Webtexts - 3rd person, 1st person singular or 1st person plural?
Thread poster: Peter Zauner

Peter Zauner  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 15:45
Member (2010)
German to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Dec 25, 2012

All,

I am in the process of finalizing my website and would like to hear your opinion about the most appropriate way I should talk about myself and my business. I.e. the use of 3rd person, 1st person singular or 1st person plural.
My site is targeted at fairly specific target group: Agencies specializing in engineering texts and engineering firms. It consists of the following pages: Home, Engineering drawings, Engineering texts, Old German script, For agencies, Rates and testimonials, Resources, About and Contact.
I am a one-person, part-time freelance business.
When I look at colleagues’ websites, I find that people use all three forms. Examples from my drafts include:
“My engineering training and daily use of engineering language enables me to provide translations that are ….”.
“We are happy to discuss your specific needs directly with you.”
“All translations are done by an engineer and professional translator accredited by NAATI.”

The principles that would like to adhere to are:
1. I want to be consistent. Does that mean I have only use one form? Or could I use two (no more) forms within the site – e.g. 1st person singular and 3rd person?
2. I do not want to pretend that the business is larger (in terms of employees) than it is. On the other hand, I do not necessarily want to state directly that I am a one-person, part-timer as I worry that some potential clients might associate that with amateur. (Who would go to a part-time dentist who also has a day-job?)
3. Talking about me in the 3rd person sounds a bit silly. With respect to the example above, would I say “Peter’s engineering training and daily use of engineering language enables him …” or “Memtrans’ [the business name] engineering training and daily use of engineering language enables them …”?

Any food for thought? Thank you.

Peter

[Edited at 2012-12-25 21:22 GMT]


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Jose Arnoldo Rodriguez-Carrington  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 22:45
English to Spanish
+ ...
Only 1st person singular Dec 25, 2012

In my opinion it is the best. If you are the only person running the business, and you do not want to make it seem larger than it is, it is the only viable form. I agree with you about the 3rd person. I really hate it when people talk about themselves in the third person, it sounds like a silly mother talking to her child "Mommy is tired, so let her rest now".

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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:45
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
My view, FWIW Dec 25, 2012

Peter Zauner wrote:
“My engineering training and daily use of engineering language enables me to provide translations that are ….”.
Seems fine to me
“We are happy to discuss your specific needs directly with you.”
They'll expect to speak to more than one person so unless someone else answers your phone sometimes this would be misleading, IMO
“All translations are done by an engineer and professional translator accredited by NAATI.”
That seems OK, too. You could follow it with "ME!" in big letters.

I do not want to pretend that the business is larger (in terms of employees) than it is. On the other hand, I do not necessarily want to state directly that I am a one-person, part-timer as I worry that some potential clients might associate that with amateur.
I don't see why you'd have to (or want to) mention that you work part-time as a translator. I daresay you already make it clear to each client that you can't work full-time on their business - but that could just be because you're in such demand.

I don't think the 3rd person examples work at all. IMHO they make you sound as though you're talking about someone else... or else you're really pompous and self-opnionated. Just my view.


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3rd or 1st person Dec 25, 2012

I have a company and often I write " I" because I manage.

If you are a large company, of course "we do" but in front of your customers " I" is better because you do the job. Also it can look cheaper ...


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:45
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
That's the right attitude, IMO Dec 26, 2012

alrib28 wrote:
I have a company and often I write " I" because I manage.

I'm not fond of companies who write personal-type messages using "we". Of course, there are places in a website where "we" is perfectly OK for a company, but in correspondence etc then I prefer to see "I" wherever the person agrees to do anything, and particular if s/he is apologising for anything. It makes my flesh creep to read "we apologise" - how much is a "group apology" worth? It's clearly saying "it's not my fault, I'm apologising for someone else, if there's anything to apologise about and it's not just you having a whinge". As an EFL business trainer/examiner, I don't let my students write such weasily letters.

Even if it's a big company, people are looking for a personal contact. Why not use that to your advantage if you're a single-person business? No bimbo answering the phone who hasn't a clue about the business; no PMs taking sick-leave all the time; no misunderstandings between team members - just one dependable, professional, knowledgeable translator. With back-up from the world's larget network of translators!


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:45
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Third person Dec 27, 2012

3rd person plural should only be used when two or more partners are equally bearing/sharing the responsibilities with the same equal authority. This doesn't seem to be the case here, so "I" is the only way to go.

Other than that, 3rd person plural sounds more like the Three Musketeers.


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Gudrun Wolfrath  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:45
English to German
+ ...
I Dec 27, 2012

used I on my website since I am the only one who is doing the work.

We would be "pluralis majestatis". Possible, but odd in my opinion.

And he/she/they sounds as if you had nothing to do with the person who translates.

Gudrun


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Emma Goldsmith  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:45
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
Another vote for 1st person sing. Dec 27, 2012

Thayenga wrote:
"I" is the only way to go.


Quite agree

Gudrun wrote:
I used I on my website since I am the only one who is doing the work.


So did I!


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 05:45
English to Polish
+ ...
Either singular, just no plural Apr 5, 2013

The principles that would like to adhere to are:
1. I want to be consistent. Does that mean I have only use one form? Or could I use two (no more) forms within the site – e.g. 1st person singular and 3rd person?
2. I do not want to pretend that the business is larger (in terms of employees) than it is. On the other hand, I do not necessarily want to state directly that I am a one-person, part-timer as I worry that some potential clients might associate that with amateur. (Who would go to a part-time dentist who also has a day-job?)
3. Talking about me in the 3rd person sounds a bit silly. With respect to the example above, would I say “Peter’s engineering training and daily use of engineering language enables him …” or “Memtrans’ [the business name] engineering training and daily use of engineering language enables them …”?


Re: 1. Skip the "we" for sure. The third person works, especially for high-profile professionals, and combining 1st sg with 3rd sg also does, e.g. bios tend to be rendered in the third even on websites that would otherwise favour the first.

Re: 2. That is something you can achieve by just stating the information somewhere. As for part time, clients might not really care what it is but still care to be told, although I'm guessing here, based on a remote analogy to something I've read about stating the exact amount of experience one has.

Re: 3. Not if you use the right language. There's some language you can't really use in 1st sg, and there's language that makes 3rd sg look good. The third certainly introduces distance if that's what you need. It may be a good choice when you're introducing objective, matter of fact information without much pitch. I suspect the first person is good for medium pitch, while the third is good for either of little pitch and plenty of pitch.

Not sure about the d/b/a versus your own name. I'd go with the latter but there may be good reasons for the former (e.g. strong identity and brand, nice logo). It probably depends on what image you want to project and on the exact particulars of execution. If you decide in favour of the d/b/a, I'd definitely avoid talking in 3rd pl on that website. Even the company "we" would be better and more credible. "They" would could be regarded as a smoke-screen by someone who knew or figured out (and people will), unless you at least hire a part-time assistant to make it two of you.


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564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 05:45
Danish to English
+ ...
Keep it personal Apr 5, 2013

One of the best arguments we have as independent translators is that we offer a personal and direct service as opposed to agencies where the client will not (necessarily) ever be in touch with the translator. I would always aim to emphasise that I am a real person, not an undefined number of anonymous people.

I just checked my own website, which has five sections, to see whether I actually comply with my own ideals (!), and I can see that I have introduced my business using my company name; used 1st person singular to describe my services and my background; no person at all, just passive, to describe rates and payment, and a 'we' that includes the client when it comes to terms of delivery. In other words, I (hope I) have opted for forms that sound natural and make it clear that I am a one-person business with friendly, but professional direct service.


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