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Impressing the press

11. Juni 2015

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Blessed press release

Most translators work regularly across a variety of text types and genres, from press articles and releases and chatty blog posts to more formal corporate communications, from speeches and presentations to market reports. In regular blog posts we’ll be taking a look at some of the key features of the different genres and exploring what a translator needs to bear in mind as they switch from one text type to another.

Who doesn’t love translating press releases? They are, after all:

  • short (not more than a single A4 page),
  • clearly structured (more on this in a bit), and
  • interesting (otherwise there’d be no need for a press release, would there?).

The language is also (normally) concise, direct and fairly straightforward. A successful press release needs to hook a journalist and stand out from the (potentially) hundreds of other press releases that regularly land on their desk. It can only do this with a strong and effective headline and a first paragraph that gets the key messages across to the reader. The rest of the press release is about adding detail, background and a key quote or two to provide opinion and/or insight. A good press release will answer the major W- and H- questions (What?, Who?, When?, Where?, Why?, How? and How many?) as well as letting journalists and subsequent readers know how they can find out more. Press releases are also “preformulated” to make it easy for an editor or journalist to print the story without needing to invest much time in editing, rewriting or expanding the text.

Both this and that

It’s a hybrid genre, combining characteristics of advertising copy with traditional journalism and news reporting. A translator needs to be aware of this, particularly as producing an effective translation requires much more creativity than producing a verbatim translation of the source text. You want to make sure that you communicate the underlying message, achieve the same emotional responses and remain faithful to the intention of the original, whilst also tailoring the press release to the specific needs of its new audience.   

Keep your head

The title or headline will often pose the first challenge, potentially even creating a “block” to the rest of the translation. After all, what works in the source language might not work in the target language. The aim should be to keep the title or headline short and informative, but some formulations, particularly when translated verbatim, might end up too unwieldy or clumsy. A good tip is to leave the translation of the title/headline until after you are finished with the body of the text. The extra level of familiarity with the press release’s content often helps to come up with a successful title.

Closer is better

English-language press releases differ in a number of ways from typical German-language press releases, even though their general structure is the same. The language used in German source texts is often more impersonal and indirect (see http://www.academia.edu/4100164/From_press_release_to_news_report_what_does_translation_have_to_do_with_it for some good examples of translations of Apple texts in section 5). This means that a translator of a German source text will most likely have to add an extra degree of directness to their target press release. The examples linked to above include using “your emails” in English, whereas “die E-Mails” is used in the German version, or “The user” in English rather than the indefinite pronoun “Man” in the German version of the same text.

Short and sweet

Translations also often have a tendency to be longer than the source text, which in the case of a press release needs to be kept in mind as the target text shouldn’t normally exceed the single-page limit.

Don’t forget

Other key points to remember include:

  • Don’t be too creative in your lexical choices. You don’t need to add unnecessary literary flourishes—leave that to the journalists.
  • Keep any adjectives and adverbs to an absolute minimum. A press release should aim to pique interest and supply supporting information in the form of facts, figures and demonstrable statements. If an adjective isn’t directly about the dimensions, colour, or other quantifiable aspects of the noun it is describing, remove it.
  • Check the tense of the opening sentence. Some languages require the opening sentence of a press release in the past simple, some have a preference for present perfect and others like the present simple.
  • Is their something implicit in the source text that needs to be made explicit to readers of the target text? Is their something in the original that is best omitted in the translation?
  • Get someone you trust or work closely with to read the translation through before you send it to your client. Peer feedback, especially from someone not directly involved in the original translation process, is invaluable!

Let us know about your experiences with press releases and make sure you follow us on Facebook and Twitter.     

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