ATISDA Blog (Association of Translators and Interpreters in the San Diego Area)


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¿How are Your Punctuation Skills?

If you have trouble remembering punctuation rules, you’re not alone. For starters, the rules for punctuation in American English are so numerous, they can be hard to keep straight. To complicate things, many variations exist based on style, such as AP vs Chicago Manual of Style—or is that AP vs. Chicago Manual of Style??? Even texting has developed its own punctuation “rules” and style !!! And if you speak other languages besides American English, you’ve learned forms of punctuation that may not apply, or even exist, in U.S. English. Spanish speakers, for instance, use the upside down question mark (¿) at the start of a question. (My. Favorite. Punctuation. Mark… Ever.)

With all these different punctuation do’s and don’ts, it might be #!?#* hard to remember that the main point (¡pardon the pun!) of punctuation is to make your writing clear to the reader. In formal communications, at least, this is essential. One general mistake that abounds is the use of punctuation that isn’t needed. Take the apostrophe, for example, which trips up both native English speakers and non-native speakers. The most prevalent error I find is the use of an apostrophe in the possessive form of “it.” The correct form is “its,” sans apostrophe. When you write “it’s,” it can mean only one thing: an abbreviated form of “it is.” Period.

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A cringeworthy sign at my local Five Guys burger joint.

Another mistake I see is unnecessary apostrophes in plurals. I come across it a lot, especially at the end of words that end in the letter “y.” Why this happens, I don’t know.

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A sign at a San Diego kitchen and bath design center.

In today’s world of fast-paced and instant communication, however, the biggest problem isn’t the wrong use of punctuation, but the simple lack of it. Missing punctuation forces the reader to do more work to try to understand what you wrote. Take the following example: “Let’s eat kids!” The writer probably meant to call the kiddies to dinner, but instead endorsed cannibalism. Yep, that’s the difference a missing comma can make.

In addition to the comma, another punctuation mark that is grossly underutilized is the hyphen, especially when it should be used to join separate words that form a single idea, like “five-year-olds.” While it’s true that, in general, the hyphen is on the decline in English, it ain’t dead yet, so use it if it helps add clarity.

If you make some of these mistakes—or any other punctuation errors—and would like a refresher course on U.S. punctuation rules, then I invite you to join my Advanced English Workshop on June 27, 2015, at the Encinitas Community Center. The 3-hour workshop will devote at least 45 minutes to punctuation, and will also look at common mistakes people make in other areas, such as grammar and spelling. It’s free for ATISDA members and $25 for non-members. (!)


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Getting the Most from ATISDA’s Awesome Website

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If you haven’t checked out the ATISDA website lately, you’re missing out on tons of new and exciting features and information. Many of the site’s sections are open to the public, so even non-members can get a lot out of it. Of course, if you are a member, you have even more useful resources at your fingertips. To help promote the site, we asked its designer, Leo van Zanten, to join us for some Q&A:

Q: Leo, before I get to the questions, I just want to say that the site looks great! I know everybody in ATISDA appreciates your tireless dedication to maintaining the site over the past few years. Which leads me to my first question: Are you Superman, or what? I mean, how do you find the time to run ATISDA’s site with your full-time job, translation work, and your role as ATISDA’s secretary?

A: Thank you, I am glad you like the website. It took a few months to transit from the old site to the new one, but with inputs from members and the board in 2013 the final stone was laid and the website went live. It’s still a work in progress, and we’ll keep updating and improving. We’re open to suggestions from the members, and everyone is welcome to submit their ideas.

True, that time can be in short supply sometimes, but I don’t think that makes me Superman. I guess my kryptonite has been, and still is, my late wife, Cristina. She got me started in the translation business and together we became members of ATISDA from the onset in 2008. She was very passionate about the translation profession, to educate professionals and the public, and to get translators and interpreters to network on a more local, regional level. I guess some of that passion rubbed off, and I definitely want to keep that legacy alive. So when I recently was nominated and elected Secretary of ATISDA, I gladly accepted the honor, and hope I can contribute in a small way to the regional development of our profession.

Q: What are the most recent changes you’ve made to the site?

A: We are constantly changing and adding content. The most recent changes to the website include the page with Job Opportunities. Whenever someone comes across a job opportunity for translators or interpreters in the SoCal region, they can send it to me or any one of the board members, and it will be posted on the website. This page is only accessible by members.

Moreover, several interesting changes were made to the opening page. I’ve added a preview of the ATISDA Facebook page in the right column, a scrolling preview of the ATISDA Blog front and center, and a rolling slide show of pictures of the most recent ATISDA event. Those pictures come from the ATISDA Facebook page and are viewable in larger format in any of the galleries on the site.

Another important new feature on the opening page is the link to the Suggestion Box. Here all members can, and are encouraged to, submit any ideas or suggestions. The ideas are then visible to the other members, and anyone can vote and/or respond. The idea is to make it easier for the members to actively participate without having to wait for official meetings or opportunities to speak to board members in person.

Q: What, in your opinion, are the best resources for non-members to explore?

A: The priority for non-members should be the ‘Become a Member’ page. The next interesting part is the Member Directory, a searchable directory of all members in good standing where everyone, and in particular potential clients, can find the interpreter or translator they need for the job.

The Events page is also important. Members and non-members alike can find past and upcoming events presented in a calendar. Each type of event is color-coded to make it easier to find specific events, meetings, workshops, happy hours, etc. The upcoming events for the next two months are also featured on the opening page.

Q: Which of the members-only resources do you think are the most useful? Are there any that you think are being underutilized?

A:  Under the menu option ‘Resources,’ our members can find a wide array of available resources for their professional use and development; Resources for educational opportunities, professional associations, and certification.

Then there is the Member Directory to find fellow professionals in the area if you are in need of a specific service or need to refer someone to a client.

Another useful feature is the ‘Members Only’ menu. Here the members can find local job opportunities, submit ideas and suggestions and, last but not least, renew their membership before it expires.

It goes without saying that all the pages mentioned before as interesting for the non-members are also very useful for the members.

Q: What if someone has a question or comment for you about the site? How should they get in touch with you?

A: Anyone with specific questions about the portal can send me an email at secretary@atisda.org. This would be mainly for technical questions or problems pertaining to the use of the website. General suggestions and ideas are best submitted through the Suggestion Box.

The most received FAQ is about the online Member Directory. And the most frequent answer boils down to the fact that Members haven’t completed all their personal data in their profile on the website. The personal data is the responsibility of each individual member. We urge all members to complete their personal profiles with as much information as they want others to see. This will make it possible for potential clients and fellow Atisdans to quickly find the right person.

Q: Is there anything else about the site that you’d like to share?

A: Personally, I consider the website to be a one-stop shop where everyone can stay informed about upcoming events, easily find all the links to other ATISDA resources on the web, such as the dynamic ATISDA Facebook page, the educational ATISDA Discussion group, this fabulous ATISDA Blog, and the entertaining ATISDA YouTube channel. This also shows that it’s a group effort to get interesting content on the site.

I also hope the site will enable members to get more involved with the local T&I community and share experiences and knowledge with colleagues in the region.

This is a growing association with a dedicated board and active members. The website is one of the windows to the outside world, and just another tool to reach out and unite.

Thank you for this Q&A and the opportunity to explain some features of the ATISDA website. I hope this will help to entice local colleagues to help build an active association.