Wednesday, 21 August 2019 11:58

21 September: Professional Development Day!

Written by

PDD Eenhoorn

It’s almost time for our biennial Professional Development Day! Join us in Amersfoort on Saturday 21 September for a full day of interactive learning. This year's programme will include two great plenary talks as well as presentations by some of the society's best translators, copywriters and editors. Attendance at the SENSE PDD will entitle you to 5.75 PE points

Talks to watch include Anita van Adelsbergen’s presentation on Cornish history, culture and languages, which will dive into how much influence the Cornish have had worldwide. For example, did you know the American state of Pennsylvania was named after a Cornish family?

If you’ve been thinking about taking up copywriting, be sure to attend Cathy Scott’s talk. After walking you through the basics of copywriting, she’ll discuss different approaches for different media, talk about how to attract clients, and leave you with some useful tips for background reading.

It’s not all sitting back and listening, though. Mike Hannay’s interactive plenary about the importance of rhythm and flow when writing will involve quite a bit of audience participation! If you have an example of a particularly well-flowing text – or the exact opposite – be sure to bring it along.

Of course, the programme will allow you plenty of time to catch up with other members and compare notes on different break-out sessions, either during the buffet lunch or over drinks and nibbles after the official part of the PDD concludes. Be sure to stay until the closing session for your chance to win some interesting prizes during our very first SENSE raffle!

For more information about the programme and speakers, take a look at the website. Early bird tickets are available until 31 August, so be sure to register in time!

Can’t make the PDD? SENSE will be offering several other CPD opportunities over the coming months, including a free lecture on co-working by Lloyd Bingham and a tax workshop to help you get all your financial affairs in order by year-end. Stay tuned for more!

Thursday, 25 July 2019 12:04

Summer Social 2019

Written by


On Sunday 14 July, a group of nearly 40 SENSE members met in lovely Deventer for an afternoon of leisurely fun. We started with a guided walk around the historic Bergkwartier. Over the course of an hour, two knowledgeable guides showed us some of the city’s centuries-old sights (did you know Deventer is over 1,250 years old?) as well as its more modern gezelligheid. One of them even switched to English to accommodate us – very thoughtful!

We ended the tour back at our starting point, then split into groups for the other afternoon activities: a Brain Art Workshop at Atelier ARToMoNDo, a beer tasting at local brewery and taplokaal Davo or a look at the Charles Dickens Kabinet.

The ARToMoNDo group was welcomed by Marianne de Bakker, who explained that people use both hemispheres of the brain to draw. The left and right hemispheres control different functions: the left half is for rational activities like language and reasoning, as well as maths and science, while the right half controls art awareness, creativity, intuition and insight. Marianne showed the group a fun way to access their artistic and creative abilities, by not looking at the paper as they were drawing. One attendee said: ‘The hardest part for me was to remember which bits I had already drawn and – when I had taken the charcoal off the paper – where to start drawing again! So one of my subjects ended up without any hair!’

The beer tasting took place at Davo’s own proeflokaal, located in an old factory. The café was buzzing with activity, and the beer garden in the back was nearly full. Clearly, this is the place to be for Deventer beer lovers! Attendees were shown into a private room, where one of the brewers told them all about how to brew different kinds of beers. The tasting involved three different beers: their most popular ale, a dark beer that was a cross-over between a double and a stout, and a tripel that was deceptively doordrinkbaar. He also shared the story behind their brand, talked about the challenges of scaling up and offered a sneak peek of what the future will bring. After a quick tour of the actual brewing facility just across from the bar area, it was time to head to De Fermerie for drinks and nibbles. Several of the attendees made a detour past the gift shop on their way out…

The Dickens group was big and had to be split in two, with one half being guided through the Dickens Kabinet on the ground floor, being fed titbits of gossip and fun facts. One British attendee said, ‘any snobbish feelings of “What the dickens are these Dutch people doing with our author?” disappeared immediately’ at the sight of the pure enormity of the collection and at the knowledgeability of their guide. The other half went upstairs to be charmed by Emmy Strik, who led them around her enormous collection of costumes – some custom-made, others rescued from imminent destruction, some made by the townspeople who wear them to the annual Dickens Festijn. One member said: ‘It really wasn’t my thing, any of it, and yet it was! Loved it!’

Once the breakout activities were concluded, everyone met up at café De Fermerie, where SENSE picked up the tab for the first round of drinks. We had the whole space to ourselves, which made for easy conversation and plenty of seating opportunity. Attendees swapped stories about their chosen afternoon activities over a drink or two, as the owner made the rounds with several types of tasty vegetarian borrelhapjes. All in all, a great way to welcome summer!

Friday, 12 July 2019 11:15

FINLEGSIG report: tax for translators

Written by

 image 123986672

Nine of us gathered at John Alexander’s place in Amsterdam for an excellent sparring session over a glass of wine. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun discussing taxes!

Rob Bradley took the title of his presentation from Jean Baptiste Colbert, a French Minister of Finance under Louis XIV, who said that ‘the art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest amount of feathers with the least amount of hissing.’

Rob described what it’s like working in this market niche:


  • Tax legislation is constantly changing, which means you always check and take nothing for granted.
  • The Dutch names for specific taxes often don’t accurately describe what they are. Kapitaalbelasting, for example, is not capital tax. Fiscaal almost never translates into ‘fiscal’ (except in ‘fiscal unity’). So translate tax names literally at your peril!
  • There are no official translations, so you need to choose a translation yourself that makes clear what the tax actually is or does. It’s good to picture your reader as a Japanese CFO.


  • Good rates. Specialist translators are few, and the lawyers themselves earn such high fees that clients are not likely to complain about your bill.
  • Steady income: no matter what stage of the business cycle, tax and tax-related translations will always keep coming.
  • ‘The juicy bits’. Tax documents are about real businesses, and you’re likely at some point to encounter drama like bankruptcy, fraud or hostile takeovers.

We then discussed Rob’s handout (content available to SENSE members only), which followed a hypothetical company as it grows and starts to form a group – first domestically, then internationally. After that, we talked about what facilities and arrangements the company can use to optimize its tax situation, and how it interacts with the tax authorities. The handout provided attendees with Dutch and English terminology relevant to each stage in the company’s development.

Rob explained the many finer points brilliantly, like the difference between a vrijstelling and an aftrekpost, or between loonbelasting and loonheffing. He also explained base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) and the arm’s length principle.

Rob helped us understand how tax rulings used to work: the national government and the company negotiated the total tax bill the company would have to pay. Today, the company and its tax lawyers propose a specific corporate structure, and the country’s tax authorities provide advance certainty on its tax treatment. A ruling is far more tightly controlled and above board. Its validity is limited to four years. During that time, changes in legislation can override agreements in the ruling.

There was a lively discussion on the shift in public opinion on tax planning by companies. In just a few years, this has gone from ‘smart’ to ‘immoral’. Then and now, the object of tax planning is 100% legal tax avoidance, rather than illegal tax evasion. Let’s face it, none of us want to pay any more than we have to, whether we’re multinationals or freelancers! Though as one member remarked, it is some consolation to see your tax money relatively well-spent, as it is in the Netherlands.

One member said: ‘I thought the speaker was very knowledgeable and I will certainly use his handout in future as a reference. His understanding of his field and his craft are impressive.’

We wrapped up with a big thank-you for Rob and our host and convener John. Alison Gibbs has offered to present at our next meeting after the summer. Topics buzzed round, but she’ll let us know nearer the date. Watch this space!

For further reading, see the International Financing Reporting Standards (IFRS) as adopted by the EU (multilingual display optional). Individual language versions of more recent IFRSs are also available in English and in Dutch.


Friday, 12 July 2019 10:57

Eastern SIG editing slam

Written by

Canva Wooden Table with Notebook

It was a fairly early start in Zwolle for the Eastern SIG meeting, but fortunately there was a Nespresso machine to help us wake up. The topic of the meeting was ‘levels of editing’, an idea that had arisen from a discussion at a previous meeting where Sally and Kumar had mentioned how different their editing styles are. Before the meeting, Kumar and Sally both edited a 300-word text (taken from a medical journal, though not too specialized). The text was also sent around beforehand, so that other members could have a try too.

The intention was that Sally and Kumar would compare their edits at the meeting and discuss them with the other SENSE members present. Why would you choose whether or not to change something? Are the changes justified? Unfortunately, Kumar had to leave almost immediately, but Sally was so well-prepared that this was no problem at all! For each sentence, we compared and discussed the changes that the two of them had made and compared them with our own edits − it was very interesting to hear the different approaches taken. We also discussed the assumptions that we made when editing the text, some of which were not always correct! (As also discussed in this thread on the members-only forum.)

Besides discussing the actual edits made, we also talked about what the editor’s job should/could be, and how this depends on the time available. We then went on to talk about client acquisition and contact with clients.

All in all, a highly informative and certainly well-attended morning!

Monday, 17 June 2019 09:59

PerfectIt 4: highly satisfying to use

Written by

perfectit logo

I’ve been a loyal PerfectIt user since 2015, when I was faced with a 100+-page document with a style guide that required both odd hyphenation and the use of numerals for all numbers, even at the start of a sentence. Back then I was still trying to prove to myself that I was a good proofreader, but that document was the final nail in the coffin for that idea: I do have a keen eye for typos and grammar errors, but variations tend to slip under the radar. Noticing that there are ‘3 policymakers’ on page 12 and ‘three policy-makers’ on page 86? Not a chance.

I heard of PerfectIt through SENSE and it was just what I needed. The time I saved on that last read-through of that initial document paid for the licence three times over. These days, I run everything through PerfectIt and I have PerfectIt styles set up for all my regular clients. So I was thrilled when I got to take a sneak peek at the upcoming edition, PerfectIt 4.

No more ups and downs
The one dislike I had about PerfectIt was the inefficiency of mouse movements. Run a test, click on a highlighted sentence, move your mouse down to the bottom of the window to click on ‘Fix’, move your mouse up to select the next sentence, move your mouse down again, repeat for all the sentences in all the tests.

Of course, this is a minor niggle, because PerfectIt has had a robust keyboard shortcut system for years. Still, I am delighted that PerfectIt 4 gives each individual sentence its own Fix button. It may only save you half a second per fix, but that adds up over long documents and long work weeks. Not to mention avoiding the short, jerky, repetitive mouse movements that can be the most aggravating for RSI.

More elegance and speed
PerfectIt 4 is more elegant in other ways as well. You can now directly create a new style based on an existing one. The user interface has a more polished look. The initial scan time is reduced considerably, though I always liked to take that moment to stretch and pour myself a cup of tea.

All in all, should you subscribe to PerfectIt? My answer to that has always been ‘yes’, although I am enough of a dinosaur to miss the one-time-purchase option. Even if you have perfect hyphen sensitivity, PerfectIt will help you save valuable time. And with the upgrades in PerfectIt 4, you will be able to increase the consistency of your documents in a way that feels effortless, intuitive and elegant.

Monday, 17 June 2019 09:28

Save the literary translator!

Written by

vertaalpleidooi 2 filmpje omslag

In 2009, the Expertisecentrum Literair Vertalen (ELV), the Centre of Expertise for Literary Translation, published a plea entitled ‘Overigens schitterend vertaald’ ('Great translation by the way'), to maintain a flourishing translation culture in the Netherlands and Flanders. This plea motivated the universities of Utrecht and Louvain to collaborate and set up a literary translation master’s programme. Now, ten years later, the ELV is ringing the alarm bell once again, owing to a developing threat to the translation culture in the Low Countries, and has produced another plea, 'VerTALEN voor de toekomst’ (a play on words that roughly translates as 'Translation and languages for the future', not yet available in English).

Internationalization and ongoing globalization have increased the level of English speaking, reading and writing skills in Dutch and Flemish society. But they have also put other languages, including Dutch, under pressure. European languages are disappearing from the curricula of universities. These days, a mastery of English is often regarded as being sufficiently multilingual. The traditional Dutch openness and curiosity about foreign languages, which led to commercial and cultural success in the past, is giving way to a monoculture that focuses on English. We all admire the language skills of Frans Timmermans, who switches effortlessly from French to Italian to Russian to German, but he finds few followers in that regard. Whether on holiday or business in France or Germany, we expect to be able to get by with our knowledge of English.

The dwindling interest in foreign languages other than English is also affecting the supply of a new generation of translators, working both from and into Dutch. Add to that (or because of that) the poor compensation literary translators receive, and we see a declining number of students opting to study language or translation. The financial prospects are simply not good enough. This is reflected in the general lack of interest in literary translation among SENSE members, and their focus on language products that are financially more worthwhile.

An article by Abdelkader Benali, born in Morocco but now a leading Dutch author (Bruiloft aan zee, Brief aan mijn dochter), recently appeared in NRC Handelsblad. ‘Save the literary translator!’ he calls out, because the shortage of translators is a cultural disaster. Just like bees, they do their work in silence, away from all publicity, but without them an entire ecosystem falls apart. Without them, the possibility of contact with other cultures disappears. To get to know a country, Benali says, read its literature. Read the characters it creates, the stories that originate from its history, its silent tragedies. If Fjodor Dostojevski, Franz Kafka, Primo Levi, Albert Camus and so many others had not been translated, it would have proved impossible to gain the other’s perspective and to discover what has shaped the European landscape.

According to Benali, the translator risks becoming an extinct species because fewer students decide to study language. The low financial reward may be fatal to the translation profession. The ELV therefore calls upon the Dutch and Flemish governments to initiate a campaign: Kies voor taal (Choose language), analogous to the Kies exact (Choose science) campaign of some years ago. Likewise, it calls upon publishers and other clients to respect the standard amount mentioned in the Model Contract.

Could this be an opportunity for those of us working as legal, medical, financial or technical translators and editors?

Friday, 07 June 2019 15:09

Utrecht SIG: translate what it says?

Written by

Canva Wooden Table with Notebook

For the Utrecht SIG, the 8 May meeting marked a return to the Park Plaza after a long remodelling period. The upstairs bar was an excellent new addition, but we all thought the large workshop space was a bit much for only five participants.

The translation of the evening was an analysis document about a company struggling with an unfavourable work culture. The company, historically Dutch but with a large contingent from a specific other country, was recently purchased by an American company. The Dutch consultant who had written the document needed it translated into English as a starting point for conversation with the American management.

Despite a few odd turns of phrase ('de juiste maat en modus vinden', 'deze notitie vormt de onderlegger voor het gesprek'), the text had very few grammatical issues. But boy was it vague. The consultant firmly refused to put their finger on many of the actual pain points and left a lot to be read as subtext. This is fine for an 'onderlegger voor een gesprek' – you can clarify the finer points during the actual conversation – but it makes life difficult for a translator. Instead of translating what it says, we ended up trying to find the right translation for what it didn’t say. That required extensive mindreading.

If something 'doet iets met het al dan niet vertrouwen hebben in mensen', does that mean lack of confidence or lack of trust? Especially if some people then 'koppelen dit aan de [other country’s] versus Nederlandse cultuur'? You get the sense someone is being racist, but who? And are they implying that they’re sick of some people showing up late or being stiff and judgemental, or that they’re afraid to leave their wallets out in the open?

We spent some time going round and round with this. With a text like this, the nuance is very important. Still, the client was very happy with the original translation, which was not all that nuanced because it had a really tight deadline. I guess the fact it was an onderlegger works both ways.

As usual, the main conclusion of the evening was: ‘If we could do all translations in a group, like this, all our clients would think we’re brilliant.’ Also want to feel brilliant? The next Utrecht SIG meeting will be held on 10 July at the Park Plaza Hotel in Utrecht. With a fancy upstairs bar!

Friday, 24 May 2019 13:17

SENSE Jubilee 2020: Get Ready!

Written by

SENSE 30th anniversary

In 2020, it’ll be 30 years since SENSE was founded. Is that not a ‘pearl’ of an anniversary worth celebrating with an international conference?!

Well, the SENSEConference2020 team certainly thinks it is, and it has already begun planning for the June 2020 event. While the search for a location and a venue is well underway, it’s still too early to even hint at possible candidates. Nevertheless, you can be sure we’ll find somewhere just as special as the venues of the previous two conferences…watch out for our next blog post!

Of course, to secure a venue and keynote speakers, you also need to know when the conference will be happening. And that much we know: Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 June, probably preceded by workshops. We’ll be following the well-received format of the 2018 Conference. If you have any suggestions for workshop topics and presenters, please email – the team will welcome your contributions.

We’d also welcome your suggestions for sponsors of the conference, whether individuals or businesses.

What we can also share with you are the makings of a conference theme: ‘20/20 (Re)Vision: Honing our skills to meet market challenges.’

We’re looking forward to attracting a stimulating range of presentations in response to this theme, so look out for the Call for Papers in August 2019. And if you’d like to offer your services as a peer reviewer during September and October this year, do send an email to the conference team.

Talking of the team, we are indeed fortunate that essentially the same players who contributed to the success of the 2018 SENSE Conference have volunteered their services for the jubilee conference: Jenny Zonneveld, Theresa Truax-Gischler, Nigel Saych, Ken McGillivray and John Linnegar. The continuity that this will provide bodes well for the next conference. But it certainly won’t be a case of ‘same old, same old’, thanks to an injection of fresh new blood in the form of SENSE CPD coordinator Erin Goedhart-Stallings and someone who hails all the way from Wales: SENSE and ITI member, Lloyd Bingham. Both have already made their mark on our deliberations, so welcome aboard Erin and Lloyd!

Pearls, it is said, symbolize wisdom acquired through experience: how appropriate, therefore, for SENSE to provide an enriching experience through which both its members and other professionals will be able to share their collective wisdom in June 2020.

Monday, 06 May 2019 09:00

PZO: Did you know?

Written by

pzo 3

  • The Dutch platform for independent professionals known as Platform Zelfstandig Ondernemers, or PZO, was set up in 2002 to champion the interests of freelancers in the political arena. It is based in the Malietoren in The Hague and works closely with the Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers (VNO-NCW) and with MKB-Nederland, which represents small to medium enterprises.

  • PZO is also a member of the European Forum of Independent Professionals (EFIP). PZO lobbies for freelancers’ interests on matters such as the Wet DBA, pensions and mortgages. There is an ongoing discussion on all these topics with officials, Dutch members of parliament and, where necessary, ministers.

  • Since 2010, PZO has had a seat on the Dutch Social and Economic Council (SER). This means that it can participate in discussions with employers, unions and other organizations in matters concerning the freelancer.

  • Apart from lobbying, PZO supports its members in their business practices by offering advice on incapacity for work or on liability. It also has a free helpdesk for tax and legal matters.

  • PZO members are eligible for discounts with companies offering a wide range of services for freelancers, from insurance and GDPR compliancy to software packages and mobile phone contracts, and even rapid phone repair services.

  • The PZO Academy organizes workshops throughout the country. Subjects range from raising your Google ranking to successful job acquisition and the secret to a good email!

  • PZO also organizes knowledge-sharing lunch sessions or Kennislunches which bring freelancers up to date on subjects such as marketing, innovation, and financial matters. The next Kennislunch will be held on 9 May in Almere and will revolve around disability insurance. For more information, see the website.

  • Individual membership of PZO costs 135 euros per year. However, if you join the collective SENSE membership, it will only cost you approximately 35 euros per year.

  • As SENSE's Membership Secretary, I am our liaison to the PZO Board, which means SENSE members can pass on any ideas and issues relating to freelancers through me.

curtis unisig web

On Friday 12 April, 14 SENSE members gathered at Park Plaza Utrecht to receive an answer to the question: ‘Do online editing services have a place in your client portfolio?’

After a short introduction round, Curtis Barrett took the floor to share his past experience working for one of the largest international online science editing agencies. A scientist originally from New York, Curtis emigrated to the Netherlands nearly 12 years ago to work as a senior researcher at Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC). As a native English-speaking scientist, he realized that his PhD and postdoc years had given him a wealth of scientific expertise as well as sound academic writing skills, and he discovered an affinity for science editing. After leaving LUMC and accepting a freelance contract position at the editing agency, he learned the ins and outs of editing and discovered his full value as a science editor. During his presentation, Curtis explained how he progressed from being a junior editor to a senior editor at the agency, identifying the potential pros and cons of working with an online agency, and enlightened us with some excellent take-home messages.

Curtis identified the following advantages and disadvantages of working for online editing agencies:


  • On-the-job training: working for an agency proved a valuable learning experience. They had guidelines and a glossary available, which included explanations about the split infinitive, the serial comma, why the first person is preferable to the third person, ‘which’ vs. ‘that’, etc.;
  • Work acquisition: the agency was saturating the internet, thereby guaranteeing a high volume of editing jobs;
  • Variety/diversity: editing jobs were offered for a wide range of topics varying from biology to genetics;
  • Anonymity (also a con);
  • Assurance of payment.


  • Relatively low pay (but editors could often negotiate);
  • Tight deadlines;
  • Anonymity: at this agency, editors only have contact with the managing editor, not the author.
  • Editors often receive little or no feedback from either the client or the agency. There is usually no opportunity to discuss anything with the author, for instance if important pieces of text seem to be missing.
  • Low-cost, short-turnaround editing;
  • Quality can suffer in order to maintain quantity;
  • The agency’s house style may be pushed on you.

Take-home messages:
To answer the key question: yes, online editing services can have a place in your client portfolio, provided you do some research in advance. If you are considering an offer to work with an agency but are in doubt, enquire on the members-only SENSE forum. And don’t shy away if the agency wants you to take a test, even if it's not a paid test.

Page 4 of 7

Other blogs