Small words make big things happen


The “Chevrolet Nova”

When people write or talk about errors in language they typically trot out the examples such as the car named the Nova which in the Spanish language means “no go”. And yes, they do bring a smile to the face and occasional grimaces to those who have been on the receiving end of such errors.

In the use of language, it isn’t just the big things that matter. Small things matter too.

Don’t believe me? Then imagine this conversation:

-“Do you take this man to be your lawful wedded husband?”

“I do”

-“And do you take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife?”

“Do I?”

Oops. In just three letters two lives, and perhaps many more, could be inexorably altered.

Does it matter?

Well yes it does, in this scenario it really matters. “I do.” Is a life time promise of love, fidelity, and commitment.

“Do I.” sets up a completely different dynamic. I know which one I would prefer to hear.

It’s all in the detail with language

Words can make or break. Having gone to all the trouble of creating a service or product that delights the end user, it is a shame when the surrounding collateral undermines the promises made.

Let me give you an example. I went to one of our many local stores yesterday. On the outside it looked a perfectly normal shop. However, looking inside the shop I saw there were hand written labels such as this one. “Please note, items on this shelf is to be taken to counter 3 only!” In reality there is little wrong with the sentence. The word “is” should be “are”. But it was enough to warrant shoppers getting their pens out and making a number of corrections to it. I then read other such notices around the shop and grammatically they were all just that tiny bit out, and each one had been amended. Why had they not been taken down and rewritten I wondered. Then as I approached the service counter I read this. “Don’t annoy our staff if we in bad mood. We bite!”

In my mind I was already wishing I was elsewhere. I would rather buy my goods where I felt more welcome. So I put back the items I was going to purchase and left.

Small words make big things happen

How about you? Is the collateral surrounding your offering of a sufficiently high quality to amplify the value of it, or does it attenuate the value through sloppy, poor writing?

And what about when the words need to be rendered into another language?

This sums up our thoughts. If you think hiring a professional is expensive, wait until you hire an amateur.

And if you want to avoid finding out what happens in that case, get in touch with Dialogue for professional and streamlined language services – [email protected]

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