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EU Clear English Tips for Translators – Use simple words where appropriate


Here are some tips to help translators avoid copying structure and wording from other languages that would be awkward in English. They should be useful to non-native speakers, but may serve as handy reminders for native speakers too.

English prefers to be simple, concise and concrete.

Use simple words where appropriate.

  • Change > to
  • initiate a programme > start a programme
  • apply for employment > apply for a job
  • activities of a criminal nature > crime
  • contribute to constructing Europe > help build Europe
  • require assistance > need help
  • request remuneration > ask for a fee
  • specialised methodologies > special methods
  • an agricultural holding with caprine animals > a goat farm
  • with a possibility of dissemination to producers > and may be sent to producers
  • in view / light of the fact that fees are high > because / as fees are high
  • pursuant to / in accordance with / within the framework of this Law > under / according to this Law
  • for the purpose of protecting consumers > to protect consumers
  • for the purpose of its use as a guide > to be used / for use as a guide
  • important from the point of view of producers > important for producers
  • the Directive concerning / regarding / relating to financial services > the Directive on financial services / the Financial Services Directive
  • despite the fact that resources are limited > although resources are limited
  • prior to / subsequent to the Council Decision > before / after the Council Decision
  • at the time when the application is submitted > when the application is submitted
  • until such time as a decision is taken > until a decision is taken
  • on the occasion of its accession to the EU > when it joined the EU / on joining the EU / upon accession to the EU
  • Action is needed at the present time. > Action is needed now.
  • Help is needed in the near future. > Help is needed soon.
  • updated on a daily basis > updated daily
  • the study demonstrates / indicates that > the study shows that
  • the Commission is aware of the fact that > the Commission knows that
  • in the event of an emergency > in an emergency
  • in the same context, it is necessary > it is also necessary
  • equal or superior to EUR 10 000 > EUR 10 000 or more
  • She suffered an armed attack. > She was shot.
  • It is inadvisable to be in control of a moving vehicle when suffering from fatigue. > Do not drive if you are tired.

This means avoiding archaic legalese.

  • The matter was put to the Style Guide Committee (hereinafter ‘the Committee’). The Committee …. > The matter was put to the Style Guide Committee. The Committee …
  • Contract between the County of Needham (hereinafter referred to as ‘the County’) and Acme Imports (hereinafter referred to as ‘Acme’). > Contract between the County of Needham (‘the County’) and Acme Imports (‘Acme’)
  • the aforementioned professions. > these / the above professions

Source: DGT, European Commission

3 Responses

  1. Anna

    I agree in general but eg. in an exam setting, this may be considered a poor vocab in some cases. Besides, we need to be careful when paraphrasing. The one before last:
    “She suffered an armed attack = She was shot.” (How do we know that the offensive weapon was a gun, and not a knife, a bottle or even a sneaker, which is equivalent to a weapon sometimes?)

  2. admin

    As you can see, the recommendations belong to the Directorate-General for Translation of the European Commission


    European Commission, How to Write Clearly
    Agerbeek, F., The Essential Guide to Drafting Commission Documents on EU Competition Law
    Gardner, J., A Brief List of Misused English Terminology in EU Publications
    Russsell, Gayl and Mills, Louise, Clear Legal Writing [unpublished presentation]

  3. Lukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz

    Some of the proposals are good, but the author of the recommendations clearly has enough difficulties in his or her own English, especially the nuances of understanding the context, application and register. The ‘awkward’ phrases are often not at all awkward in English, except maybe in the author’s imagination. Look at ‘aware of’ => ‘know that’ — seriously? ‘To be aware of something’ in that meaning is clearly an English idiom, not any sort of foreign interference from whatever foreign language. There is a missing article in ‘in the light of’ as far as British English is concerned, which the EU is supposed to be using. Real experts should be used, not activists with agendas whose command of the language is noticeably imperfect to begin with.

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