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German To American Metalworking Technical Writing and Editing

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 @ 04:23 PM / by Chuck Lohre

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The world loves American's use of the English language.

German To American Metalworking Technical Writing and EditingMany times when a company wants to sell to the American market they realize their technical writing is a bit staid. American English is casual, active and first person, which is the opposite of common the British usage—the world standard for English. American English  sometimes strings too many phrases together. For that reason, we try sticking to sentences of 13 words. It definitely makes it easier for those reading English as their second or third language.

Cataloging every piece of technical writing clients have published is the first thing we do when we start to work for a mutli-national machine tool company. Every web page, magazine and sales brochure is collected. We place them into topics according to the style guide we see emerging. The first thing any company needs to covey is why you would want to do business with them—their unique selling proposition, per David Ogilvy. Other topics include unique technology, operation, service and maintenance phrases and definitions. This style guide will answer all of the questions you have and you'll get to know the different translators they have used around the world. Follow the ones they use for their most important publications like annual reports and sales literature. The least attention is paid to esoteric website writing, which is perfectly understandable in the Queen's English. It's just that you don't want to use that in the boardroom.

Plainly explaining the operation of the equipment is the best thing you can do to improve any literature for the American market. Remember - left to right - top to bottom. 1, 2, 3. Our decades of metalworking experience allow us to know when a phrase has gotten out of hand by a Google translation. In one instance, "Mail Metal" incorrectly morphed from "Mild Steel". Operations are another thing Europeans are proud to report on. The number of apprentices they have, how many stay with the company and how long they have been there.

Metalworking Writing and Editing 2For one client CEO, the descriptive terms "creative" and "futuristic" were not a good fit for a headline. But the world likes American slang. For example, using ice cream flavors as a metaphor for product offerings (vs. plain vanilla). The client's North American Vice President was versed enough to use the comparison in his letter of introduction. Each client will have its own style manual. If you have done your homework you'll know quickly where to go and find similar examples.

Apart from problems with terminology, sometimes the difficulty for the translator lies with the many "knappe" formulations in the original German. This doesn't work in English where sentences are expected to link up seamlessly and smoothly.

Fast turnaround is one of the most important things an editor can offer this market. It's always the last minute when the communications director just isn't happy with the way a marketing communication is reading and wants a second opinion. We bend over backward to work in the evenings and on the weekends to get the piece back to the client.

Metalworking Writing and Editing 3When things really get tough, we ask for the original German and run it through Google translations. It really works well. You can easily read between the lines and understand the nuances that the writer was trying to communicate. And one last thing, change it back to A4 before you send it back. No one likes to have the printer stop dead in its tracks because it doesn't have the paper the document size required.

When we are reformatting for reprinting, it's a great experience to get the original production files from Europe and reformat for 8.5" x 11". All the grids have to be adjusted, subtle layout characteristics considered and endless rearranging to get the new content to fit and flow well. Well, it was a great success. The first thing the sales engineers said was, "Nice new sales magazine from Switzerland!"

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Written by Chuck Lohre

Owner of Lohre & Associates Marketing Communications. The company celebrated their 80th Anniversary in 2015, his 38th.