators and copy-writers can work wonders with marketing and promotional material. But we can’t read minds. So please, clients, give us some basic guidance:

  • what is your text for? Is it a brochure, web copy (and if so, which part of the site is it for?), an “advertorial”, or what?
  • who is it for? General or specialist audience, national market, etc
  • are there formatting or design constraints that need to be considered?
  • which elements of the copy do you most want to emphasise (by the way, the year your company was founded is not the feature that’s going to win you clients and contracts).

Thank you. That’ll help us to make your copy sparkle, shine and sing your praises.

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 Comment

  1. Spot on advice. Which applies whenever you are commissioning *anything*! Say what you want, what the constraints are, and your end goal for it. If you articulate clearly what you want (& why), your chances of getting it are so much higher!

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