You’re looking for a copywriter in San Francisco. After all, there are lots of those creative types here, not just “homosexuals and hipsters” as your previous boss told you when you moved West.
IT’S NO SAN FRANCISCO TREAT
It turns out Google isn’t much help in finding a copywriter in San Francisco. Neither is Yelp for some reason, even though it would make a whole lot of sense for people to write reviews about copywriters. Nobody does, though, so you check YouTube instead. There aren’t any copywriters there, but you are distracted and watching videos of a baby falling out of his highchair. You sort of chuckle, but it feels somehow wrong, even though the baby seems perfectly fine. You are afraid you will have to flip through the Yellow Pages to locate a copywriter in San Francisco, but you have some dignity left. Anyway, that would make your fingers dirty.
You find a copywriter in San Francisco the old-fashioned way: you asked someone else in the company and she gave you the email address “of a real pro.” Just imagine discussing your copywriting needs over an informal lunch and a glass of the only wine on the menu you are confident in pronouncing. Copywriters are all tremendous conversationalists; on this point you are certain. This one might prove to be an adequate after-work buddy or happy hour companion, and would definitely know a darling of a pickup line you could try out on that cashier from Whole Foods. This is going to be fantastic.
Excitedly, you’ve sent your first email to the fog-city wordsmith. Don’t be modest—your message is pretty awesome, and you spent an inordinate amount of time preparing its four short sentences. (Wisely, you deleted the words “fog-city wordsmith” at the last minute.) It is imperative for the copywriter to understand immediately that you “get it”—you get it good, in fact—so much so, you could probably write this advertising copy yourself. But you’re a busy man and, hey, it’s not your job. Actually, your life right now would make a mildly thrilling short story, or at least a post on a blog, if you had one. Do copywriters write short stories? You might want to ask that during your first lunch meeting.
Over the years, I have had the pleasure to work with many developers, some of them who have zealously taken it upon themselves to reinvent English grammar, design new forms of syntax and lexicon, or otherwise abuse the English language into a petrified shell of its former self. We all do this to some extent, and, in many cases, these developers have good reason to do so. However, translation and localization of anything other than the Queen’s English has its difficulties for users and translators alike.
These are some common issues we face as translators that developers are advised to keep in mind.
* As a disclaimer, these issues stem from translating English into other languages; using another source language would present yet other issues.
Word choice, not word AnythingYouLikeItToBe-ify!
Not a word, not a sentence — I care a lot about accuracy in translation, so one of the biggest show-stoppers for me is what we call the “untranslatable” phrases. Usually, this is stuff creative programmers and marketing gurus have pulled from out of their proverbial “backend,” and inevitably involves multiple words pushed together into one. Here I’m talking about things like:
Unless you are Goethe, it is not recommended to combine multiple words into SuperAwesomeWords, even if you capitalize each one. Translators won’t know whether they should repeat your Germanization of the user interface, why it was done in the first place, and in some languages (Chinese, Arabic, etc.) it is not possible to do anyway. One typical resolution is to translate literally (i.e. “Sync that is very selective; Undo the delete command again”), but this often leads to confusing or just plain incorrect translations (“jelly of magic”?). This literal decoupling of words also results in very long translations that, in the English version, may have been purposefully shortened for whatever reason. Continue reading
“A copywriter is the butcher that makes your meat look like filet mignon.”
Copywriters are all reverse psychologists
When you hire a copywriter you may think that it is his or her job to amiably accept your project. Well, let’s be honest: you’ll be lucky if the copywriter looks you in the eye on your first encounter. All the best copywriters are masters of reverse psychology: “You shouldn’t hire me as your copywriter unless you have complete faith in my wizard-like abilities.” They do this because they have an inflated sense of ego and a deep-rooted fear of rejection. Most successful copywriters aren’t people you want to invite over for tea. (Bonus tip: if you are cornered by a copywriter at a cocktail party, spill your martini on his shirt and run away.)
There are so many copywriters out there, you should be able to find one you truly enjoy working with. Still, convincing the copywriter of your own worth is the first step in finding a great one. At the very least, you’ll both feel better about yourselves.