Monday, 12 December 2016

The minimalist approach to the shoebox appeal

In my community in Emersons Green it is a tradition to pack a shoebox (or two or three) with Christmas gifts and useful items in November every year for the Shoebox Appeal charity. The boxes are wrapped and then sent to underprivileged children worldwide, this year to South Africa and Namibia. Operation Christmas Child (OCC) is a scheme run by the Christian relief and development agency Samaritan’s Purse.

When you look up the hashtag #ipackedashoebox on Twitter, you’ll be able to see who has participated in this campaign and how much joy goes into shopping for gifts, goodies and other things. But it also involves bringing all the things back home, filling the shoebox with them, donating £3 per box for the shipping, printing off the label as required, sticking it onto the box and, as a last step, taking it with you to your church or dropping it off at one of the local collection points.

A wonderful project and a very worthwhile cause, no doubt about that! However, this year I reached a stage where I suddenly thought: hold on, do I really want to take part in it? It’s not just that I don’t have the time to go shopping, I also simply do not enjoy going shopping in general. And I especially do not enjoy shopping for toys! So why should I force myself to do it? Taking part just because everyone else was doing it suddenly felt wrong...

This year I went straight to the Operation Christmas Child website instead and donated £18 for a pre-packed shoebox. The whole process took just 6 minutes, including filing the donation receipt away for my tax records. No stress, no hassle. It was basically my minimalist approach to the Shoebox Appeal.

This has set me thinking about the many things that we tend to do just because others do them too or (we think) are expected from us. Very often, we forget that we’re free to make our own decisions on a whole host of different matters. They’re decisions that we should feel good about, rather than guilty or apologetic! Not everyone enjoys shopping. We do have a right to be different, handle situations differently, work differently.

Sounds familiar? Here are typical ways of thinking that tend to be imposed on us in connection with running a translation business:

All translators should work with translation memory software (aka CAT tools) to increase their productivity and have their own website to attract more business.
Hold on, should they really? While I can’t imagine life without translation memory software and believe my website is a great tool for presenting my business to the outside world, I know quite a few translators with very healthy businesses who are absolutely fine without CAT tools and/or websites.

We have a right to be different, handle situations differently, work differently!

You should work and be available for clients from 9 to 5, whereas working during evenings and/or weekends is to be avoided as it gives the impression you’re not committed or organised enough.

I have forced myself to stop thinking that way. In fact, I now believe as freelancers we are free to make the most of the “free” in freelancing. What’s wrong, for example, with meeting up with a friend for a coffee in the morning and then catch up on work in the afternoon/evening? Or with making a head start on a work project at the weekend?

Too many translators still charge per 1,000 words, rather than per hour. This must change at all costs; it is unprofessional.
In one of my older blog posts entitled “Bugged by misconceptions on translation?”, I even claimed this practice reflects badly on the actual activity of translation. But does it really? Today, I confess that I live comfortably on an income for which I charge per 1,000 words. And it is an approach I want to hold on to!

You should not build up a business while raising young children.
Now is the time to admit it: it is exactly what I did. Yes, I’d heard this wasn’t advisable, but today, with hindsight, that feat now seems like a tremendous achievement. I managed to do it by delegating tasks, with the help of childminders, and by constantly refining my time management skills in the best way I could.

It is generally better to work for direct clients than for translation companies.
I, for one, am very grateful for the steady flow of work from the translation companies that I work for, whereas direct clients typically do not tend to be a source of regular work. Due to my regular dealings with some translation companies, I sometimes almost even feel like one of their employees – a feeling I admit I quite like!

Remember: we do have a right to be different, handle situations differently, work differently.

The 2016 Shoebox Appeal campaign has ended, but if you fancy taking part in the Shoebox Appeal next year, either by filling a shoebox yourself (if you enjoy shopping!) or by choosing the pre-packed shoebox option, visit the Operation Christmas Child website here for more information.

Friday, 18 November 2016

The invigorating effects of stepping outside your comfort zone

As a translator, it is easy to be minimalist: minimal equipment is needed. I rely less on paper dictionaries nowadays as they are increasingly replaced by electronic ones. What’s more, I can be minimalist by staying within my comfort zone, for example by accepting only types of work that I am used to. By relying on the regular stream of work from my (relatively minimal) group of main clients

One of the articles on Claire Cox’s blog which did strike a chord with me recently was “Above the parapet”, in which she describes how stepping outside your comfort zone from time to time helps you grow both as a person and as a business. I agree with Claire that it is good for us to sometimes do things that we tend to be anxious about: such opportunities make us reassess our abilities and prove that we can do it, if we try!

We often retreat to our comfort zones as a way to minimize stress and risk

One such opportunity for me arose last year when I was asked to give short presentations on IntelliWebSearch to groups of translators at an IT and CAT Tools Day organised by the WRG. I’ve always hated speaking in front of other people, so the mere thought of having to talk all afternoon was enough to strike fear into my heart.

With hindsight, though, I am glad I said yes and went for it. It felt like a tremendous achievement that I’d addressed that challenge – successfully, and even with positive feedback from attendees! Check out my blog post on the WRG's IT and CAT Tools Day on 6 June 2015 here.

I’ve also always made a point of emphasizing that I only translate. As a point of principle, I do not interpret. “I DO NOT OFFER INTERPRETING SERVICES” is written in capital letters on my website. I’m not trained as an interpreter, and I don’t like talking in general.

Something interesting happened last summer: While on holiday in Northern Italy, I suddenly found myself having to interpret between German and Italian in a police station in Asti: our tour group’s coach had been robbed, and no one else in our group knew any Italian...

I hadn’t actually used my spoken Italian much since I left university more than a decade ago. Also, the temperature outside had just risen to 41 (!) degrees Celsius. Luckily, the air conditioning inside the police station did work (otherwise my brain would probably not have functioned properly).

Stepping out of your comfort zone can be invigorating

So here I was, totally unprepared, way out of my comfort zone as the impromptu interpreter, in a nerve-wracking situation. And yet: I was okay doing this. What’s more, after a while – and to my great astonishment  –  I realised that I was even enjoying myself!

Pushing yourself to do things that you feel uncomfortable with can only ever be a good thing. We often retreat to our personal comfort zones as a way to minimize stress and risk; yet stepping out of them can be invigorating, while the discomfort that goes with it is often just minimal.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

What Brexit means (for now)

Brexit has been on my mind ever since I woke up at 3.20 am on 24th June 2016 and switched on the TV to check which way the EU referendum vote was going. At this time of night, it didn't really hit home with me what was happening. It all still felt surreal.

The next morning, as I was listening to an interview on Deutschlandradio, the radio host's comment did feel like a punch in the stomach: “Also, die Zukunft Europas – ab jetzt ohne die Briten?” (English translation: “So, the future of Europe – without the British from now on?”)

EU flag outside flat, spotted close to the City of London last week 

I would really have liked to write something on the topic myself, but since I'm currently inundated with work, I’m going to share with you instead what four of my colleagues have posted on their blogs in regard to the current situation and what Brexit means (for now at least). Amanda Wilson, Karen Andrews, Simon Berrill and Claire Cox have kindly agreed to let me use extracts from their articles for this blog entry.

Vote Leave campaign sign, found lying in grass along my jogging route in Shortwood near Bristol

Amanda Wilson:

I know that as a translator I probably should be 100% convinced that we should stay in the EU and so know exactly how I’m going to vote in June. But there’s nothing wrong without finding out more info to add to the gut instinct…So this is what I learned about why Brexit matters.


Looking at it the other way round, how would we have felt about decisions made in the wake of the financial crisis on the financial services sector, a big employer in the UK, if we had had to sit on the sidelines with no influence over the outcome? What will it be like in the future, trading with EU countries and having to obey EU regulations which we have not helped shape and which we may not agree with, much as Norway’s situation is now? And what about our position in the world? The Empire is long gone and the Americans would prefer we stay in the EU, suits their interests better – how much of that is because we speak English, I wonder? – so it seems that to continue to lead, we need to be in the EU where our position is stronger than as a single state. Certainly that’s what the pro-Europe camp think; their slogan is ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’.

Extract from Amanda’s post “Why Brexit Matters”, published on 15 February 2016

Vote Remain campaign sign in window, spotted during walk through London last week

Karen Andrews: 

Friday came as a shock to me as many in the UK. On Thursday night, I thought ‘Bremain’ had narrowly won the EU Referendum. There was a niggling feeling in my gut. I woke up on Friday morning to the profound shock of Brexit. No, it’s more than that. My heart is torn in two.


I woke up on Friday morning to a map of the UK that looked like a civil war. Britain divided between regions and generations.

Angela Merkel said that she does not want Brexit to be ‘nasty’. The European Union should note that the UK’s young people voted to remain in Europe. A nasty divorce will alienate them.

My 19-year-old son was disappointed. He went to Denmark last week. He was planning to go to Berlin, Stockholm and Barcelona this summer. It’s great to travel while young. It broadens the mind. My elder son is part of a generation that is open to Europe. He will remain so if the ‘divorce’ is handled with equanimity and an eye to future ‘rapprochement’. Will Europe restrict his travelling in future?

My 16-year-old son (who did not have a right to vote) was even more scathing about the election result. It is wrong to assume that his age group is not politically aware. The younger generation get their information from different sources to their parents and grandparents.


The European dream grew out of the chaos of two world wars. Today’s political chaos is an opportunity to create a new European dream for generations to come.

Extract from Karen’s post “Brexit and the European Dream”, published on on 26 June 2016

Statement by David Cameron on BBC News on 24 June 2016

Simon Berrill:

I suppose going on holiday the day after the referendum result was known was probably the best way to cope with the entire Brexit mess. Swimming in the beautiful Ionian Sea and drying off on the beaches of Corfu, I had plenty of time to think about how Britain leaving the European Union is going to affect me and what I’m going to do about it. Theories of all kinds have been published about whether the United Kingdom will actually go through with the mandate to cut itself off from Europe provided by the referendum result, but in planning my future I have to assume that it will, and that all the advantages I have enjoyed as an EU citizen living in another country will end within the next couple of years.

Professionally, as I wrote earlier this year in a blog post anticipating the possibility of Brexit, I don’t think there will be a great effect on my work. It seems that Ireland, although its official language is Irish, will ensure that English remains an EU language, and it is already so well established as the main working language for the Community, understood by the maximum number of people, that this seems unlikely to change. Can anyone imagine, for example, the French or the Germans agreeing that all official documents shold be drawn up in the other’s language? Trade in both directions will also doubtless continue, although it will probably be reduced. In less official circles, too, the position of English as a lingua franca of tourism, for example, is unlikely to be threatened. Although travel to and from the UK could become more difficult, it hardly seems likely that the inhabitants of even a more isolated Britain will stop visiting the continent. Other translators in different specialist areas may be much worse affected, of course, and they have my every sympathy. To have your livelihood damaged by the whim of a perfidious electorate (unless, of course, you’re a politician, of course) is a cruel and undeserved blow.

Extract from Simon’s post “From Englishman to British-born European”, published on 5 July 2016

Claire Cox:

A month on, and I’m still desperately sad about the outcome of the vote. As a linguist, I feel very much a European and loved the freedom I enjoyed to work and study abroad and feel part of something bigger. Returning to an isolationist and NIMBYish outlook seems such a retrograde step. The immediate shock has calmed down, of course, despite the incredible political shenanigans since the last days of June. Yes, my share portfolio plummeted in the first instance, although I noticed today that it has recovered half of its losses in the meantime, and those of us paid in euros into a British bank account will be receiving rather more than before the referendum due to the falling pound – although I’d much rather the result had gone the other way! For the time being, at least, we are still part of the EU; our new prime minister has yet to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and life goes on much as it did before. I did wonder whether there would be a change in workload in the immediate aftermath of the vote, but if anything I seem to have been busier than ever, turning lots of work down and receiving a constant stream of enquiries, even in the often quieter midsummer holiday period.

How things will pan out in future is anyone’s guess; many of my colleagues are EU nationals who have made their home in Britain and their future now seems uncertain despite government assurances. It will be such a shame if future language students are unable to partake of the Erasmus scheme and study/work abroad as freely as I and my son after me have been able to. Equally, although it seems likely that English will remain the official language of the EU even after our ignominious departure, since it is also the language of Ireland and Malta, it may not be as easy for British nationals to work in or for the EU Translations Directorate – another great loss. It’s certainly going to be a challenging few years, but for the time being, I think we can only carry on as we did before, making sure our client order books are as diverse as possible so that any changes that do come about don’t leave us bereft. Definitely a time for spreading your eggs across lots of different baskets….

Extract from Claire’s post “A change is as good as a rest”, published on 28 July 2016

Sunday, 3 July 2016

23 June 2016: The UK votes to leave the EU

On 23 June 2016 the UK voted to leave the European Union.

I recommend these two blog posts by fellow translators Simon Berrill and Karen Andrews:

5 April 2016: "In or out? Will Brexit affect translators?" (by Simon Berrill)

30 June 2016: "Brexit Battles Ahead" (by Karen Andrews)

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The minimal to-do list

Does your daily to-do list sometimes become overly long? Do you rely on your to-do list, but want to focus more on what matters most? Do you wonder how best to combat procrastination? Then it might be time to adopt this bafflingly simple tool which I’ve come across on Joshua Becker’s blog: the 3-Item To-Do List!

Every morning Joshua Becker identifies the 3 most important tasks of the day and makes these his primary focus. The 3-Item To-Do List has increased his productivity and job satisfaction significantly. What’s more, it provides him with a sense of accomplishment at the end of each and every day.

A minimal to-do list helps increase productivity and job satisfaction

I love the idea of incorporating minimalism in to-do lists and have implemented it into my everyday life, too. My minimal to-do list, for example, may consist of these 3 items: 1) put the finishing touches on a translation project and deliver it; 2) bring my accounts up to date; and 3) sit down for a German grammar lesson with my children after school.

I will probably get quite a few additional things done that day, too, such as starting a new work project, doing some housework, drafting a new blog post, and more. But if I don’t, it doesn’t really matter as these additional things weren’t among my 3 priorities for the day anyway.

The logic behind the 3-Item To-Do List concept is simple: If I have completed my 3 tasks, my day has been productive. It’s a concept that can be applied by anybody, in whatever circumstances. Focusing on 3 priorities per day, and optionally fitting in other things as well, means you no longer feel overwhelmed by interminable to-do lists.

Why not give it a shot, too?

Links to articles on the 3-Item To-Do List:
- Joshua Becker: Accomplish More with a 3-Item To Do List
- Melissa Camara Wilkins: What Is An Enough List And How it Helped Me Enjoy Everyday
- Andrew Merle: The Power of the 3-Item To-Do List 

(I've translated this blog article into German and published the German translation here.)

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Minimalism in translation revision

This comment by Alison Hughes in the May/June issue of the ITI Bulletin caught my attention: The late Sue Young (known as ITI’s revision guru at the time) always recommended “changing as little as possible” in the revision of translations. I agree it is a simple concept: straightforward, efficient, and effective.

Don’t ask if a sentence can be improved but whether it needs to be improved

Intrigued by the minimalist nature of Sue’s advice, I have dug up my own notes from a revision workshop given by Sue at UWE in Bristol on 12 April 2008 and have come across a few more (minimalist) revision principles which Sue advocated. Note they are based on Brian Mossop's book "Revising and Editing for Translators".

Minimize the introduction of error by not making changes if in doubt about whether to do so.

Make only small changes to a sentence rather than rewriting it completely.

Don’t ask if a sentence can be improved but whether it needs to be improved.

Should you come across a large number of errors as you begin revising, consider whether the text should be retranslated rather than revised, and point this out to the client.

Do not impose your own translation approach or linguistic idiosyncracies upon the work of others. To quote Sue (see also ITI Bulletin May/June issue 2006, page 15): “Tempting though it may be, it is not part of the reviser’s brief to change the style."

According to Sue, it is your responsibility as a reviser to research any (remaining) problems. However, if you are unable to solve a problem, admit it to the client.

Always change as little as possible

Obviously, a lot more aspects should come into play in revision projects, but I found these particularly noteworthy. I don’t revise translations often myself, but once the next revision job lands on my desk, I shall bear the principles above in mind!

Check out my blog article on the revision workshop with Sue Young back in 2008 here. It is based on Anna George’s write-up of the event and includes more useful information on the revision of translations.

I'd also like to draw your attention to Sue Young's article "Handling client demands", which can be downloaded from the ITI website here.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

8 Proven ways of minimising screen time

Do you find you spend too little time around screens – or too much? Focusing too much of our attention on technology, computers and social media isn’t good for our eyes, has a negative impact on our posture, and can completely ruin our sleep.

As translators, we obviously have to spend a lot of time in front of our screens because, after all, it goes with the profession. However, I believe there are ways where even we can manage to minimise our screen time. Read on to find out how:

1) Be strategic in your online activities.

Decide before you sit down in front of a screen why you’re going to look at it. Be clear about what you’re trying to achieve while you're there – be that putting the finishing touches on a project, bringing your accounts up to date, or catching up on personal email. Minimise your time by focusing on your tasks and by eliminating all conceivable distractions.

2) Cut back on email and notifications.

Adopt a minimalist approach to how many emails you receive, read and reply to every day. Note this: While our jobs require us to answer emails straight away, we do have more freedom to take our time responding to other messages. Consider disabling your social media email notifications; you can still check them when you next log into your account.

3) Track your screen time.

I’m a big proponent of tracking work hours meticulously, even when we’re not paid by the hour. I’ve blogged on tracking screen time before (here and here). I aim to work 35 hours per week, which by the way excludes additional time spent on personal email, Twitter, forum discussions etc. When I go over my 35-hour limit, I consequently try to cut down on work hours (which in the translation industry, of course, is never easy!).

Find out how to incorporate some digital detox into your life!

4) Aim for minimal screen time in the evening.

Exposing yourself to screens in the evenings means it’ll take considerably longer for melatonin, the body’s natural sleep hormone, to kick in. So how about finishing work and unplugging a little earlier to wind down your brain before bed time? Just because we can be available and plugged in 24/7 doesn’t mean that we have to be!

5) Minimise your online profiles.

I believe that as translators we’re busy enough already with what we do (i.e. translating). Therefore, we do not need a presence on all social media platforms. In my view, being active on even just one is sufficient. As I now try to be minimalist in almost everything I do, it won’t come as a surprise to you that I favour Twitter: thanks to its 140-character restriction, Twitter lets you be minimal in what you post.

6) Be unconventional in your use of online profiles.

I know, I know this goes against all the rules of becoming successful and popular on Twitter: but rather than tweeting 8 times per day (as we’re advised to do), how about logging into Twitter only every 2nd day? Or every 3rd? If busy translators worry or feel stressed about not being present on social media enough, then, clearly, something must be wrong. Also, consider being unconventional when it comes to blogging: feel free not to publish two blog posts per week, as a conventional blogger would do.

I’ve even gone so far as not to enable the comments feature on my blog. Generally,
I think comments on blogs are terrific. However, thinking long and hard about how to reply and then phrasing my replies in English, which is not my mother tongue, would mean yet more screen time on top of the 35+ hours that I already spend at my screen. So my reasons for not having comments are the same as for Seth Godin.

7) Minimise your online marketing/networking.

While it’s true that, in theory, translators can build up big businesses via the internet and without ever leaving the house, there are alternative options available: consider minimising – rather than maximizing – your online marketing/networking activities. Replace your marketing/networking screen time by (yes!) leaving the house and engaging in some face-to-face marketing or networking out in the non-virtual world.

8) Try a day or two of no screen time at all.

Electronic devices have infiltrated almost all aspects of our lives in recent years. You’ll only start to notice their impact once you switch them off for a while. Choose a day or two in which you won’t let electronic devices clamour for your attention. Weekends in particular are perfect for device-free days. Be minimal by incorporating some digital detox into your life.

Minimise – unplug – enjoy!

Links to useful articles:

- The 10 Most Important Things to Simplify in Your Life (by Joshua Becker)
- Screen Time for Adults: Setting Limits for Yourself (and your inner child) (by Lily Sloane)
- Opt Out: A Simplicity Manifesto (by Leo Babauta)

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

What the minimalist wardrobe and translation specialisms have in common

There is a good reason why successful women like Matilda Kahl, art director from New York, wear the same thing to work every day: she never stresses about what to wear, she is more efficient at work, and she always looks and feels great.

As I’m paring down my closet more and more to a select number of items, I’ve noticed some baffling similarities between the minimalist wardrobe and translation specialisms. Over time, I’ve carefully minimized my translation specialisms so they now only include patent specifications in a few select fields and contracts; everything else I turn down.

What do the minimalist wardrobe and translation specialisms have in common?

Minimalist wardrobe principle 1:
Toss out any pieces of clothing you don’t feel comfortable wearing.

I’ve figured out, for example, that I hate wearing black. I always had to wear black in my job as a funeral organist 20 years ago – and I didn’t like it back then either. It’s taken me quite some time to figure that out. So I’ve started tossing out (most) black pieces of clothing.

Similarly, it’s taken me quite some time to figure out there are subject areas I would neither enjoy nor feel comfortable with. For example, I’d hate having to translate a novel. Some subject areas – such as electrical engineering or chemistry – I am even terrified of! So I give them a wide berth.

A minimalist wardrobe will help you to always look great and feel great

Minimalist wardrobe principle 2:
Know what flatters you.

Minimizing your wardrobe involves identifying what flatters you in terms of style, materials, colours, and patterns. Buying new clothes consequently becomes a piece of cake as you already know exactly what to look out for.

Similarly, identifying a translation specialism allows you to be highly selective when sifting through a pile of new job enquiries; you can decide quickly which translations are and which aren’t for you. A specialism will not just make your website look attractive, but also make you look good.

Minimalist wardrobe principle 3:
Create a capsule wardrobe.

The only thing Matilda Kahl had to do to create her iconic work uniform was to buy 15 identical silk white shirts and a few black trousers. A capsule wardrobe includes timeless, versatile pieces that you love to wear. It is the definition of your personal style.

Similarly, just as a capsule wardrobe can greatly boost your public image, the specialisms that translators acquire and become known for often turn into their brand. And not only are these translators conversant with their subject areas, they also usually love their specialisms!

Just as there is a good reason why successful people wear the same thing every day, it makes sense to pick a translation specialism: you never stress about what types of texts to accept, you are more efficient at work, and you feel great about having that specialism! 

Links to articles on the minimalist wardrobe:

- Why I Wear the Exact Same Thing to Work Every Day (by Matilda Kahl)
- 8 Reasons Successful People Are Choosing to Wear the Same Thing Every Day  (by Joshua Becker)
- Minimalist Wardrobe (on Simple not Plain, a how-to blog on minimalist living)

Sunday, 31 January 2016

New blog theme: Minimalism in the freelance translator’s workplace

I was pleasantly surprised to see a reference to one of my German blog articles about minimalism in the freelance workplace in the January 2016 issue of the ITI Bulletin. This has encouraged me even more in my decision to focus on combining translation with minimalism in future blog posts.

ITI BULLETIN January-February 2016, page 4

I am already brimming with ideas, so watch this space!

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

8 Essential elements of a perfect blog post

What makes a perfect blog post? The following 8 elements are the hallmarks of excellent blogs and are partly based on conclusions drawn from mistakes I’ve made on my own blog. Read on to find out how to reach the maximum number of blog readers and how to generate more social media shares:

1) Blog consistently about a particular theme.

Successful blogs are centred on a particular theme. Therefore, be as minimal as you can about the range of topics you choose to blog about. Check out the following examples of excellent blogs with a consistent theme: Claire Cox’s blog on translation/freelancing; Joshua Becker’s blog on minimalism; or Derek Sivers’ blog on entrepreneurship.

2) Pick an eye-catching headline.

8 out of 10 blog visitors will read your headline; 2 out of 10 will read the rest of your post (aka as the Pareto or 80/20 principle). A snappy headline is crucial: it will make or break whether people will carry on reading your post. Statistics have revealed that readers usually only absorb the first 3 words and the last 3 words in a headline, so focus on those 6 words.

Readers usually only absorb the first 3 words and the last 3 words in a headline


3) Make your opening sentence intriguing.
You usually have 10 seconds to impress the reader – failing which she’ll turn away and won’t return to your post. So make your opening sentence at least one of the following: catchy, scary, quirky, compelling, enticing, extraordinary, thought-provoking, or very personal. Consider drafting that all-important sentence last.

4) Organise your post as a list.

There is a reason for why my blog post “Top 10 misconceptions about translation and the translation profession” has been the most popular post on my blog for a long time. It has been found that a large proportion of popular blog posts are structured as lists along the lines of “10 quick tips to…”, “7 essential elements of…”, or “8 surefire ways of…”.

5) Be minimal in your use of words and the length of paragraphs.

A perfect blog post is as concise as it possibly can be. For me, the most enjoyable stage in writing a blog post is stripping it of all superfluous words and passages. Ideally, the number of adjectives included should be minimal, too. Contrary to what we were taught at school, adjectives often add nothing but unnecessary fluff to a text, thus detracting from its readability.

6) Use memorable language.

People reading online content tend to just skim text, and attention spans notoriously are decreasing. Therefore, use straightforward, punchy or bold language to drive home your message. This post by Julien Smith may be an extreme example of this, but it clearly achieves its goal of sticking in your mind once you’ve read it. (A must-read, by the way, if you care too much about what other people might think about you!)

7) Include a photo.

People in general respond better to visual content than to plain text, so visuals in a blog post are essential for making it perfect. They will brighten it up and render it appealing and unique. (Important: always ensure photos on your blog are legal!)

8) Write as if you’re giving advice to a friend.

The harsh truth about blogging is this: Hardly anyone out in the big, wide internet world is interested in you. People who come across your post are usually looking for solutions to their own problems! A perfect blog post therefore rarely focuses on the blog author alone, but is mainly directed at the readership. Write as if you’re talking to a friend, include relevant links, be helpful, engaging, and inspiring.

And finally: A perfect blog post should be actionable. As a result of writing this article and with reference to bullet point 1) above, I have made this decision: From today, I’m going to combine blogging about freelance translation with minimalism, a topic that has been close to my heart for almost 2 years. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Book recommendation: "Poison Bay" by Belinda Pollard

If you’re looking for an "unputdownable" novel to read, this is for you: I highly and enthusiastically recommend Belinda Pollard’s eco/wilderness thriller "Poison Bay"! It’s an absolutely brilliant read, packed with action, and "unputdownable" because you’ll find yourself avidly turning the pages from one captivating chapter to the next.

"Poison Bay" is the story of eight friends on a trek into New Zealand’s most brutal wilderness, with a shared secret that catches up with them once they are completely cut off from the outside world. It is full of vivid descriptions of a part of New Zealand’s most remote and stunning landscapes. You can watch the book trailer here:

"Poison Bay" is the debut novel by Belinda Pollard, a writer and award-winning former journalist from Brisbane, Australia. She was inspired to write the book while doing some day hikes on the south island of New Zealand and later became intrigued by the location name "Poison Bay" on a remote corner of the Fiordland map. Find out more on the writing of the book in an interview with her here.

You can follow Belinda Pollard on Twitter where she regularly tweets about good writing, blogging and publishing.

Fiordland, New Zealand
(photos taken by a family member in February 2015)

As a minimalist, I enjoyed reading “Poison Bay” as an e-book, but it is also available in paperback: