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Dwain Richardson

English Editing in Quebec: All About Style (Part Two)

Last November, I underlined major stylistic differences between English and French. Here are a few more.

To combine or not to combine English articles with French ones? When incorporating French names in English copy, remember two rules:

  1. Do not lowercase French articles (e.g., La Presse, not la Presse).
  2. Do not combine French articles with English ones. For instance, do not write, “The news came after the La Presse news outlet reported allegations of abuse from young boys who are now adults.”1 Consider rewording: “The news came after La Presse reported … ” Note that the generic news outlet has been removed in the edit, and the newspaper title has been italicized.

Phrasal verbs. This grammatical form combines verbs with adverbs or prepositions, extending or altering meaning.2 Phrasal verbs are divided into a number of categories: verb plus particle with no object; verb plus particle with an object; verb followed by an object and a particle; verb followed by a particle, a preposition and an object; and verb with a particle before or after a noun object, but only after an object that is a pronoun.3

You can come over for a cup of coffee this afternoon. (visit)

Call me back when you have more information about the event. (phone)

Please fill out this form and send it to us at your convenience. (complete)

The Queen turned into an ugly old hag. (transformed)

Phrasal verbs are more idiomatic and improve overall readability. Consider using phrasal verbs when working into English or editing English translations. This is not to say, however, that Latinate verbs should be eliminated altogether: they have their place in some contexts.

Le chef d’équipe distribuera les documents aux agents de recenseurs la semaine prochaine.

La firme architecturale vérifie les plans et formule des recommandations d’ici la fin du mois.

You could write:

The supervisor will distribute documents to enumerators next week.

The architectural firm will verify blueprints and will make recommendations by month’s end.

Distribute and verify are, of course, perfectly acceptable English cognates. But the above sentences will be more idiomatic if you use phrasal verbs:

The supervisor will hand out documents to enumerators next week.

The architectural firm will go over blueprints and will make recommendations by month’s end.


Previous “English Editing in Quebec” post: Avoiding Wordiness.

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1 What follows reported is fictitious; I could not find the actual excerpt where “The news came after … ” was first mentioned. Context: In February 2016, we learned that Claude Jutra, the late Canadian actor, film director and writer, was at the centre of sexual abuse allegations in a book written by the journalist Yves Lever.

2 Sandra Thibeaudeau, Guide de la communication écrite en anglais, Québec Amérique, 2012, p. 230.

3 Ibid, pp. 230–33.

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About the author

Dwain Richardson

Dwain Richardson is a freelance editor, translator and writer currently based in Montreal. He’s particularly interested in the medical, arts and culture, education, and international development fields, and is also curious about language in multilingual environments.


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