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A-Z of Translation – the letter H:

Letter H addresses a creative conundrum:

Headings – From newspapers and magazines to brochures and websites, headings are all around us. They tell us what to expect in the text that follows and seek to generate interest. As such, they are usually worded with particular care. Alliteration and double meanings are common, while cultural references and humour are also popular. In the English-speaking world, even the business press can feature witty headlines – with variations on “the wheels are coming off” being a particular favourite when reporting on the woes of a carmaker, while airline profits frequently “nosedive” or “take off”.

It will often be difficult or impossible to replicate all these subtleties in another language. Brevity may also be an issue: a short heading is generally thought to be more impactful, so replacing half a dozen words in the original heading with twice that number in the translation is not ideal.

This type of creative conundrum is best solved by considering the intention and function of the heading, rather than focusing on the actual words. Whatever the difficulties, the translation will have to stand on its own two feet. It needs to be punchy, to fit the space available and reflect the content that follows. A translation that fits this bill will always be a better solution than something which is closer to the original but lacks oomph.

The same issue arises with advertising slogans, of course, but with much more at stake and the need to consider wider implications around audience, brand personality and tone of voice.

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