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Death to exclamation marks!!!
Thread poster: xxxIanW
xxxIanW
Local time: 14:06
German to English
+ ...
Mar 7, 2005

This rant is aimed primarily at my German-English colleagues, but perhaps it’ll strike a chord in other language pairings as well.

Having proof-read an enormous amount of translations over the last five years, I have come to the unhappy conclusion that I am in a shrinking minority when it comes to getting rid of the Dickensian rashes of exclamations marks which are found in much German copy. As far as I am concerned, exclamation marks in English are used to indicate "forceful utterance or strong feeling" ("Stop dribbling into my clarinet!") or to indicate humour ("And then Charlie Chaplin kicked the fellow’s rear end!"). And … well that's about it, really.

In German, however, as well as being used for the aforementioned purposes - and, notably, in the imperative - they often seem to crop up wherever any degree of emotion is expressed at all, particularly in marketing and advertising copy. Which, in many cases, means that there are exclamation marks all over the place. This is all well and good, but what bugs me is that, when texts like these are translated into English, many translators neglect to delete them, with the result that the English translation reads like a postcard from the seaside.

Does anyone else have strong feelings or insightful theories about this? Or do I need to get out more?

G’night


Ian


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 15:06
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
You are right, I regularly replace them by a single one ... Mar 7, 2005

...prior to translation. In Finnish they can often be left out all together. Only imperative sentence should have an exclamation mark.
Another feature is the extra space many German authors set before exclamation- and question-marks. This habit has spread from France.
With sympathy
Heinrich


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Alison Schwitzgebel
France
Local time: 14:06
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Totally! Mar 7, 2005

Ian Winick wrote:
In German, however, as well as being used for the aforementioned purposes - and, notably, in the imperative - they often seem to crop up wherever any degree of emotion is expressed at all, particularly in marketing and advertising copy.


Different languages have different ways of expressing emotion - and German copywriters just love to get their point across with a barrage of exclamation marks. English offers other alternatives in this regard, so go ahead and use them - and lose the "plings". Especially when it comes to marketing and advertising the idea is to "translate the message, not just the words". And that also goes for puctuation marks.

Sometimes it takes a bit of customer education, but it's worth it in the long run.

Alison


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Trudy Peters  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:06
German to English
+ ...
Not only exclamation marks Mar 7, 2005

I've noticed an overabundance of colons recently in places where we wouldn't use them in English. I end up replacing most of them with m-dashes, semicolons or periods/full stops, depending on the situation.

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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:06
French to English
Not just in German Mar 7, 2005

The other week, I was doing a Fr>Eng job, part of which described to users how to change their password for an application. In the French version, managing to achieve this apparently merited a pop-up saying "Felicitations!!!" (=congratulations!!! for non-French speakers) and some smarty speil about how clever the user had been, also much be-spattered with !!!!s.

I changed this to a sober and very British (I thought) "Success" followed by "your password has been changed". Narry a ! to be seen.

The other day, I got another text from the same agency on a similar subject, and they thoughtfully provided an English document on the same subject to help me with matters of vocabulary. This turned out to be the document I'd done the other week.

In which nothing had been changed (which is gratifying) except for the Felicitations!!! bit. Which to my horror the proof reader had changed to "Congratulations!!!" "You have managed to change your password!!!! You're a genius!!!!! Let me have your babies!!!!!!!"

So even if you do rip 'em out, there's always the danger some culturally insensitive half-wit will put them back....


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:06
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Sehr geehrter Ian! Mar 7, 2005

Vorsicht!
Hinweis!
Achtung!

And that was just the manual


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Klaus Herrmann  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:06
Member (2002)
English to German
+ ...
Line on the left, one cross each. Mar 8, 2005

Alison Riddell-Kachur wrote:
with a barrage of exclamation marks.

If it's any comfort, there is a saying that more than one exclamation/question mark is a sure way to tell a moron.

[Edited at 2005-03-08 00:37]


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Erik Hansson  Identity Verified
Germany
Member (2002)
Swedish
+ ...
Exclamation marks and other unnecessary stuff Mar 8, 2005

Hi Ian,

I totally agree with you. Quite often I have had German texts to be translated into Swedish, and almost every sentence was closed with exclamation marks. By using exclamation marks in this way, they will get invisible and after the tenth time the reader doesn't care anylonger.

Exclamation marks should not be used inflationary but only for something special (danger, caution etc.).

Another thing is about headlines. Germans have fell in love in headlines which are bold, underlines, italic and ended up with colon As for a Swedish audience for example, this is all real garbage, because any reader would notice it's a headline even if it's only bold and that's it. No need to exaggerate.

After all, localization should always be a part of the translation, i.e. we have to adapt the text to the audience.

Best regards
Erik

**********************************
Erik Hansson
Technical translator DE-SE
Hansson Übersetzungen GmbH
Am Birkenwäldchen 38
D-01900 Bretnig-Hauswalde, Germany
Phone +49 - 3 59 52 - 321 07
Fax +49 - 3 59 52 - 322 02
E-Mail info@hansson.de
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ProZ profile http://www.proz.com/pro/21654
***********************************


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xxxNicolette Ri
Local time: 14:06
French to Dutch
+ ...
This is exactly what happens!!! Mar 8, 2005

Charlie Bavington wrote:
This turned out to be the document I'd done the other week.
In which nothing had been changed (which is gratifying) except for the Felicitations!!! bit. Which to my horror the proof reader had changed to "Congratulations!!!" "You have managed to change your password!!!! You're a genius!!!!! Let me have your babies!!!!!!!"

Proofreader's comments: "the translator is somewhat negligent about punctiation marks".
My main problem concerns the three full stops at the end of sentences. The French put them everywhere... even if there is no suspense... where we put a simple full stop or a comma.


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Buzzy
Local time: 14:06
French to English
The French love putting surnames, towns and company names in capitals Mar 8, 2005

In Fr-Eng, I can't say I've noticed exclamation marks being a problem, but I have sometimes had great difficulty convincing clients that they don't need to put names in capitals. It makes me imagine someone shouting out the names, or possibly reading them in a heavily ironic tone. A typical example would go something like this:
After Denis SMITH had addressed the Board, Sue JONES informed them that following her meeting with auditors GRABBIT & RUN, represented by Jack SPRATT, BLACK AND SONS has been appointed to handle the work at the LUTON office.
And they often insist on saying "the company BLACK AND SONS" because that's what they would do in French! -oops, an exclamation mark, sorry.

But just this week I noticed a worrying development in my own reaction. Erik said above: "By using exclamation marks in this way, they will get invisible and after the tenth time the reader doesn't care anylonger". Well, I was working on one of these types of report and it took me till page 5 to register and react to the fact that all the names were in capitals! So Ian, it's important to rant about these things from time to time, if only to stop us getting immune to them.


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hirselina
Local time: 14:06
Italian to Dutch
+ ...
German!!!!!! English!!! Swedish! :-) Mar 8, 2005

[quote]Erik Hansson wrote: "Quite often I have had German texts to be translated into Swedish, and almost every sentence was closed with exclamation marks. By using exclamation marks in this way, they will get invisible and after the tenth time the reader doesn't care anylonger."

http://www.cs.umu.se/~selander/advice/language.html
The usage of the exclamation mark, "!". The use of the exclamation mark in English is much more restricted than in Swedish. As in Swedish, it is used to express commands ("Come here!"), surprise ("I got accepted to the university!"), and to express emotion ("Damn!"). However, it should not be used to express emphasis nor importance. You should thus never begin a mail or letter with "Hello Anders!" or "Assignments must be handed in before Friday!". In the latter case, the exclamation, instead of importance, suggests that the one who put it there finds the dead line very strange: "Assignments should be in by Friday, is that not peculiar?"


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Florence B  Identity Verified
France
Member (2002)
English to French
+ ...
Just add a note for the client Mar 8, 2005

It avoids most further questioning, usually.
I almost systematically add a note when I need to translate one of those English Texts With A Capital On Every Single Word. Telling them that it's incorrect in French, and as well to be careful not to remove the non-breaking spaces before ! ? ; : during the layout process.
It is a part of the translation, but some clients simply do not imagine that these things can be different too in other languages.
F


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
A helpful information Mar 8, 2005

In many programming languages the exclamation mark means that the exact opposite is true (e.g. "!=" means "is unequal to").

I have the impression that this applies also to natural languages.



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Textklick  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:06
German to English
+ ...
Schnäppchen Übersetzungen! (but not from me, matey) Mar 8, 2005

Hi Ian/all

I agree, and I found Harry's contribution brilliant (exclamation mark left out for obvious reasons).

Having said that Ian, I have never had any complaints from German clients about ignoring exclamation marks.

With marketing material, I always think that it makes sense to ignore such inspired headlines as 'Ihr kompetenter Partner für Wasauchimmerfüreinscheiss' and to provide three alternatives, one of which is reasonable; the others of which are 'creatively disadvantaged' to varying degrees. This is known in selling as the 'choice close'.

If the client makes what I consider to be the correct choice, then power to his elbow. If not, then power to his 'Kompetenzen'.

Hochachtungsvoll!

Chris


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Can Altinbay  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:06
Japanese to English
+ ...
Really delete 3 days' work? Mar 14, 2005

Charlie Bavington wrote:


In which nothing had been changed (which is gratifying) except for the Felicitations!!! bit. Which to my horror the proof reader had changed to "Congratulations!!!" "You have managed to change your password!!!! You're a genius!!!!! Let me have your babies!!!!!!!"

So even if you do rip 'em out, there's always the danger some culturally insensitive half-wit will put them back....


American programmers seem to be quite exclamation-happy. "Your file has been successfully saved!" "Three days of work have been deleted!" I have seen a lot of this. If a company hires competent technical writers and have them review all prompts, this disappears very quickly. But this points to a different place from which you may get grief if you don't place exclamation points all over the place!


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