At Miranda IR we have spent thousands of hours editing the English language writing of native Spanish speakers. This blog post will serve as an outlet to vent about some common mistakes that we are often correcting, and that we are also no doubt guilty of from time to time. We would like this to serve you as a guide to writing more like a native English speaker, while accepting our own errors.
Get in the Gringo Mindset – Be Direct and Precise
English is a direct language and perhaps reflects British and American culture. As children in grade school, it’s shoved down our throats to use the most precise language possible. Sentences shall be no longer than three lines! Even Thomas Jefferson is well known for saying, “the most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”
This is backed by research. As sentences get longer, they become harder to understand. According to a study by the PR Society of America, at 14 words, participants on average comprehend over 90 percent of the information. However, comprehension fell below 10 percent for 43-word sentences. So, the fewer words in a sentence, the higher comprehension level will be, on average. (The average sentence length in this document is 16 words, you can check yours here).
Another good stat about brevity to keep in mind is that an average translated document from Spanish to English contains 15% less words, according to Andiamo. So, as you to write, think about the most direct and precise way to express your thoughts, instead of directly translating how you would express it in Spanish. Avoid flowery language in almost all cases.
A few examples:
- It’s important to highlight that… The fact that you are writing something worth reading should mean that is it inherently important and worth the reader’s time, it’s not necessary to point out. So instead of starting with a translation of “es importante destacar que” or “nos gustaría comentar que”, just get to the point!
- Avoid using two adjectives that are synonyms of each other to describe one noun. For example, “the strong and solid results this quarter”.
- Most adverbs can be removed by choosing a more precise verb or adjective. Excellent results instead of very good results. Explosive growth instead of very strong growth.
Use the Active Voice (Subject-Verb-Object)
Use the active voice to be as brief and precise as possible. Start with the subject of the sentence, then the verb (action), followed by the object (target of the action). In the passive voice, the subject is instead acted upon by the verb (making the subject passive, hence the name). This construction can be good for literature or creative writing but is not ideal for financial writing. Remember your goal is to communicate with your investors as clearly as possible.
- Active voice example: The dog chases the ball.
- Passive voice example: The ball is being chased by the dog.
Also, adding too many modifiers, phrases, or clauses between the subject, verb, and object of the sentence can confuse your reader, as too many words separate this natural logical flow. Read more about the active voice in this article from Grammarly.
Other Pet Peeves:
- Would you like to participate in conference call? No, you join a conference call.
- One the one hand xxx, on the other hand xxx. Spanish speakers often use this to express two ideas that are similar, or that add on to one another. However, that is not how native speakers use the phrase. We use this to explore two opposing sets of options/opinions.
- Apostrophe S: “’s” is often avoided by Spanish speakers in situations where native speakers would use it. Instead, they will rely on “of the”.
- We don’t say, “Antonio had strong sales growth” but “Antonio’s sales grew rapidly”
- “Our portfolio amounted to $100 million…”. Instead say, “our total portfolio value…”
- Capitalize all of the words in titles, except for words such as (and, a, an, or,)
- In English we capitalize the days of the week, months, nationalities, and languages. (Ex. Monday, February, Argentinian, French).
For some unfortunate reason, Spanish and English written numbers diverge inconveniently after the millions. Keep the following in mind to avoid an error larger than your lifetime income.
- Hundred= cien
- Thousand= mil
- Million = millón
- Billion= mil millón
- Trillion= billón
Funny Translations to Avoid:
- Tenedores translated to fork holders.
- Relación con Inversionistas translated to Relationship with Investors
Miranda IR’s native English writers are happy to review your organization’s materials to ensure they pass the native test.
Contactos en Miranda Partners