authors & audience grammar & speech language & style

Language support serves meaning first

We used an immigration lawyer to start the paperwork six months before we arrived. Worried whether Canada would let us land the lawyer calmed us by saying something like “… you can speak the language.” It was a moment of introspection.

Seeing how many people face communication barriers, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada publishes an Interpreter Handbook. The code of conduct advises practitioners to take all reasonable care to accurately interpret or translate what is stated in the source language, having regard to meaning first and then to style.

Persons performing oral or written translation must express exactly what has been said. No paraphrasing, no embellishment, no omission, no explanation, no opinion.

If a speaker says he was “struck” an appropriate equivalent term would be “hit”– but not “assaulted”. If a speaker says “I will appeal…”, the interpreter repeats “I will appeal …”, not “my client will appeal..” and not “she will appeal …”. Getting the meaning right takes care, skill and diligence.

authors & audience book types & parts

The elements of style – how to dress at UBS

In case you missed it, the Swiss bank reissued their 44 page dressing directive. The fashion police have learned that temporary staffers need guidance on what not to wear in a banking environment.

Like other uniformed workers, dark suited bank employees in white shirts and red neckwear stand apart. The expectation is for customer-facing representatives to identify with and reflect the company values and culture.

How you dress “is a critical form of non-verbal communication” notes the guide. It’s okay to wear jewelry but no more than seven items for women, three for men with emphasis on watch wearing.

While the dress code aims to strengthen the bank’s brand, it remains uncertain whether a rep’s “flawless appearance can bring inner peace and a sense of security” — especially financial security.

authors & audience grammar & speech language & style

“Land In South Carolina”

The junk mail subject piqued my interest but not to own a swamp or make a pit stop. No, I wanted to know if “land” was on the approved verb list.

According to the authors of simplified technical English it’s not.

The Simplified Technical English standard is used by those who prepare maintenance documentation for the North American and European aerospace industry. A method of writing using controlled language aims to prevent misinterpretation. This is accomplished by limiting general word use to fewer than 1000 and adopting around 200 approved verbs.

stop, start, get, make – approved verbs
begin, end, land, manufacture – not approved

A dictionary plus set of writing rules and training are things that help writers cope.

grammar & speech language & style

Deal or ordeal?

My editor friend likes to do canning so we go to the farmers market for a shopping spree. First stop is for raspberries and maybe blueberries. The stocks are plentiful so where do we begin? Ah, the vendor advertising berries at way below price. Gotta love a bargain and this was a deal – three boxes of raspberries OR blueberries for a dollar.

We began to mix and match pints. I handed the vendor a loonie for my haul. She looked puzzled, then motioned for another coin. Huh? My friend and I were paying separately I motioned back. She made a weird smile then pointed to the handmade sign.

Fresh local berries
5 for 2
3 for 1

I reread it, as did my friend. Price check please. Even with a number crossed out and a dollar sign inserted it read/we read five for two dollars…

Why didn’t the berry seller know the convention: units then cost. Disappointed, we took our business to a competitor with conventional signage.

Berry season
Berry season
authors & audience language & style

Saved by the rules, bothered by the exceptions

File this under know your audience. A classmate asked for help to understand an excerpt from the rules of professional conduct.

An Immigration Consultant shall not represent parties with potentially conflicting interests in an immigration matter, save after adequate disclosure to and with the consent of the parties, and shall not act or continue to act in a matter when there is or is likely to be a conflict of interest.

The word save can be used as a verb, noun, preposition, and conjunction. Save used as literary term is out of context when found in policies and procedures writing. Don’t do it. Constructed as such, it’s not immediately evident that an exception follows the rule.

In the context of writing policy you want to deconstruct it something like this.

Rule:  An Immigration Consultant shall not represent parties with…
Exception:  Only after adequate disclosure to…

February update: The U.S. “brain-dead immigration system” is more reason to come to Canada. Read the article.

language & style

Explicit useless info

Speaking of explicit lyrics, the Stones nail it in Satisfaction when they sing about “…some useless information, Supposed to fire my imagination”.

That got me thinking about explicit and implicit information. Explicit useless info is the .00 cents in the $389,900.00 house listing. It’s the ‘left’ and ‘right’ identifiers for two-subject captions.

Explicit helpful info is the last exit before toll, last exit before construction, last gas for next 100 miles/km.