Filed under:

Dwain Richardson

English Editing in Quebec: Avoiding Wordiness

Plain language communicates written messages clearly and concisely. This is true whether you’re editing stand-alone English copy or translating from other languages. In my experience as an editor and translator, I have had to work with a number of stiff and wordy texts. I usually start by asking, “What needs to be improved?” Should I focus on improving overall flow? Style? Awkward grammatical syntax? Can a number of wordy structures be streamlined to one or two words?

One of the tips we learn in writing techniques courses is to avoid wordiness: don’t use more words than necessary. We can apply this idea when translating. Consider the following common structures in French copy:

  • la (une) [grande] majorité de + noun
  • sur une base annuelle
  • de manière [plus] productive et efficace
  • les informations qui se trouvent à la page X
  • en raison de (or du, des, de la) + noun
  • assurer le développement et la mise en valeur de (or du, des, de la) + noun
  • afin de (d’) + verb

When writing a draft translation, we might go straight to knee-jerk equivalents:

  • the (vast) majority of + noun
  • on an annual basis
  • in a (more) productive and effective manner
  • the information that can be found on page X
  • due to the fact that
  • see to the development and showcasing of + noun
  • in order to + verb

But most of these English equivalents can be shortened, leaving the overall meaning intact. Here are some suggestions:

Original French text Wordy translation Shorter translation Example
la [grande] majorité de + noun the [vast] majority of + noun most La grande majorité de la population canadienne est en faveur de la légalisation de la marijuana.

Most Canadians support the legalization of marijuana.

sur une base annuelle on an annual basis annually Les informations sont mises à jour sur une base annuelle.

This information is updated annually.

de manière [plus] productive et efficace in a [more] productive and effective manner [more] productively and effectively Le Comité permanent aurait pu terminer de manière plus productive et efficace si tous les documents avaient été prêts plus tôt.

The Standing Committee could have ended more productively and effectively if all documents had been prepared earlier.

les informations qui se trouvent à la page X the information that can be found on page X the information on page X Les informations qui se trouvent à la page 23 sont la base de ma présentation.

The information on page 23 forms the basis for my presentation.

en raison de (du, des, de la) due to the fact that owing to, because, since or another appropriate equivalent En raison d’une baisse de taux de croissance économique, il faut s’attendre à des répercussions sur les revenus du gouvernement.

Owing to (or Because of) a drop in the economic growth rate, expect an impact on government income.

assurer le développement et la mise en valeur de (du, des, de la) + noun see to the development and showcasing of + noun develop and showcase + direct object Pierre Boisvert assure le développement et la mise en valeur du Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique de l’OSM1.

Pierre Boisvert develops and showcases the OSM Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique.

afin de (d’) + verb in order to + verb to + verb L’équipe de la sécurité du relais de flamme olympique de Vancouver 2010 collabore étroitement avec les services de police… afin d’assurer le bon déroulement de l’événement.

The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay Security Team works closely with local police … to facilitate the smooth progress of the relay.


What are some common French structures that you see in copy? Most importantly, how do you shorten long-winded prose in English? Do your clients understand the importance of concise writing?


Previous “English Editing in Quebec” post: Has Quebec Caught on to Plain Language?

The Editors’ Weekly is the official blog of Editors Canada. Contact us.

1 OSM = Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, informally known as the Montreal Symphony Orchestra in English-language circles.

Discover more from The Editors' Weekly

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

2 Comments on “English Editing in Quebec: Avoiding Wordiness”

  • Karen M.


    Hi Dwain,

    I have a few suggestions for the above examples. First, I would anglicize “OSM Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique” (possibly even going so far as to use the English acronym) so that readers wouldn’t have to look it up to understand the sentence, e.g. the MSO’s Pierre-Béique organ.

    Second, I find the subject in the last example far too long and the last part a bit French-sounding, so I would rephrase: The security team for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay works closely with local police … to ensure the event runs smoothly.

    I realize we all have our own unique writing style, but the main thing to keep in mind is the target audience. I often find myself wondering whether my mother, a unilingual Quebec Anglophone, would read a text I’m working on and find it awkward or hard to understand, given her very limited knowledge of French (since we bilingual English Quebecers can sometimes be unaware of how French terms and structure can seep into our English writing). I guess you could call it my litmus test.

    Have a great day.


    • Thanks for your feedback, Karen. You bring up a rather delicate topic of anglicizing names and acronyms, especially when they’re not considered official. When colleagues edit my English copy, they generally suggest I use official names, especially to remain consistent with other names that don’t necessarily have translations. For instance, it would look weird to write, “Pierrot Roy has conducted the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Chœur de l’Orchestre symphonique de Drummondville, Violons du Roy, and Ensemble Caprice.” It would read better to use MSO’s official name: Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. (Pierrot Roy is a fictitious name, by the way.) In the case you’re describing, anglicizing would probably be best, especially if French is not the individual’s strongest language.

      In the end, whether or not you translate names is a question of context and judgement. In personal communication, I’ll likely use non-official names. But in administrative or artistic documents, for instance, I’d go for official names.

      I thank you for your proposed English example. I took the original text from Linguee. Generally speaking, it’s a great concordancer, but some translations aren’t always the best.

Comments are closed.

To top