Want to look trustworthy? Write it right.

Word geeks like translators and editors are always wittering on about poor translations or badly written web material being bad for business, because they make a company look sloppy or unreliable.

Well, I saw this belief in action during our recent trip to Lisbon. We needed to hire a car, and I asked my 16-year-old daughter, Olivia, to do some web research and find the best deal. In addition to the big names like Europcar and Avis she looked at the websites of some local firms recommended by our hotel (the lovely York House).

Olivia’s shortlist contained at least one local firm but she plumped for one of the big internationals, even though it was slightly dearer. When I asked her why, she explained that the local firms had mistakes in their English translations and didn’t provide enough information or contact details in their clunky-to-use websites. So she didn’t think we could trust them.

Teenage wisdom.

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.

Join the conversation


  1. I agree entirely, though I don’t think all teenagers and others for that matter, would spot a typo it if bit them on the nose! If I receive an email with spelling mistakes it immediately undermines that sender’s credibility and sadly, many businesspeople, young and old are lacking in the spelling and grammar department. I find it ironic that companies spend so much money on their image and they don’t even realise that their written communications are letting them down and putting customers off. How to fix it? English language classes for all staff!

  2. Thanks, Ruth and Heather.
    I don’t mind the occasional typo in a work-related email, especially if it’s sent in a rush or from a Blackberry or similar.
    But newsletters and websites are no place for these mistakes. And yes, it’s such a contradiction to spend hundreds if not thousands of pounds on your website and branding and then fail to run a spell-check or ask someone to double-check the copy.
    In the case of translations, the clients often don’t have the language knowledge to see the mistakes – they put their trust in agencies or translators who then let them down. Which makes me really angry.

Leave a comment

Have your say!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.