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EU Translation Guide: Think before you write


Clear writing starts with and depends on clear thinking. Ask yourself:

Who will be reading the document?

Three main groups of people read European Commission documents:

  • EU insiders colleagues in the European Commission or other institutions
  • outside specialists
  • the general public which is by far the largest group.

Most European Commission documents are now on the.internet and. available to everyone. Everything we write and publish as part of our work for the European Commission inevitably affects the public image of the EU.

What are you trying to achieve?

What is the purpose of your document? After reading it, what will your readers have to do?

  • make a decision?
  • handle a certain situation?
  • solve a particular problem?
  • change their attitude towards something?

What points must the document cover?

  • Decide on your message.
  • Make a list or bubble diagram containing all the points you expect to make, in no particular order.
  • Cross out the irrelevant points.
  • Link the remaining points into related groups.
  • Fill any gaps in your knowledge: make a note of facts you will need to check and/or experts you will need to consult.

This approach applies to practically all non-literary texts: memos, reports, letters, user guides, etc. For formal documents such as legtslation, specific drafting rules

must be followed.

An alternative is the 7 questions approach. This is a structured method of covering relevant information:

  1. WHAT? My essential messag
  2. WHO? Persons concerned
  3. WHEN? Days, hours, timelines, deadlines
  4. WHERE? Places
  5. HOW? Circumstances, explanations
  6. WHY? Causes and/or objective
  7. HOW MUCH? Calculable and measurable data.

Source: European Commission

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