How to write a blog post

notebook blog post

How to write a blog post

I’m working with someone who is new at blogging and she’s having trouble getting started. She’s got a case of “writer’s block.” This post is for her and for anyone else who has got the blogging jitters.

Start writing

There are things we think about doing in life, and things we actually do. It’s what you actually do that matters.

Not sure what to write about? Try to be useful in some way, or share an unusual story. Or provide critical feedback to something you’ve just read or seen.

Then you should stop thinking, and write down your first sentence. Then write your second sentence. Then your third. And so on.

You can stop after thirty sentences, but try to write a bit more than that. You can stop once you feel that your idea is sufficiently developed.

Still think you’re not a good writer? Read Copyblogger’s 10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer.


This is the fun part that pays off significantly. Edit. I truly believe that the secret sauce of good writing is good revision.

It’s time to get your text organized, make it flow, cut out excess words, and clean up grammar and spelling issues.

Add appropriate headings to break up your text. For readability, think about using bullet lists and keeping paragraphs and sentences short as well.

Read your text out loud or print it out on paper if that works for you.

Find images

Grab a free stock image to make your blog post more visual. I often use because they don’t require attribution.

Share, or don’t share

Now it’s time to think about possibly sharing your post on social media. If the thought of mentioning your blog post on Facebook prevents you from writing, then don’t bother sharing in the short-term. The important thing is to get writing, and to eventually hit Publish.

You are a writer

You are a writer and publisher. You shouldn’t think of yourself as an impostor who doesn’t have the right to share his/her voice.

When you’re ready to get more into the nitty-gritty, you can see the infographic below from Salesforce.

Happy blogging. You got this.

Click To Enlarge

Anatomy of a Blog Post

Via Salesforce

French-language culture and theatre in Toronto

Eiffel Tower

French is alive in Toronto

I’m grateful that I can speak French pretty often in Toronto, even outside of my home. Even though only 1.2% of Torontonians are French-speaking, we can still find French schools, French theatre, French book clubs, French cinema, French food, and so on. All this in what is probably the most multicultural city in the world.

Les Franco-ontariens

French Toronto Ontario

The French community is quite vibrant, and I think it’s fueled by Franco-Ontarians coming from places like Sudbury, North Bay, Cornwall and few other cities where French can be regularly heard in public. Did you know that in a small Ontario town called Welland that 23% of the population is French-speaking because a Quebec company brought over 20 francophone families to work in a cotton mill in 1914?

Education in French

French-speaking kids in Toronto can go to a number of elementary and secondary schools in French — free of charge — at these two school boards. Just don’t expect the lunchroom cantine, frequent school holidays, or four-day school week that you may have experienced in France!

French book clubs at the Toronto Public Library


You can get swept away by French-language literature in Toronto and talk about it with French speakers! It looks like there are French book clubs at least four different Toronto libraries where you can discuss books from French-speaking authors from around the world:

  • North York
  • Etobicoke (Richview)
  • Scarborough (Cedarbrae)
  • Yorkville

The Théâtre français de Toronto

For theatre-lovers, there is the marvelous Théâtre français de Toronto on Berkeley Street. I was lucky to review a few plays for the theatre publication Mooney on Theatre:

  • Le Placard/The Closet
  • Le Chat botté/Puss in Boots
  • Le Passé antérieur/Past Perfect

Review: Le Placard/The Closet (Théâtre français de Toronto)

Review (Kid +1): Le Chat botté (Théatre Advienne que pourra)

Review: Past Perfect/Le passé antérieur (Théâtre français de Toronto)


If you have other examples of how French culture is alive and well in Toronto, please comment here or tweet me at @translatetrad!

Writing Tips from George Orwell

George Orwell 6 rules

How to write well

Attention people who want writing tips: I’m dusting off my six-year-old copy of The Economist Style Guide after a colleague reminded me of goodies from George Orwell in the introduction. Here are his six elementary rules:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word when a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

I think I’m doing OK when it comes to #2, 3 and 4, but I need to work a bit more on the other ones.

More writing tips from The Economist Style Guide

The Economist Style Guide complements Orwell’s writing tips with their own wise words which are bolded below. The parts that are not bolded are my own ramblings.

Catch the attention of the reader.

Because people don’t pay attention to boring things!

Read through your writing several times.

The secret sauce to good writing is good revision.

Do not be stuffy.

Use everyday language and don’t be afraid of contractions.

Do not be hectoring or arrogant.

Like in real life.

Do not be too pleased with yourself.

No need for any “I told you so.”

Do not be too chatty.

Orwell’s rule #3.

Do not be too didactic.

Uh-oh, I’ll work on curbing my use of “look at” and “note.”

Do you best to be lucid.

Be clear and simple.

I hope the above writing tips from The Economist Style Guide were helpful! Feel free to read previous posts triggered by this book such as Parkinson’s Law and generous translation deadlines.

And please share this post with your writer, translator and editor friends!


Twitter for work and play

Twitter for work

I’ve used Twitter for work and fun since 2009 so Happy 10th Birthday Twitter!

How do I love thee Twitter? Let me count the ways.

  1. I’ve received work as a freelance translator via Twitter
  2. I learn a lot about entrepreneurship, marketing, copywriting, translation (#xl8), SEO and life thanks to Twitter
  3. I connect with interesting people
  4. I keep up with local and international news
  5. I attempt to be helpful and useful to others

Past Twitter-related blog posts

I enjoy tweeting and talking about tweeting. Here are three posts about Twitter. The first one was written by my fellow copywriter and tweeter Gian Verano.

How to Add Twitter Cards to Your Website (WordPress)

Marketing advice for a small business owner

Follow them on Twitter and improve your French

Do you use Twitter for work and play?

For work, there are Twitter users who specialize in tweeting about every field possible. For giggles, you can follow @SoVeryBritish.

Are you happy with your Twitter experience? Feel free to comment, retweet or follow me at @translatetrad!

Trains and translation mishaps

All aboard for proper translation?

Reading bad advertisement translation on trains is one thing; reading poorly translated instructions or messages published by railway authorities is another.

Press for translation assistance

In this example from the Toronto-area GO train (similar to the RER in Paris), both the French and English messages are grammatically sound. But I think anglophones would be more tempted to press this button than francophones!

“Press for assistance” is a lot more inviting than « appuyer en cas d’urgence » !

Go Transit translation

More interesting train translations

And what’s the quality of translations like on SNCF trains in France? « Ne jamais descendre du train en l’absence du quai » is “Never alight from a train when it is not alongside a platform.”French train translation

Choo-choo! Tchou-tchou !

Pan Am Games translation: Yes, French is longer than English

Pan Am Games ticket swimming

French-, English- and Spanish-language Panamania guide

After attending a swimming event at the Toronto Pan Am Games several days ago, I couldn’t help but check out the trilingual Panamania program. This 125-page guide to theatre, dance and visual arts was written in English, French and Spanish.

Two French sentences: 351 characters

Pan Am Games French

J’encourage toutes les personnes qui lisent cette programmation à se laisser séduire par les éléments visuels et sonores de cette collection phare d’œuvres et par les artistes qui les ont créées.

Je vous prie d’accepter mes meilleurs vœux pour un PANAMANIA empreint d’engagement et d’inspiration et de recevoir l’expression de mes sentiments distingués.

Two English sentences: 199 characters

Panamania translation English

I encourage everyone reading this program to take in the sights and sounds of this landmark collection of artists and their works.

Please accept my best wishes for an engaging and inspiring PANAMANIA!

Yes, French is longer than English.

Here’s the Spanish version for fun:

Panamania Spanish



Copywriting tips: Don’t exaggerate or confuse

copywriting tipsCopywriting tips for Hyundai

I stumbled across this print ad for a Hyundai car in my weekend paper, and I personally thought the copy could be stronger. What triggered my inner editor was seeing “exceed your expectations” not just once, but twice.

Born from our passion to craft vehicles that exceed your expectations, the 2015 Genesis promises a truly enhanced driving experience. Designed with an array of innovative technologies, including the highly advanced HTRAC All-Wheel Drive (AWD) system, the Genesis exudes disciplined power. Exquisite comfort wrapped in the enticing elegance of our latest design language, ‘Fluidic Sculpture 2.0’, speaks not only to the mind of every driver, but also to their heart.

Fasten your seatbelt for an experience that embodies performance, technology and craftsmanship that will exceed your expectations. This is the H-Factor.


I didn’t find the writing to be effective because:

  • it seemed over-written, to the point of sounding desperate (“exquisite comfort,” “enticing elegance”)
  • I didn’t understand what certain things meant (“exudes disciplined power,” “latest design language,” “Fluidic Sculpture”)
  • it seemed vague (“truly enhanced driving experience”)
  • a promise to “exceed my expectations” doesn’t tell me how this car can help me
  • I didn’t understand the benefits of having their all-wheel drive system

I think the copywriter could have made this piece of advertising stronger by:

  • using more plain English
  • deleting “exceed your expectations” since it’s always better to be specific rather than generic
  • avoiding the purple prose
  • cutting out anything that is potentially confusing
  • talking about benefits
  • writing more about “you” the driver

I understand that car ads are often based on emotion, so the writers of these ads are asked to write with creativity, sometimes moving away from simple language. But this particular ad didn’t leave me feeling any envy or desire; instead its stuffy words caused confusion for me.

My reaction is a personal one. Another copywriter (or more importantly, a potential car-buyer) might think this ad is fantastic.

More copywriting tips

If you’d like to get more into the nitty-gritty of copywriting, you’ll find more copywriting tips from resources such as:

Were these copywriting tips good food for thought? If so, please share on social media and feel free to leave a comment!


The Ultimate SEO Checklist by

The Ultimate SEO Checklist!

Thank you for permission to reprint this handy infographic about search engine optimization.

What I think about when optimizing Catherine Translates

My takeaways from this SEO checklist as I maintain this translation and copywriting blog:

  • use keywords in my H1s
  • write meta tags (titles and descriptions)
  • link internally to other blog posts
  • link externally to useful sites
  • update this blog regularly with freshly written content
  • put keywords in my URLs

 The Ultimate SEO Checklist

The Ultimate SEO Checklist

What do you do to build up SEO juice on your blog or website?

Is SEO a concern?

How to Add Twitter Cards to Your Website (WordPress)

Guest blog by Gian Verano

If you’re like Catherine, me and approximately 300 million other users, you use Twitter and other social media services to network, learn new things and promote your website or blog online. It’s an important tool for both freelancers and in-house professionals to get their content noticed.

But did you know that Twitter makes it easy for writers to promote their content using specialized meta tags called Twitter Cards? These tags create unique summary snippets that entice Twitter users to click on links to your work when they’re tweeted out.

Why Bother with Twitter Cards?

By providing a short preview of your content, Twitter Cards let users know where the URL will lead to – helping them quickly decide if they’re interested, while also showing that your link won’t lead to an irrelevant or spam website.

In short, people are more likely to click links that include a Twitter Card than those that don’t.

What Are Twitter Cards?

Twitter Cards are nothing new. In fact, they were first introduced in June of 2012. However, their roll out was so seamless that many people still don’t understand what they are or how to get them.

Twitter Cards create a preview of the content you’re linking to. When somebody expands one of your tweets from their timeline, they’ll be presented with a Twitter Card if the web page you’re linking to contains the appropriate meta tags. That’s why you’ll want to add a Twitter card summary to every page and post of your website.

Depending on the nature of the content, they can take one of these seven forms. Catherine will mostly be using the Summary Card for her blog posts because of their ease of use.  Since I post a lot of graphic-rich content, I like using the Summary Card with Large Image. Take a look at the images and descriptions of the various cards to help you determine which type will best suit your needs!

UPDATE: March 21, 2016

Since this blog post was written last year, Twitter has retired several of their Twitter Card formats. The Photo Card, Gallery Card and Product Card have all been removed. Tweets using the coding for these types of Twitter Card have been mapped to either the Summary Card or Summary Card with Large Image. Learn more at the Twitter Developer Resource Portal.

Card TypeDescription
Summary CardTwitter’s default card format; includes a title, description, small thumbnail and link attribution to your Twitter account2-SummaryCard
Summary Card with Large ImageSame features as a regular Summary Card, but uses a larger image3-SummaryCardImage
Photo Card

*Removed July 3, 2015

Only displays a photo that links to your content4-PhotoCard
Gallery Card

*Removed July 3, 2015

Displays multiple photos in a gallery5-GalleryCard
App CardFor developers – links to your app download page6-AppCard
Player CardUsed to promote audio and video content; embeds a media player right into the tweet7-PlayerCard
Product Card

*Removed July 3, 2015

Promote your retail items with a description and highlight of key benefits8-ProductCard

*Twitter Card examples taken from Twitter’s Official Development Resource

How Can I Add Twitter Cards to My Website?

Using WordPress Plugins

If you’re a WordPress user, you’re in luck. There are many great plugins that automate the process of creating a Twitter Card for your site. These plugins run automatically in the background and will create a card for every page you post using your existing meta descriptions. They’re the easy, worry-free way to add Twitter Cards to your website!

I personally recommend Twitter Cards Meta by for its easy user interface and quick setup. If you’re looking for an all-in-one solution that also creates tags for Facebook and Google at the same time, consider Facebook Open Graph, Google+ and Twitter Card Tags by Webdados.

Some popular SEO plugins like SEO by Yoast also have built-in Twitter Card integration, saving you the need to run multiple plugins.

These all-in-one solutions let you forget about the actual steps needed to create a twitter card. However, if you’re like me and want full, no-limits customization, then manually adding your Twitter Cards is definitely is the best way to go.

Adding Twitter Cards Manually

Like Driving, Manual Gives You the Most Control

You’re probably wondering why you should take the time to manually add Twitter Cards to your website instead of using an automatic plugin. Most plugins take your meta description and use it as the text for your card. Most plugins are also optimized to cut off your meta description at 156 characters – Google’s recommended maximum. However, Twitter Cards let you type up to 200 characters. If you’re a writer, blogger or translator,  I’m sure you’ll appreciate every character you can get.

Also, most plugins only allow you to use the two most basic types of Twitter Cards: Summary or Summary with Large Image – forcing you to pay for the ability to use all cards. It’s actually not much more work to do it yourself for free.

I’m Sold. How Do I Do It?

Creating One Twitter Card for Your Entire Site

Once you’ve decided on what kind of Twitter Card you want for your website, all you have to do is add the appropriate code to your Header.php file. Simply open it up on your host’s code editor, and insert it somewhere between the <head> and </head> fields. Scroll down for the actual coding.

Most WordPress themes also allow you to edit your Header.php directly from the WP Dashboard.

Click Appearance > Editor > Then locate ‘Header’ under Templates on the right-hand side.

However, if your theme uses stacks, you’ll have to edit the code from your domain host’s Control Panel.

If you add your Twitter Card info to your main Header.php, it will be used for every single page you tweet out. You can still add Twitter Card meta to specific pages and posts, but in my experience, it sometimes gets overwritten by your main Twitter Card. That’s why I recommend adding separate Twitter Cards to your landing page and to each individual page or post.

Creating Twitter Cards for Individual Pages and Posts

To add Twitter Cards on specific posts or pages, you can either create a child theme Header.php or install a plugin that allows you to add <head> meta data on specific pages. Personally, I like using ‘Per page add to head by Erik von Asmuth.

(The easiest way to do it manually, in my opinion)


All you do is install and activate the plugin to create a custom input field on every page or post called “Add to head”. Here, you can add meta data to the specific page or post you’re editing. Now all you have to do is decide what kind of Twitter Card you want, and add the appropriate code to that particular page.

Card TypeCode

*Be sure to remove the [square brackets]!

Summary Card<meta name=”twitter:card” content=”summary” /><meta name=”twitter:site” content=”@[Your Twitter ID]” /><meta name=”twitter:title” content=”[Add a title]” /><meta name=”twitter:description” content=”[Text description; 200 characters max]” /><meta name=”twitter:image” content=”[Full URL of your image, IE]” /><meta name=”twitter:url” content=”[URL of your website]” />
Summary Card with Large Image<meta name=”twitter:card” content=”summary_large_image”><meta name=”twitter:site” content=”@[Your Twitter ID]” /><meta name=”twitter:title” content=”[Add a title]” /><meta name=”twitter:description” content=”[Text description; 200 characters max]” /><meta name=”twitter:image” content=”[Full URL of your image, IE]” /><meta name=”twitter:url” content=”[URL of your website]” />
Photo Card

*Removed July 3, 2015

<meta name=”twitter:card” content=”photo” /><meta name=”twitter:site” content=”@[Your Twitter ID]” /><meta name=”twitter:title” content=”[Add a title]” /><meta name=”twitter:image” content=”[Full URL of your image, IE]” /><meta name=”twitter:url” content=”[URL of your website]” />
Gallery Card

*Removed July 3, 2015

<meta name=”twitter:card” content=”gallery” /><meta name=”twitter:site” content=”@[Your Twitter ID]” /><meta name=”twitter:title” content=”[Add a title]” /><meta name=”twitter:description” content=”[Text description; 200 characters max]” /><meta name=”twitter:url” content=”[URL of your website]” /><meta name=”twitter:image0″ content=”[Full URL of your first image, IE]” /><meta name=”twitter:image1″ content=”[Full URL of your next first image, IE]” /><meta name=”twitter:image2″ content=”[Full URL of your next first image, IE]” /><meta name=”twitter:image3″ content=”[Full URL of your next first image, IE]” />
App Card*You can also add coding for iPhone, iPad and Google Play<meta name=”twitter:card” content=”app”><meta name=”twitter:site” content=”@[Your Twitter ID]” /><meta name=”twitter:description” content=”[Text description; 200 characters max]” /><meta name=”twitter:app:country” content=”[Insert 2 letter country code]“><meta name=”twitter:app:name:iphone” content=”[App Name]“><meta name=”twitter:app:url:iphone” content=”[App URL]“>
Player CardPlayer cards must first be approved by Twitter. Read the full procedure.
Product Card

*Removed July 3, 2015

<meta name=”twitter:card” content=”product”><meta name=”twitter:site” content=”@[Your Twitter ID]” /><meta name=”twitter:title” content=”[Add a title]” /><meta name=”twitter:image” content=”[Full URL of your image, IE]“/><meta name=”twitter:label1″ content=”[Label]“><meta name=”twitter:data1″ content=”[Keyword for that label] “><meta name=”twitter:label2″ content=”[Label]“><meta name=”twitter:data2″ content=”[Keyword for that label]“>

One Last Step

You’ll want to run the Twitter Card Validator for each URL to have your cards start appearing in your timeline. If it doesn’t populate, try refreshing the page and re-entering your URL. Still not working? There’s probably something wrong with your code. Be sure that each meta field is enclosed in its own <angular bracket> and that there are no extra spaces between your code.


The Finished Product

Here’s the Summary Card Catherine created using the Yoast SEO plugin.

Catherine Twitter Card

And here’s the Summary Card with Large Image that I created manually. I wanted the preview to show what my website actually looks like (not just the featured image), so I took a screen capture of my website, uploaded it and then specified it as the “twitter:image” in the meta tags.

Gian Verano Toronto Copywriter Twitter Card

Want to Know More?

Expand your knowledge of Twitter Cards at Twitter’s Official Development Resource. Still have questions? Tweet me @gian_verano or leave a comment on this post, and I’ll do my best to find the answer!

About the Author

Gian Verano is a colleague of Catherine’s and is a Toronto-based copywriter and theatre critic who enjoys contemporary literature and cake – especially strawberry shortcake. He usually tweets about marketing, web development or SEO, but will occasionally share something quite profound. Visit his LinkedIn profile to read more about his skills and qualifications.

8 editing tips for writers and translators

editing tips

Editing tips and tricks

Get your red pens out, and step up your writing!

Here are a few editing tips and tricks I’ve gathered after editing and proofreading other people’s writing and having my own work fixed up countless times.

1. Make sure sentence structure varies

You wouldn’t write three declarative sentences in a row, would you? Of course not. That would make your writing sound choppy.

Why not mix up interrogative, declarative, imperative and exclamatory sentences? And throw in a sentence fragment from time to time if your writing is informal. Like this. Variety is the spice of life.

2. Make sure sentences are not too long

According to Daily Writing Tips, sentences containing more than 20 words can be considered difficult to read. Agreed. Readers don’t appreciate long-winded sentences, which are often a manifestation of muddled thoughts.

If your sentence runs over 25 words, consider chopping it in half.

3. Make sure paragraphs are not too long

According to SuMall and Buffer, paragraphs should be between 40-and 55-characters long. Logical, right? Shorter paragraphs are simply more readable and inviting.

Huge blocks of text intimidate readers, making them click to get off your site. Nobody wants to work too hard, so simply break up your thoughts into smaller paragraphs.

4. Delete “that” whenever possible

Tighten things up! Let’s look at few examples.

“Hope that” versus “hope”:

  • We hope that your meal was delicious.
  • We hope your meal was delicious.

“Believe that” versus “believe”:

  • She believes that he’ll pull through.
  • She believes he’ll pull through.

“Make sure that” versus “make sure”:

  • I’ll make sure that we sell your goods at the best price.
  • I’ll make sure we sell your goods at the best price.

5. Delete “very” and “really”

Make your copy more concise by getting rid of “very” and “really” which make you sound wishy-washy anyways.

  • We were very disappointed with your customer service.
  • We were disappointed with your customer service.
  • Her lessons are really useful and entertaining.
  • Her lessons are useful and entertaining.

6. Delete “I decided to” and “I chose to” and “I started to”

Get to the point!

  • We decided to create a new Spanish-language section for our paper.
  • We created a new Spanish-language section for our paper.
  • We chose to expand our business by offering essential oils and yoga mats.
  • We expanded our business by offering essential oils and yoga mats.

7. Make sure you use “who” not “that” after people

Common grammar no-no:

  • Count on this technician that is BBB-accredited.
  • Count on this technician who is BBB-accredited.

8. Make sure you’re using the proper variant of English

If you’re in Canada, write like a Canadian. So it’s “specialize” and “labour” and “centre” and so on. For some reason, Canadian-born Canadians sometimes use “color” instead of “colour.”

Think about whether or not you should write:

  • postal code or zip code
  • pop or soda
  • expiry date or expiration date
  • truck or lorry

Confession: When I lived in France, I thought we said “public transport” when in fact we say “transit” in Toronto.

Final note: thick skin

I hope these editing tips are helpful whether you are reading work from a peer or editing yourself. If you are on the receiving end, you need thick skin. We get better each time we get editorial feedback.

If you found these editing tips useful, please leave a comment or share this with your writing pals!

Follow them on Twitter and improve your French

French tweets

If your French could use some fine-tuning, you may want to follow these Twitter translators, bloggers and editors. Nit-picky they are. They tweet out tips for English to French translators, giving mini-French lessons for francophiles like me. Enjoy!













It takes guts to propose translations to our peers. Translation is subjective, and when we don’t pick the best word, our errors can get publicized to dozens of people on social media. So hats off to translators everywhere who share their suggestions in public and sign their names on them.

If this post took your French up a notch, you can:

  • follow these people on Twitter
  • leave a comment here in English or French
  • share this post on Twitter or Facebook or your social media platform of choice

And stay tuned for more Twitter recommendations, this time for French to English translators!

Toronto jobs for writers and editors

writing notebook

My trusted resource Twitter has informed me that there are a few Toronto job openings out there for writers and editors.

Food writer for Now

Get paid to eat out! This is someone’s dream job. Toronto weekly Now is looking for a full-time food writer who can not only eat and write, but also take good photos and be strong at social media.

Applications are due by April 17, 2015.

Life assignment editor for The Toronto Star

The Toronto Star needs an assignment editor for its lifestyle news.

Applications are due March 23, 2015.

Writer for BuzzFeed

“Make stuff that people like to share.” You’ll need to publish a few posts first before applying to be a BuzzFeed staff writer.

No deadline given.

Freelance writer/photographer for

Star Media Group Digital is seeking a Toronto-based freelance writer and photographer for Go out and write about it.

Applications are due by March 27, 2015.

Good luck in applying for these jobs for writers!



Marketing advice for a small business owner

Marketing tips for small business and freelancers

Since my job is to write websites for small business owners, and I myself wrote copy, blogged and used social media for my own translation gig, a friend asked me for help in revamping his website. His goal: become known as the go-to French teacher in Toronto by marketing his services online. With his stale website and on-and-off presence on social media, this was a tall order.

Marketing tips and tricks for all trades

I had a look at his site and gave him a few pointers based on my experience, reading and instincts. This advice might be helpful for anyone running a business, whether you’re a dog groomer, interior decorator, electrician or freelance translator.


  • Come up with a tagline that you can use on your website and across all your social media platforms. I continue to use my tagline “Every word matters. Chaque mot compte.” on Twitter, LinkedIn and this blog.
  • Put a nice photo of yourself on your website, blog and social media profiles if you’re comfortable. No recent headshots? Get one. Don’t grab a picture that’s fifteen years old. That’s what sketchy real estate agents do.


Specific website pages

  • Home page: Put your meaty stuff here and don’t forget to link to your other pages.
  • About: Use the “That means…” technique from Steve Slaunwhite to make it about your customer, not about you.
  • Services: Highlight the benefits (win contracts from Swiss clients, order food in Montreal, go sightseeing in Paris) not just the features of your service (conversation practice and grammar exercises).
  • Testimonials: Include maybe five reviews from satisfied students or their parents. Use a subheading to introduce each one, and either use keywords or grab an evocative snippet from the review. It should either have keywords for SEO reasons (“After school French lessons for Toronto kids”) or be evocative (“I learned French, met a boy from Montreal and married him.”)


  • Marketing 101: Be useful to whomever would need your services.
  • Update your blog regularly with tips and tricks from your field (maybe French grammar, spelling, slang, regional differences and so on).


  • Again, be useful.
  • Remember that people need a reason to follow you, so tweet out your tips and tricks.
  • Start by tweeting once or twice a day.
  • Do this for a month, and only then should you start following people. Nobody will follow someone who has no tweets.
  • Follow your audience. This could be fellow language teachers, students, tutors, Toronto francophiles.
  • Retweet useful tweets from your peers. It’s good karma, and you’re providing a service to your audience.
  • Never advertise your services on Twitter. That is lame marketing unless your tweets are extremely relevant and helpful to your customer:  I’ve seen translators publish tweets like “For affordable English to Italian translations, contact ABC!” every third tweet. I cringe.

I can only talk about Twitter since this is the social media platform I enjoy and use the most.

If you’d like to add your two cents on online marketing for small business owners, please share in the comments.


Great tagline and domain name: Ontario College of Trades

Ontario College of Trades
My compliments go to the Ontario College of Trades. I wish I had worked on their website!

Evocative tagline: Leave your desk job behind

Using only 5 words, they tell us that these trades are not for us boring, sedentary office workers who lack fresh air. They appeal to our “hands-on” instincts.

In general, I think taglines should be:

  • clear
  • simple
  • easy to spell
  • specific (not the horrible “quality products” or “excellent customer service”)

Compelling domain name:

I’d click on it! creates desire. It refers to putting money in your pocket, and the rhyme makes the domain name unforgettable.

Most SEO-related articles suggest that domain names be keyword-based, but I thought was still effective.

I think domain names should be:

  • .com
  • memorable
  • not too long
  • easy to spell

More tips on creating taglines

 More tips on choosing a domain names

How do you feel about your own tagline and domain name? Any more tips or comments?

Happy Halloween! English and French Halloween idioms

Happy Halloween!

Students of French and English might enjoy this table of October 31 idioms.

Not quite sure of all the translations though, so you’re welcome to help me out.

to stab someone in the backpoignarder quelqu’un dans le dos
to be pushing up daisiesmanger les pissenlits par la racine
to be scared stiffêtre mort de peur
to send shivers down my spineme donner des frissons
skeletons in the closetcadavres dans le placard
night owloiseau de nuit
witch huntchasse aux sorcières
six feet undersix pieds sous terre? deux mètres sous terre?
Happy HalloweenBonne fête d’Halloween
jack o’ lantern? citrouille-lanterne
Trick or treat!? des bonbons ou un sort!
Boo!? Bouh!


Any contributions or suggestions?

Please let me know in the comments if you can help improve or expand this table.


I’m glad I know WordPress

In June 2011 I published Freelance translators: Should you blog? and forgot one thing.

One huge advantage of blogging: You get to know WordPress.

Knowing WordPress might come in handy

Speaking from experience, having some WordPress experience has proven to be useful:

  • Listing WordPress on my résumé helped me get interviews for writing jobs
  • I use some WordPress knowledge at work
  • I use it for personal writing projects with some ease

A good warmup for future professional or personal projects

WordPress unexpectedly became my friend. Could it be worthwhile for you too? Thanks to the WordPress dashboard, I’m not lost when editors or web designers or SEO people make these references:

  • HTML
  • H1, H2 and H3
  • widget
  • plugin
  • title tag
  • meta description
  • thumbnail
  • navigation bar
  • Read More tag
  • anchor

WordPress dashboard

I get by with a little help from my friends

Knowing nothing about blogs in 2010, I had an experienced WordPress user set me up. I now maintain this blog mostly on my own, for better or for worse, asking friends for help when I get stuck. I’ve made my share of technical mistakes on this blog, but I know how to publish a post, add images, edit the URL, move around widgets, and even change the code.

Those moves might be useful for translators and writers in certain specializations.

If you don’t need to be tech-savvy, I get it

For some language pros, knowing how to send an email and use good ol’ Microsoft Word is enough. I can understand that. I’ve never used a CAT tool myself and I never saw the need.

WordPress: A skill worth investing in?

If your WordPress experience has been helpful or completely useless, I’d appreciate hearing from you.

(This post is WordPress-centric because I know nothing about Blogger, Typepad or any other platform.)


11 new English words

new Canadian words

I have learned many new English words since I resettled in Toronto a year and a half ago.

When I lived in France (my source language culture), I took yearly flights from Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle to Pearson. But these summertime visits to Canada (my target language culture) didn’t turn me into a 100% full-on native speaker of Canadian English. Neither did my daily reading of English-language press.

English immersion

Being exposed to English a few hours a day isn’t the same as interacting in English for twelve hours a day with all kinds of Toronto souls — coworkers, neighbours, seniors, new graduates, schoolteachers, sales clerks, bus drivers and everyone else.

So I’ve pumped up my vocabulary.

I think I’ve figured out the following words.

1. Meet ‘n’ greet

You choose someone to become your doctor. Then you make an appointment a month later to do a “meet ‘n’ greet.” You shake hands with your physician, talk about your medical history for 15 minutes, and fill out administrative papers.

2. Pay it forward

You do a good deed. The receiver of the good deed will “pay it forward” and do another good deed for a different person. So your good deed will not get “paid back” to you, the original do-gooder. Instead, it gets “paid forward” to the third person, the do-gooder in the making.

3. Senior moment

You have a few white hairs and you’ve lost your keys, forgot the punchline of your joke, put on mismatched socks, or committed some other embarrassing offence. Congratulations, you’ve had a “senior moment.”

4. Swag

Free stuff! This is usually branded merchandise that you get at an corporate event. Swag could be a free T-shirt, keychain, hat or some other thing that the company’s logo can be printed on.

5. Campy

From my understanding, “campy” is used to describe something that has been taken to an extreme, but is amusing. For example, a play could be “campy” if the story is unbelievable, the actors are overdoing it, but the audience enjoys the whole experience.

6. Ridiculous (and terrible in French)

Revelation: “ridiculous” can have a positive connotation. Your friend calls an action movie “ridiculous” and says you have to see it.

“Ridiculous” = really, really good.

“Ridiculous” reminds me very much of “terrible” in French.

Terrible” = really, really good.

A French friend recently said, “Le logo de Roger Federer est terrible.” Could we say that Federer’s logo is “ridiculous”?

Roger Federer logo

7. Ugly laugh

“That story was hilarious! I did an ugly laugh and almost peed my pants!”

8. One-trick pony

You’re good at only one thing. You make delicious banana bread, but you make horrible cookies, pies and squares. So you stick to the banana bread and become a “one-trick pony.”

9. Poutine

I lived in Montreal in my early twenties, so poutine and I are buddies. Poutine is an unhealthy mix of fries, gravy and cheese curds. I’m including it on my list of new words, because back in the day, poutine belonged in Quebec, not in Ontario.

10. Push back

Warning: corporate-speak. You “push back” when you are asked to do something at work and you don’t think you should. So you say, “Our web design department wants me to call our client. But that’s not my job. Why doesn’t Customer Care do that? I’m pushing back.”

11. Millennial

You’re a millennial if you were born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. Toronto’s The Globe and Mail publishes articles about “millennials” ad nauseum:

The Globe and Mail writes as if everyone over 35 thinks of young people as entitled brats. I work harmoniously with many “millennials” who have proven to be a generous, hard-working bunch.

Keeping up with ever-evolving English

Personally, I never felt that living outside of North America made me less of an English-speaking translator. I always did my research and tried my best to use the right words and capture the proper tone for each industry.

I didn’t understand “selfie” and “twerking” at first, but these words never found their way into my translations.

Expat translators, how do you stay on top of your target language?

Comments welcome.

And if anyone would like to correct me or add clarification about the newly learned words above, please chime in.



From freelance translator to in-house copywriter


Holy smokes, it’s been a year since I last blogged. Time to get my act together.

Why I stopped blogging

I neglected this blog because I am not working as a freelance translator any more.

There, I said it.

I’m no longer a freelancer like the majority of my blog readers (whoever is left). A bit over a year ago, not long after leaving Paris for Toronto, I put an end to my self-employment and took on an in-house position as a copywriter.

It’s a 9-to-5 job that requires over 1.5 hours of commuting a day by public transit (*gasp*).

It’s not as bad as it sounds.

My new position as a bilingual senior copywriter

Nowadays, instead of translating for direct clients as a one-woman show, I do other fun stuff:

  • write website copy
  • edit website copy
  • translate a little
  • work with colleagues in customer service and web design
  • lead a team of really awesome French- and English-speaking copywriters
  • make sure our French-language websites follow the rules of the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF)

While I miss so many things about freelancing, I’ve been having a blast at my new job.

Dusting off Catherine Translates

What’s bugging me now is not this career choice, but my lame blogging.

I just paid about 150 bucks to renew this blog for another year. Goddammit I will either blog again or cancel this in 12 months.

Future blog topics

Since I can only blog about what I am going through, I’ll be switching gears at Catherine Translates and I may never say another word about marketing for freelance translators (well, maybe a few words from time to time).

Instead, I’ll likely address what is truly on my mind:

  • copywriting
  • writing for online readers
  • editing
  • translation (my first love)
  • speaking French in Canada
  • adjusting to life back in Canada

Thanks for reading

I’ll work on my blogging endurance. Please stay tuned. Comments welcome 🙂


Capitalizing words in titles, headings and subheadings

I get a bit crazy when it comes to capitalizing as you may have seen in Brand names and internal capital letters. It irks me to see MasterCard and PayPal misspelled. I equate this lack of attention to detail with downright sloppiness. As writers and translators, it’s our job to keep our eyes peeled for what is capitalized and what is not.

My current gig involves using title case on headings of Canadian English-language websites. So when do you press that shift button and use that mighty capital letter? has the answer. Thanks to a colleague who recommended this magical converter, my capitalization conundrums are over. to the rescue

Insert your title into the text box. Let’s type “Bringing fresh produce right to your doorstep” and see what happens.








Then press “convert” and your decision about what to capitalize is made for you.






The resulting title: Bringing Fresh Produce Right to Your Doorstep. So only the word “to” does not get capitalized.

Easy, right? Well…

Is 100% fool-proof?

No. Enter compound adjectives.

Let’s try “Promoting eco-friendly lifestyles” and you’ll see where it errs (in my humble opinion).









This is how it converts.






I’d rather see the letter F capitalized: Promoting Eco-Friendly Lifestyles. This title has more visual appeal.

Let’s experiment a bit more: Prosecutors expect more arrests in art-fraud scheme.









Press “convert” and see what happens to the compound adjective.







Oh no. That sentence doesn’t sit right. The latter part of a compound adjective should be capitalized.

Thankfully, The New York Times doesn’t put all of its faith in










Fraud gets a capital F. Much better!

Title case folly

Some writers over-capitalize. (This hurts me as much as seeing French headlines in title case. Just say non.)













Show restraint, people!



All smiles today: I contributed to a book called

Woo-hoo! Dominique Dufour, a Paris-based freelancer par excellence, published my submission to his book We’re talking print here. Print!

Electronic versions are also available, but who cares, who cares, who cares—the book is available in actual paper made from actual trees.

And those papery pages (as opposed to virtual pages) automatically increase, by about tenfold, the quantity of glory in which even the smallest of contributors can bask.

When I heard about the upcoming launch of, this went through my head:

I hope I did not get rejected.

I hope I did not get forgotten.

I hope I did not get deleted.

With these fears in mind, I silently praised the superiority of e-books over print books (hypocrite!) and hurriedly bought a Kindle version from so I could read it on my tablet within a matter of seconds.

My piece was included!

And so were articles from two or three fellow translators. More great contributions come from such a colourful world of freelancers—you can read how a shiatsu therapist, art teacher, creativity coach, and nutritionist use social media.

Do you want to buy it? Bonne lecture !

The book can be purchased on, and This is the description from

Cet ouvrage est un guide pratique pour aider ces entrepreneurs à utiliser les médias sociaux pour communiquer autour de leur activité et la développer. Les réseaux sociaux sont d’extraordinaires accélérateurs pour le business : ils facilitent les contacts, les rencontres, ils permettent de communiquer à moindre frais, à veiller, à créer du contenu, à valoriser nos expertises. Mais quels outils utiliser, comment BIEN les utiliser quand on est entrepreneur solo ? Comment se sentir à l’aise sur les réseaux sociaux quand on n’aime pas trop se “mettre en avant” ? Comment ne pas y passer des heures sans aucun résultat ? Comment s’y faire repérer par des clients potentiels ? Comment y construire sa notoriété, créer du contenu et le diffuser au bon moment sur les bons canaux ?

How do you feel about seeing your work in print?

Now I just got two pages of my own writing published and I am one happy camper. Two pages.

I cannot imagine how literary translators must feel after their book-length translations get into print!

Style and Translation: Workshop by Lisa Carter

Lisa Carter’s blog Intralingo is a fascinating blog about literary translation. So when I heard that Lisa was giving an ATIO Style and Translation workshop in Toronto, I jumped at the opportunity.

During Saturday’s workshop, Lisa gave us much food for thought about examining source texts, as we took apart short passages and looked at various elements of style.

I thought about my own work and my French-speaking clients and left the workshop with questions such as:

  1. Do I always have to respect stylistic conventions in English? (She showed us an example of an English-language text that had French-style punctuation; it bothered me.)
  2. When can I chop up long, wordy sentences and when do I mirror them?
  3. When can I change the passive voice into the active voice?
  4. When can I change nouns into verbs?

It was great to discuss how we must deliberately make choices, sentence after sentence. The workshop was interactive, and I was happy to talk shop with her and my fellow attendees.

If you’re interested in Lisa’s online courses in Defining Writing Style, First Steps in Literary Translation, and Next Steps in Literary Translation, see the Courses page on Intralingo.

Any comments about analyzing style in source texts or evoking the writer’s style in target texts?


Being back in Canada

As I mentioned in an earlier post, a move back to Canada was in the works. I’m here now in chilly Toronto after living in France for 14 years.

A few random observations about Toronto:

  1. Sidewalks are clean. Dog owners are such responsible citizens. Incidentally, dogs come in bigger sizes here compared with their Parisian peers.
  2. People don’t seem to worry about theft. In my neighbourhood, people leave various belongings on their front porches: strollers, shovels, lounge chairs, toys and so on.
  3. Business people use first names. My new banker calls me Catherine. I call her Dawn. In France, I am Madame Jan and nothing else.
  4. Hundreds of colourful, cheerful crossing guards come out of the woodwork about an hour before school starts and once classes are dismissed.
  5. Raccoons in real life are much fatter than the raccoons I’ve seen pictured in books. Raccoons are usually nocturnal, but the one I saw was strolling around in broad daylight.
  6. “Self-employed” and “unemployed” are perfect synonyms in the eyes of all landlords.

Signing off for now…



Do endorsements on LinkedIn matter?

The Endorsements feature on LinkedIn

Endorsements on LinkedIn were introduced last September. I became aware of this around Halloween when my timeline was suddenly taken over by endorsement-related updates.

Do clients care about endorsements?

I don’t know.

On being selective about endorsements

People had kindly endorsed me for about 10 different skills. THANK YOU. This is what I did with these endorsements:

  1. I kept only 3 of them: blogging, translation and social media.
  2. I deleted their French equivalents (traduction and médias sociaux).
  3. I removed endorsements for editing and proofreading (thanks anyways!) since I want my profile to be more focused on what I think I do best.
  4. I added another skill called “Bilingual Communications” for which I have no endorsements. I added it because it’s relevant to the kind of work I’m pursuing.

endorsements on LinkedIn

Speaking for myself, I graciously receive endorsements. But I think recommendations are better for building credibility. And I’m not sure if endorsements clutter up our profiles.

What do you think about endorsements on LinkedIn?

  • Do you endorse your connections?
  • Do you ask people to endorse you?
  • Are you happy to receive endorsements?
  • Do endorsements on LinkedIn matter?