Copywriting Is Rewriting: Eatable Is Readable

“Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably”, wrote the British author Clive Staples Lewis. Not only do they combine, we might add, they also have interesting things in common, especially regarding the specific features of online reading.

In a landmark article of 2001, Leslie O’Flahavan and Marilynne Rudick use the food metaphor to refer to the different appetites of web content readers, which good web writers should be able to satisfy by providing different amounts of content based on individual “content hunger”. This web content writing and editing strategy is referred to as “bite, snack and meal”.

It’s like inviting people to a dinner party: “Deborah will only nibble on the salad; Laura will snack on the chicken; and Dan will cheerfully devour everything you serve.”

So, we will write a good heading for Deborah, something light but full of essential vitamins (bottom line, main keywords). Laura wants a little more, but is not into a full meal: a tasty abstract will go down well, a detailed paragraph with lots of substance (main points, ideas, secondary keywords). And finally we have Dan, the gourmet guest who is not following any diet but is looking forward to trying the whole document (headings, abstract, paragraphs, and maybe even links to additional information).

In this vein, Nathan Wallace wrote about catering for “many interest levels”, from no interest to detailed interest and beyond: “Every person has a certain level of interest in every piece of information. A writer should help each reader get their desired level of information as quickly as possible.”

There is another good reason for adopting this writing approach and it has to do with the ever increasing importance of the mobile web. In his article on writing mobile-friendly content, the SEO guru Neil Patel observes that the “bite, snack and meal” approach is similar to the “inverted pyramid style of writing where the reader is presented with the most important details before the secondary ones”.

Good old basic web writing principles continue to apply to mobile, content-hungry readers of the 21st century.

By our WiseGuy Andrea Spila

Clients, why do they come to you?

Santiago de Compostela is a cathedral city and the ending point of arguably the leading pilgrimage in Europe. Pilgrims set out from all over the continent aiming to celebrate St. James (Jacob) on 25 July at the church. As a pilgrim, there is one rule you cannot break: you have to walk it. All of it. Needless to say, you’ve got to have a pretty good reason for pledging to leg it for hundreds or thousands of kilometres to north-western Spain. You’ve also got to have a plan to make sure you arrive by the 25th, whatever happens on the way.

Problem is, ‘a clear reason and a good plan’ are only to be found in the determined few. The vast majority of us like the idea of a happy end, but aren’t prepared for the pain involved in getting from A (=now) to B (=crossing the line). We need guidance, assistance and reassurance all along the way, too. That’s where you come in, skipper.

Richly rewarding though it ultimately is for clients, intercultural communication is very often an uncomfortable, sometimes even a painful journey. Aspiring pilgrims come to you because, deep down, they need you to lead them calmly and be SAFE = Skipper Accepting Fee for Effectiveness.

Recently I coached a surgeon for his first ever professional appraisal, a vital condition for keeping his UK licence valid. He was crystal clear about his desired point B: to work in the UK. I interviewed him, prepared his Curriculum Vitae, translated his evidence, briefed him and submitted everything on time to the licensing authority. Nice’n’sunny, the perfect wind in our sails.

Then, out of a clear blue sky, the ride got bumpy.

The good doctor called the UK regulator – without me knowing – and was careless with his syntax and tenses. “Would do freelance work” was understood by the General Medical Council’s bureaucrat as “I do freelance work.” They latched on to that lapse of language to dispute his entire record. And I spent 3 months working to support my client’s good name.

At times like that, even you skipper-translators may take it personally. Resentment and insecurity may tempt you to become overly friendly with your clients – a sort of alliance against the common enemy. Resist the urge. Instead, your radiating composure will be your client’s true solace. They don’t need a pal. They need a skipper.

As for your legitimate feelings of frustration? Well, that’s time for connecting with your team. But that’s a story for another day.

By our Keynote Speaker F.Fotopoulos

Copywriting is rewriting: scannable is readable

“Easy reading is damn hard writing” wrote the American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne. This holds particularly true for web writing, that is writing for an environment in which reading is a particularly difficult activity.

As Jakob Nielsen wrote in a seminal article, more than ten years ago, readers on the web often don’t read, they simply scan content and pick out individual words and sentences.

So, the best way to create an easily readable text for a web reader is to make it scannable. Nielsen proposed six techniques to achieve this goal:

  • using highlighted keywords (e.g. hypertext links, bold or colored text)
  • using meaningful sub-headings (including relevant keywords)
  • using bulleted lists (as this one)
  • writing one idea per paragraph
  • adopting the inverted pyramid style (i.e. starting with the conclusion)
  • using half the word count (or less) than conventional writing

Although Nielsen’s article was written in the past century, these techniques still apply to many types of content, as well as to different devices. For example, Neil Patel introduces mobile-friendly writing techniques that are partly similar to Nielsen’s: particularly interesting is the bite, snack and meal technique that I will cover in the next post of this series, and in general the idea of content chunking, i.e. offering small, meaningful and visually distinct paragraphs that can be easily read on a mobile screen.

Writing a scannable text indeed requires “damn hard writing” particularly with regard to content structure, but if “easy reading” is our objective we need to rewrite our content in order to adapt it to the harsh environment of our readers.

By our WiseGuy Andrea Spila

Intercultural communication: a boat trip for your clients.

Intercultural communication is like a boat trip for your clients. They know the point of departure and have a vague idea of where they want to end up. The bit in between is your job: getting them there and doing it while leaving positive memories behind, whatever the weather.

What does it take to be a good skipper?

According to this commonsense article in Yachting World – and they should know – a good skipper

  • communicates clearly
  • stays calm and confident
  • promotes fairness and listens to their team (treats them with respect)
  • is cheerfully available at all times, whenever called
  • acts decisively.

Sounds daunting, but it’s only describing time-honoured client-to-translator communication really. That’s all it is.

In today’s blog article, I’ll look at clarity of communication at the crucial opening stage. This boils down to telling your client the bad news first, without overstating or sounding dramatic.

As a skipper-translator you’re often put on the back foot by your clients right from the start. The phone rings and a brisk-sounding voice tells you that they already know everything about the boat, the destination, and yachting in general, so all they need from you is how much for the trip.

That kind of loaded early communication can get anyone’s wires crossed, particularly when you’re physically or mentally tired. Aren’t you tempted to just play along and give them a price? Of course you are. Don’t. More likely than not, they haven’t a clue what they are talking about.

My experience from interacting with seasoned and senior professionals from the Healthcare industry is that status and experience matter little – what everyone wants, is their translator to ask lots and lots of questions. Questioning brings the true, deeper purpose for the journey to the surface – and that’s going to make all the difference for them and for you. They will benefit from having their preconceived ideas about the journey challenged. And you will benefit from bypassing price – because now you’re talking value.

Congratulations. You’ve just shifted the discussion from price to value. That’s the perfect starting point for a pleasant boat trip.

So, how do you stay calm when the trip isn’t going well? “Calm and confident” will be my next blog post. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts here…

By our Keynote speaker Fotis Fotopoulos,

Why Context Matters: Rethinking Intercultural Communication

You’ve been hearing the term “intercultural communication” for years now, but do you actually know what it truly means and entails?

Have you considered its impact on you as a translator or on the practice of translation as an intercultural activity?

Have you ever thought of yourself as an intercultural mediator?

Have you thought about the impact intercultural blunders in multilingual production of materials may have on your client or your reputation?

Intercultural communication is more than translation and can generate opportunities that you may not have considered. Understanding the complicated context of intercultural communication of the business environment is the first step in setting yourself apart today.

By our Suave Interculturalist, Ioannis Karras

Copywriting is rewriting: the art of lightness

“The only kind of writing is rewriting”, wrote Ernest Hemingway, referring to the painstaking revisions that writers have to make to their own texts. Not only writers but translators, copywriters, web writers, you name them… All text creators rewrite continuously, until they reach their objective: being understood and appreciated by readers.

Each author has a different idea about rewriting, a different working method, different priorities. Italo Calvino focused on the importance of lightness: “My working method has more often than not involved the subtraction of weight. I have tried to remove weight, sometimes from people, sometimes from heavenly bodies, sometimes from cities; above all I have tried to remove weight from the structure of stories and from language.”

How can we apply Calvino’s lesson to copywriting?  How do we subtract weight?

Here are a few ideas that will help you to make your texts “lighter”:

  • substitute “marketing” hype (“an awesome hotel”) with realistic terms
  • substitute passive verbal forms with active equivalents
  • substitute long words with shorter synonyms
  • eliminate unnecessary sentences
  • eliminate clichés
  • eliminate redundant words (especially adjectives)

There is a lot of tightening and cutting involved, the main aim being to reduce verbosity. But lightness is not only achieved by subtraction, by chipping away at your text until you can’t eliminate anything else. A lot can also be achieved by substituting – not an easy task for a writer because it entails finding new ways of saying things and abandoning habitual forms of expression. As we will see, using synonyms and adding variety to content is a crucial strategy also for SEO copywriting. Lighter texts are more digestible, both for humans and engines.

By our WiseGuy Andrea Spila

How did this all start

How did this all start

In August 2017 there was a call for papers for the Elia Together conference which would take place in Athens in February 2018, and with my good friend Vilelmini we decided to send out an abstract. The abstract was based on the idea that SMEs, especially in small countries like Greece, do not take full advantage of the digital channels of marketing and localization experts and as a result they lag behind in the increasingly globalised digital world.

We were determined to prove our point, so we designed and disseminated several questionnaires among SMEs and translators. We were lucky to receive valuable feedback from SMEs and mostly from colleague translators who were quick to help and answer all our questions. Their willingness and collaborative spirit simply prove how awesome people translators are!

In February, Elia Together arrived and we presented the results of our study. The feedback we received was amazing, and many colleagues have written to us saying how interesting this all was.
We were over the moon, but after the stardust has settled, I started thinking: “Wait a minute, there is a missed opportunity here and we should do something about it!”. Vilelmini was more than supportive! She was really encouraging!

And here I am! After 5 months of intensive work, I am proud to present you DiMeTra.Academy.

The aim was to gather top academics and professionals not only from the translation industry, but also from the areas of Media, Business, Marketing and IT and start filling the gap. The aim is help translators reinvent themselves and make the most of their abilities, skills and potential, our aim is to help them take advantage of the digital world and help themselves and other professionals hack into their growth!

And we want to do that in a fun way!
This is why we have put together a programme which brings together top professionals who can teach us how to achieve all that on the basis of a hands-on project where we can apply all the new knowledge. And what is more, the bootcamp will take place at a most unexpected venue with a magical view of the best that Athens has to offer and coupled with a fun after-bootcamp schedule, our Bootcamp Social.

You can download the presentation from which this all has started here:  SMALL-is-the-new-big. (65 downloads)

We are really looking forward to seeing you there!

Maria Sgourou @ DiMeTra Academy

Become empowered and unleash your creative powers! How? Transcreate!

When businesses wish to sell their products or services abroad, they necessarily cross cultural boundaries and often linguistic boundaries. This is by no means an easy task. The success or failure of their endeavor depends, among others, on the realisation that customers abroad buy their products and services for completely different reasons than those in the home market. For that reason, they have to adapt their messages and content accordingly. This is possible through a process which is most commonly known as “transcreation”, “multilingual copywriting” or “multilingual content creation”. What all these terms refer to is a process whereby new content is created or adapted for a specific target audience, rather than translated directly from the original version (Ray and Kelly, 2010). Web campaigns, ads, social media text are among the genres that require transcreation.

And you know what? Transcreation cannot be performed by machines. And it will stay this way. Machines lack the cultural sensitivity and creativity connected with multilingual content creation . So, humans are and will always stay central in the process.

Think about it. Are you ready to take centre stage and dive into this new world of opportunities?

By our WonderWoman Vilelmini Sosoni

“Goodbye Language Industry, Google Wants Your TMs, Why SDL Bought Donnelley”

Τhis is today’s newsletter title sent out by Slator.

Call me nuts but I really don’t believe that translation is only about machine translation, Google, SDL and the like.

What I do believe in, though, is the power of communication beyond machines and automated processes.

As a matter of fact, I believe in communication and messages initiated by human beings and addressing human beings.

I believe translators can be game changers, so much more so in a niche called SMEs – Small and Medium Sized Enterprises. This niche needs our help and expertise in the process of becoming global. And this kind of help is definitely not offered by machines.

It involves upscaling our services, upgrading our knowledge and polishing our soft skills to become a trusted and strategic partner for all businesses wishing to go global and grow beyond their country’s borders.

By our SuperConnector Maria Sgourou

Growth Hacking at the service of Translation services

Translation services are offered by companies needing to address the world via a dedicated and focused digital presence. There is no other way to scale. But how can you differentiate yourself from your competitor, how can you identify a growth opportunity and how can you stop spending money on ineffective digital efforts? Are you trying to get tomorrow’s customers with yesterday’s tools? Well, not any more.

We will explain the following:

  • Digital Marketing Trends
  • Tips to grow your business organically
  • Tips for building your digital properties
  • Tips for addressing your market at scale
  • Tips about using new tools to address your customers in a very efficient manner
  • Tips to interact with your inbound traffic
  • Tips to convert your inbound traffic into customers
  • Tips to increase your traffic

By our Digital Master Theo Moulos