Tips for writing English content on Danish websites: the devil is in the detail

Whether you are a webmaster, a social media manager or a communications manager in a Danish company,  you may at some point be responsible for producing communication in English for your website or marketing literature, and the chances are you may have to do it in a hurry.  Here some tips to prevent you overlooking details which might make the difference between good content and great content, to keep your work looking professional every time and to help you speed up the process.

1. Dates – not weeks

Many parts of the world do not use week numbers as the basis for their calendar. If you have week numbers included in your Danish text e.g. listing events start dates or holiday times, it is best to convert these into actual dates, or weeks within months – 1st week in October.

2. Places

If you are listing places within Denmark (or any other country), for an international audience it is always best to follow it with the country name.  E.g. Aarhus, Denmark; Viborg, Denmark. Not everyone knows that Odense is in Denmark, or Nuuk is the capital of Greenland.

3. Organisations/Institutions

If you are translating the name of a Danish institution or organisation it is always best to check the organisation’s website, before attempting your own translation, as it is possible that they already have an official English name. To illustrate this:

4. Sector specific language

If you are trying to get a feel for the best way to describe your particular sector or topic in English, or if you are not sure if you have chosen the best term, it is a good idea to find some English text already written on the subject to check that you have used a term correctly, or to find a better alternative.  You can do this relatively quickly with Google.  The chances are whatever you are writing about, someone else has written about it before. (This is not encouraging plagiarism – but checking for the accurate use of sector specific terms).

5. Re-read and re-write

Once you have completed your translation it is good practice to re-read it, without referring back to the original, to ensure that it reads well in English.  Don’t be afraid to actually start to re-write it at this stage to make it clearer.  A well written, readable piece, which conveys the original meaning, is much better than a literal, direct translation, every time.

6. Set your document language to English

One tip that can really help with spelling and final layout if you are working in Microsoft Office is to set your document language to English.  If you normally work in Danish, and keep your language in Danish you will have every word underlined as a spelling mistake, but also if you are justifying your final layout you will find that words are much more likely to be incorrectly hyphenated if you keep the document language set to Danish.

7. Final read before publishing

We all have our blind spots (myself included!) and it is very easy to miss errors.  If you have time – leave your article aside for at least 30 mins before publishing/final approval.  Do something else and then come back for a final, fresh read.  If you can read it out loud, or under your breath, this can help to catch mistakes.  If you have the luxury of asking a colleague to read if for your to check for any minor errors, even better. For longer pieces of work allow time for a thorough proof read, by yourself, or someone else.

You’re done!  Hit send/publish and be confident that you have done a good job!

 Let me know what you think…

These tips are not in order of importance.  Just pick and choose whatever are relevant/helpful for you.  Feel free to add more tips in the comments box, or to challenge my suggestions!

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The Bridge Project
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