When my children asked what I did on a computer all day long it seemed difficult to answer them. However, the solution was quite simple. I “only” had to speak their language. So I told my kids:
I am translating for computers what we want them to do.
How do I do that? I tell them a story.
But they cannot hear me as you do, so I write it using the keyboard.
Then I check the screen to see if the computer understood me.
When writing an article, we are often in the same position. We try to communicate with someone who cannot hear us. But we do not have a screen or a magic mirror to see if they understood us. Instead, you could translate your article to another language and obtain the same result.
Translating your article force you proofreading it
Translating your articles from e.g. English to French may seem a luxury, but it can really help you. As you translate, not only do you reread yourself, but sometimes you can find unclear or too complicated sentences. It is as if you would have hired a personal editor. That is a luxury indeed!
However, try not to modify the original while translating it. That would make your work more tedious and would take more time and efforts. Concentrate on translating at least a paragraph or a story before going back and update the original. The most important is to keep the same structure for both versions, as in a mirror.
Keep the translation in sync with the original
The two versions share the same outline and the same introductory story. You can write them both at the same time, but it would again complicate your task. Keep things as simple as possible: prepare the outline and your story, translate them, and then completely write one version. Then, instead of editing it, start translating it.
Phrase by phrase, section by section, you continue translating. Sometimes you get so much into your text that you can see how you could write a better story. You might change the point of view or bring forward the most interesting part. What should you do when the translation deviates too much from the original?
What you can do is to use a phase where you reread, edit, and review both versions. Go over both articles side by side, on paper or on your computer screen. Smooth out the differences and pick the best choice whenever you took two different paths.
The mirror reflects your face every morning and disregarding whatever happened during the day, in the evening it still reflects your face. When you translate and try to harmonize the two versions you are in fact revealing the essence of your message.
Do I have to translate my articles?
Of course not. This technique can help, but you have other choices. You can ask a friend to reread you or translate your article for you (you can turn back the favour). Otherwise, you can find editors whose job is to help you clarify and fix your articles.
Nothing better as an example to understand how to go as far as you can without an editor.
To write your outlines, the easiest is to use note-taking applications. My favourite is iA Writer because it brings forward the article structure (by using tags like H1, H2, H3 etc.).
I write down my outline, usually on my phone, developed according to my inspiration. In its simplest form, the outline resembles this list:
## First point
## Second point
## Third point
## Examples, mistakes
## Next step
Then, I translate my plan by using two iA Writer windows, side by side.
|## First point
|## Premier point
|## Second point
|## Deuxième point
|## Third point
|## Troisième point
|## Examples, mistakes
|## Exemples, erreurs
|## Next step
|## Étape suivante
Once the two outlines clearly defined, I write the article in one language (English or French).
The next step is translating it. After both drafts are written, I review them side by side. I use a couple of other applications to help me check orthography and grammar:
For articles in English, I use Hemingway, a tool that checks the length and complexity of your phrases to improve the readability.
A couple of tools are very useful for translating not only words, but also expressions, and especially finding synonyms:
Translation offers a second perspective
Even if you do not afford an editor, you can get a second opinion by translating your article. This forces you to reread your thoughts and find synonyms and similar expressions in another language. It also makes you grow as a writer and improves the quality of your articles.
If telling stories to a computer seems strange, think how you tell stories about your product to your future customers (doctors, executives, or other professionals).
P.S. Translation is a process that may seem too technical. Strategies, techniques, and structure have their place in all creative process.
For example, here is a method to ALWAYS find a shoo-in story and start your article on the right foot.