Conference abstracts

In order of presentation.

Saturday 9 June

PLENARY TALK, 13:30–14:20

Jeremy Gardner, EU English. Past, present and conditional


The position of English in the EU is about to change. Just how, nobody knows. Before looking at possible Brexit scenarios, Jeremy Gardner looks at the EU’s multilingualism policy and the current status of its 24 official and working languages. Although these languages theoretically enjoy parity, for around four decades most interactions took place in French and most publications were originally drafted in French. This means that much of the older English material, including some fundamental legislation, was heavily influenced by the translation process. However, starting in the 1990s, English has gradually taken over, both in spoken and written communication, to the extent that, currently, around 81% of documents received by the Commission’s DG Translation were originally drafted in English, as compared to only 5% in French. Few of the people drafting these documents are native speakers of English, and their English drafting skills vary considerably. Furthermore, there are no systematic procedures for guaranteeing the quality of the texts and ensuring that errors are eliminated prior to publication.

Against this background, the EU has developed a form of English that is only partially mutually comprehensible with other forms of the language. In particular, this affects not only vocabulary but grammar and syntax. Common EU words include ‘planification’ and ‘comitology’, which do not exist, and others that are rare and lie outside the vocabulary of the intended readership (‘informatics’, for example, or the names of the various beasts of the field). In a further group, normal English words suffer one sort of grammatical change or another, so ‘precise’ becomes a verb, meaning ‘to specify’, ‘expertise’ becomes a countable noun meaning an appraisal by an expert, and, in yet another group, perfectly normal words are used outside their normal semantic fields or collocations. Grammatical issues are more complex, but they include an unstable use of tenses, problems with modal verbs and an impoverished use of prepositions.

This light-hearted presentation looks at how English is used in the context of EU publications, in the hope that a recognition of this phenomenon will enable participants to improve their understanding of documents relating to the EU’s activities and make reasoned choices in their translation and editing work.

SOCIETY NEWS, 14:20–14:35

Kenneth Quek, Introducing NEaT


This presentation will introduce NEaT, Nordic Editors and Translators Ry. NEaT is a professional association for language professionals working in English for the Nordic region. It is currently active mainly in Finland but is seeking to increase its regional reach. NEaT is a sister organization of MET, Mediterranean Editors and Translators.

This will be a 15-minute talk about who we are and what we do, what we offer our members and how we are seeking to develop the professional standards and standing of our field. It will be of interest to language professionals from the Nordic region but also further afield, as we offer instructional materials and webinars that are accessible to those outside the region as well.

Apart from these offerings, we also seek to form partnerships with like-minded individuals and organizations. We believe that our professional field is truly transnational and that we can learn and benefit from colleagues all over the world.

This is particularly important in the light of the many challenges facing language professionals today, including a general lack of understanding of and appreciation for the field and the threats and opportunities posed by machine translation and editing. As a body, we need to develop ways to maintain our relevance and viability, and NEaT seeks to be in the forefront of this development.

With this in mind, we hope to reach out to a broader community at the SENSE conference and help to build a strong international network that will be an advocate for its members and the field as a whole.


These parallel sessions have differing time frames. See the programme table for visual clarification.


Iris Schrijver, Translation quality (assessment): Insights from Translation Studies in the quest for the holy grail?


Translation quality is an important issue for practitioners, clients, trainers and scholars alike. It is a source of both fascination and despair, since it raises a number of thorny questions. These include: What is translation quality? Can we even define it? Is there a ‘gold standard’ or something like ‘acceptable quality’ and, if so, what are they? Can we measure translation quality and, if so, how do we assess it?

In this talk, I will report on how translation quality and translation quality assessment are approached in Translation Studies. I will start by providing a brief overview of how translation scholars have defined translation quality in the past and how it is defined currently. I will then report on the latest research on translation quality assessment by discussing various methods (e.g. error-based or analytic assessment, holistic assessment and assessment that focuses on ‘rich points’). I will reflect on the benefits and drawbacks of these methods as well as on how valid and reliable they are considered to be. Last but not least, I will present a number of tools that are currently used in academia to carry out translation quality assessments.

The aim of this talk is to update delegates on the academic debate about translation quality and its assessment. I also invite you to join me in a discussion of the most pressing questions that practitioners have regarding translation quality and translation quality assessment which merit further scientific exploration.


Charles Frink, Disrupting the inheritance of poor writing habits: An alternative approach to editing and teaching writing (in the health-related sciences)


In the health-related-sciences, about 500,000 manuscripts are published each year. Unfortunately, the authors of many of these manuscripts, and many more that were rejected for publication, tend to use language to impress their peers rather than to communicate to an increasingly multidisciplinary readership. This problem has been acknowledged for decades, but journal editors continue to complain that many submissions are so poorly written that the point of the manuscript is unclear. According to Amin Bredan, scientist and journal editor, this tendency to write ‘complex, exaggerated and often pompous prose’ is transmitted by senior scientists to junior ones, leading to the inheritance of poor writing habits.

Disrupting this inheritance obviously requires attention to the linguistic aspects of clear writing, which has indeed been the emphasis of most editors and teachers of scientific writing. Despite the standard plea of journal editors for editing by a native speaker, however, the overall quality of writing in the health-related sciences remains below par.

Here I present an alternative approach that focuses first on the underlying structure of a manuscript. These are the core components of research manuscripts in the health-related sciences, such as the problem definition, hypothesis, study design, results and discussion. By presenting these components clearly – and explicitly – and linking them logically, peer reviewers can focus on the actual scientific content of a manuscript instead of struggling to find the point. This approach not only ensures that manuscripts have the ‘flow’ that journal editors want; it often makes the linguistic editing more efficient.


Ellen Singer, Linguist and laymen (Or: Fit for purpose)


Linguists tend to be so immersed in language that they are prone to forgetting that others are not swimming in the same waters. Language evolves through time. Texts do not all have to be works of art; sometimes fit-for-purpose is enough!

On the other hand, we practitioners need to make laymen understand that correct grammar, punctuation, etc is important.

This talk focuses on the discussions we have with laymen to indicate why our expertise trumps their expectations and why their priorities sometimes trump our preferences.

The idea is to present a few ideas and examples and then briefly discuss the issue with the room. We need to be conscious of the different sides of the coin to be able to discuss issues with customers properly.

This session is suitable for any person working with English texts.


Valerie Matarese, Bad textual mentors: How awkwardly written research articles complicate the work of an authors’ editor


The term ‘textual mentor’ indicates an exemplary piece of writing that novice writers can emulate so as to produce text that meets readers’ expectations. In scientific research, novice writers often model their writing on articles published in their target journals, because these reports were judged favourably during peer review. Yet many of these research articles are badly written, with deficits in English usage, argumentation, structure, or scientific reporting.

In my experience as an authors’ editor in the biomedical sciences (and occasional instructor of scientific writing) in Italy, these ‘bad textual mentors’ seem to be conditioning the language of research more than English usage guides and scientific style manuals do. When editing, I apply standard written English, but I am aware that my clients – and their reviewers – may be more familiar with the non-standard usage that is gaining ground in their discipline; I therefore proactively justify my edits in the margin. And when teaching, I am aware that some of my recommended practices may be hard to find applied in the biomedical research literature.

Questions I will pose during this presentation include:

  • If standard written English is no longer the benchmark for publishability, should we insist on it while editing and teaching?
  • How should we handle our clients’ choice of textual mentors?

In this presentation, I will show examples of how bad textual mentors have complicated my work, and I will present the differing views on this problem from the worlds of applied linguistics, academia, and industry. I invite conference attendees to join me in a discussion on where we should draw the line between tolerance of non-standard English and clear scientific communication.


Martine Croll, Scribe or Shrink? Improving client relationships and winning more clients the easy way – by getting into their heads!


We spend most of our time weighing and polishing words for our clients. Whether as editor, translator, transcreator, teacher or copywriter. Sometimes so much, that we forget the client behind those words.

This session in NOT about perfecting your skills as language expert. It’s about using your skills to improve your relationship with your clients. It’s also about winning more clients by getting into their heads.

Based on my many years of experience working for agencies and direct clients, my talk will focus on the lessons learnt writing for and dealing with clients. What is your client really looking for? What are their needs? What are the most essential questions that you should be asking? And how do you deliver more than just perfect words?

I’ll be showing you that awareness of a client’s needs doesn’t mean you have to provide all the answers. It’s up to you in how far you taken on the ‘challenge’! Based on real examples, we’ll discuss when can you say ‘yes!’ (even though it might feel scary to do so) and when should you be saying ‘this is not for me!’.

Session takeaways:

  • Know what problem you can help your clients with.
  • Know your value for a client.
  • Know what adds value to both your client and yourself.
  • Feel confident in communicating about what you do.
  • Feel confident and find new clients.


These parallel sessions share the same time frames. See the programme table for visual clarification.


Lloyd Bingham, Dealing with Dunglish – and other source-language interference


Dunglish, Denglish, Franglais, Spanglish … they can all be deceptive. Especially when you find out that your friend’s new ‘beamer’ is not quite the BMW you imagined, but a projector!

While it might be cool to drop English words into other languages, the meaning is often corrupted, leaving us translators scratching our heads.

Taking source-language terms borrowed from English at face value is a rookie mistake. The consequences might well be hilarious, but they can often be catastrophic too – a sign that the translator doesn’t fully understand the source text.

This presentation will first look specifically at the accelerating trend of other languages – with an emphasis on Dutch – giving English words new meanings that you won’t find in the dictionary, and at how translators can translate them accurately and idiomatically. The audience will be invited to venture examples they have come across, and how they translated them. Then we will look more generally at ways to avoid source-language interference from a stylistic point of view and how to opt for more idiomatic formulations.

Real-life examples that I have come across in my own practice will be taken from Dutch and German, so English translation professionals will not only come away with greater awareness of the issue, but will also be able to take away ideas on how to avoid ‘steenkolenengels’ in their translations and how to make both the terminology and the style of their texts sound more natural.


Susannah Goss & Ailish Maher Editing documents produced in LaTeX (laptops required; session continues after tea break)


There is an increasing trend for authors of technical and scientific documents, especially those containing mathematical equations, to use LaTeX rather than MS Word. LaTeX is free, open-source software that separates form and content. It is essentially a markup language rather like HTML. Here’s an example of some LaTeX source text and output:

Major disadvantages for editors, apart from having to deal with source code, are that LaTeX softwares often lack the comfortable – and oh so familiar! – comment/annotation and edit-tracking features offered by Word. You can, of course, edit LaTeX documents in Word, or even annotate the PDF if the English is good and the text is reasonably short. However, for longer and more complex texts, other approaches are required.

In this presentation, we will give you a beginners’ introduction to editing texts in LaTeX. We will present the online editing environments Overleaf and ShareLaTeX (which are now in the process of joining forces) and also briefly describe an offline option (in case of confidentiality requirements). We will summarize the advantages and drawbacks of each approach, including complexity and cost, explain how we have used them with clients, and demonstrate some workarounds to overcome certain challenges of LaTeX that editors used to working in Word find especially tricky.

Our aim is to remove the fear factor from editing in LaTeX by equipping attendees with the confidence to work in this kind of environment – likely to be a source of new work opportunities. We will provide attendees interested in exploring LaTeX further with access to a set of learning resources.


These parallel sessions have differing time frames. Session A runs for the duration of the presentation slot, while sessions B, C and D differ. See the programme table for visual clarification.


Anne Murray, Marije de Jager, Emma Goldsmith (moderator: Valerie Matarese), Moderated panel discussion – Invasive species: Language versus subject specialists in biomedical editing and translation


Invasive species are generally perceived as harmful, but can they also be beneficial and are they sometimes necessary? In this session, three language professionals who offer writing support services in medicine and pharmaceutics will talk about their being figurative ‘invasive species’. A former nurse, a generalist translator now specialising in medicine, and a translator now also editing in her non-native language will be interviewed by a biologist-cum-editor and academic writing trainer. All the speakers are members of the Mediterranean Editors & Translators (MET) association.

Translators and editors in biomedicine may have had formal training in language or translation, or may have started out as a practising physician, nurse, or scientific researcher. Whether one educational background is to be preferred over the other is a long-standing dilemma. The panellists will compare notes and share experiences, highlighting the advantages, drawbacks, pitfalls, and joys of working in a field they had to invade before turning it into their stamping ground.

Examples of questions the session will address are:

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of the different backgrounds?
  • What challenges are faced by language specialists and subject specialists?
  • How steep is the learning curve in each case?
  • Can you learn on the job? What is the value of a mentorship?
  • What do you do when you don’t know? How do you know you don’t know?
  • How does your service portfolio evolve as your knowledge and confidence grow?

Taking into account that translators and editors in many fields other than biomedicine face the same language-versus-subject-specialist dilemma, the focus of this panel will be on education and learning issues rather than on medical specificities.


Nigel Saych, ‘… divided by a common language’: Cultural, topical and geographical Englishes


This quote (in several variations) has been attributed to GB Shaw, Oscar Wilde and even to Winston Churchill. However, this presentation is not really about the differences between UK and US English: there are hundreds of websites which explain that. Following the theme of ‘Englishes now!’, the session will highlight some of the ways in which different forms of the language can be used for effect – sometimes positive and sometimes negative. It will illustrate some of the pitfalls for the unwary linguist. Many of these are based on experience I gained, first as a teacher in international education and in the past 15 years as a translator. Obviously the differences between the English language in various countries around the world will form part of this session, but in addition to ‘Global English’ there will also be examples of ‘Gender English’, ‘Classroom English’ and even ‘Aunty Mabel’s English’ …

‘Gender English’ will include changing trends in ‘Mr and Mrs’, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’, the changing use of the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ and how these affect us as translators, interpreters and editors. ‘Classroom English’ will deal with how teachers’ reports are interpreted by parents (in my case translated into other languages) and how ‘reading between the lines’ is sometimes required to really understand the content. ‘Aunty Mable’s English’ will examine past and present conventions in polite English, including the way criticism and disapproval can sometimes be covered by seemingly appreciative language.

My intention is to draw from the audience their own experiences with and examples of the types of English mentioned above. I hope the message participants will take with them is that we are all dealing with these issues daily, but the more creative the consideration we give to them, the more likely we are to be able to deal with them.

This is not intended for any particular discipline within the language profession. It should be an inspiring session for anyone dealing with language every day.


Nigel Harwood, What do proofreaders do to a poorly written Master’s essay? Differing interventions, disturbing findings


Much interest has been shown recently in researching the changes language brokers make in English for research publication contexts (eg Burrough-Boenisch 2006; Cargill & O’Connor 2011; Flowerdew & Wang 2016; Li 2012; Lillis & Curry 2010; Luo & Hyland 2016, 2017; Willey & Tanimoto 2012). These studies report on the types of changes supervisors and editors make to the texts of novice researchers who are attempting to publish in English. However, with the exception of Harwood et al’s research (2009, 2010, 2012), studies focused on the proofreading of students’ university essays are largely conspicuous by their absence. Harwood et al uncovered apparently significant variations in their 16 proofreaders’ practices, but because they relied solely on proofreaders’ interview accounts rather than also soliciting examples of the proofreaders’ work, the validity of their research is questionable.

For the purposes of the current project, I therefore adopted a different approach: 14 UK university proofreaders all proofread the same authentic, low-quality Master’s essay written by an L2 speaker of English in order to compare and contrast the proofreaders’ interventions. A modified version of Willey & Tanimoto’s (2012) taxonomy of revisions was used to analyse the changes the proofreaders made. I use ‘proofreader’ in this presentation as it is the most commonly used term in my UK university context and I adopt Harwood et al’s (2009) intentionally broad definition, ‘third-party interventions (entailing written alteration) on assessed work in progress’, to explore the roles proofreaders adopt and eschew.

Similarly to the findings in Harwood et al’s research, I uncovered ample evidence of widely differing proofreading interventions, with some proofreaders intervening at the level of content, making lengthy suggestions for improving the writer’s essay structure and argumentation, while at the other extreme others were reluctant to focus on anything more than the language. Disturbingly, some proofreaders frequently introduced errors into the text, while leaving some of the writer’s errors and unclear claims uncorrected. Examples of the proofreaders’ interventions will be shared via PowerPoint and handouts.

The study provides much food for thought for SENSE delegates: for copyeditors and proofreaders working with student writers, university lecturers whose students may be approaching proofreaders, and for university policy-makers responsible for formulating proofreading guidelines and regulations. How can the inconsistencies in what is being offered in the name of ‘proofreading’ uncovered by this research be tackled? The implications of the findings will be discussed and debated with the audience, and I will argue for the need for tighter regulation and dissemination of research-informed proofreading guidelines and policies across UK universities.


Susannah Goss & Ailish Maher, Editing documents produced in LaTeX (continued from the previous session)


This is a continuation of the previous session. See above, Presentation sessions 2, 16:00–16:30


Carol Norris, Developing a modern, journal-acceptable manuscript style


After seven years’ teaching tertiary-level writing in the United States, I established the University of Helsinki’s first English-writing course for research scientists and began author-editing for Finns, both in 1986.

Being a Finno-ugric language like Hungarian, Finnish interferes with Indo-European languages in startling ways. It has scores of cases, but lacks articles, prepositions, and gender. Finns, however, receive English training early and also learn by ear from non-dubbed TV and films that heavily feature English; they stay constantly net-connected.

Before Finnish academics send their manuscripts to journal and book editors, I help them satisfy the current requirements for a clear, reader-friendly style. As every word costs money, almost all editors now favour the concise active voice, which, in fact, rarely requires first-person pronouns. Instead, the inanimate agent (‘Results were encouraging’, ‘They received a diet of …‘) serves even to describe methodologies. Passive voice, once ubiquitous, fulfils exceptional needs: ‘The late [unpopular] Professor Smith is greatly missed.’

As teacher, I have my students fling their first-draft sentences onto paper/screen at maximum pace, as if speaking. Similarly, as authors’ editor, I ask writers never to translate lines from Finnish and always to read all drafts aloud: ears out-perform eyes. In manuscript editing, before any thought of grammar, we seek in each sentence the message-word best expressing its key point and foreshadowing oncoming information. After this word goes the full-stop. The next sentence’s early words (‘this/such/moreover/conversely’) produce flow. Next, every unnecessary, wasted word goes out. End-focus plus linkage in active voice ensures clarity and rhetorical power, even demands logical thought. Only after this brutal language manipulation do I consider grammar – in Finland, having errors largely vanished. Writing itself becomes faster, enjoyable and, to editors, manuscripts far more publishable.


Kenneth Quek, Chinglish as she is writ: On the uses and abuses of English by native Chinese speakers


This presentation covers some of the specific issues involved in editing English-language texts produced by native speakers of Chinese and provides suggestions on how to handle them. Chinese speakers are growing increasingly important in academia and business, and it is crucial for them to communicate fluently and precisely in English. Unfortunately, having Chinese as a native language often interferes with English usage, as Chinese syntax and idiom is so different from that of English. Thus there is a strong market for providing editing and copywriting services to Chinese speakers, which participants may become better able to tap with skills specific to them – especially so when the Chinese market is still strongly driven by word of mouth, with most clients relying on recommendations through their networks to select service providers.

In this presentation I shall introduce some of the common mistakes made by Chinese speakers, especially those that are more challenging to correct, and suggest strategies for dealing with them. Many of these mistakes are particularly difficult to handle because they can distort the meaning of the text or even render it unintelligible to those unfamiliar with Chinese syntax. But the knowledge I hope to share will help participants to revise texts from such sources more efficiently while still capturing the essence of what the authors are attempting to communicate.

By the end of the presentation, participants will have a clear idea of some aspects of the Chinese language and how they can affect the English usage of native Chinese speakers. They will also have learned effective strategies for handling these issues, which may also be transferable to editing texts from speakers of other non-English languages.

This presentation will be of interest to any language professional who may find themselves handling texts produced by native Chinese speakers, or who may wish to break into this large and growing market.


Martine Croll, Making ideas happen! Using the power within to tackle the things that are scary and just ‘do it’


However big or small the challenge, procrastination is what most of us are pretty good at. If you have projects and dreams that you never dare start, you need to transform your thinking. Or if, like most of us, there’s that nagging voice that pops up whenever you do something that says it’s no use trying, there’s someone far better qualified for the job or assignment or project than you are.

But, how do you silence your inner critic?

First, you’ll want to be clear about the things you actually want, instead of focusing on what you don’t want. This can be harder than you realise. But if you can do it, you become a connoisseur of your own thinking.

In this talk, I’ll be looking at the basics of improvisation and how these can help us in our professional (and everyday) life to dare to take the plunge.

I’ll talk to you about an exercise to create one particular mental habit that I have never seen anywhere else.

Sunday 10 June


These parallel sessions have differing time frames. See the programme table for visual clarification.


Tom Johnston, Mid-Atlantic English: Which mid-Atlantic English?


When it comes to spelling, diction and punctuation, Dutch people writing in English tend to be consistently inconsistent in their mixture of British and North American conventions. The same could be said – though obviously to a lesser extent – for younger Brits. As English continues to evolve in different directions within the English-speaking world, the rest of the world could benefit from a set of guidelines that focus on the current common ground between the two ‘supervarieties’ of English.

This presentation discusses the concept of ‘Mid-Atlantic’ English (a term resurrected here for writing rather than pronunciation) as a reasonably sophisticated, hybrid form of English for use in relatively formal, international contexts. I will focus on the type of written language used in business/finance, science and international development organizations, as so many of our clients tend to be operating in those fields. I will certainly refer to the ‘international English selections’ that Pam Peters has put forward in The Cambridge Guide to English Usage (2012), but my talk will go beyond spelling and diction to consider punctuation and even certain grammatical forms that are commonly held to be typical of either UK or US English.

Establishing the common ground is easy enough. Choosing from among the different options where the two varieties diverge is more difficult. The character of one client organization and that of its audience may call for a style sheet with a slightly different ‘Mid-Atlantic’ selection of words and conventions than one developed for another type of client. Multiple bespoke ‘Englishes’ could result, none of which are strictly UK or strictly US, but all of which are practical solutions for carefully formulated texts written by well-educated non-native speakers.

This presentation will discuss how to make such a selection: how to create an effective Mid-Atlantic English. It is intended primarily for translators, editors and copywriters who produce English texts for companies and organizations based in non-English-speaking countries.


Tony Parr & Marcel Lemmens, Identifying and rectifying translatorese (workshop-style)


Wikipedia defines translatorese as ‘Stilted or unidiomatic language produced by automated translation’. And it is labelled as ‘pejorative’. Well, yes, of course. But we believe translatorese is not restricted to automatically produced translations. Human translators may produce wooden and unnatural translations too. The question is: What makes a translation stilted, wooden, unnatural, or unidiomatic? How can you recognise translatorese in human translations? And how should you deal with it?

In this workshop-style presentation we will present the findings from a one-day course in ‘repairing translatorese’ that we organized in 2017. We will focus on what a group of professional Dutch into English and English into Dutch translators consider stilted or unidiomatic language and will discuss our analysis of how they repair it. Do they practise what they preach? Do they intervene too much or too little? Is it possible to reach consensus on what is and is not translatorese?

The goal of this presentation is to raise awareness of translatorese and the consequences of literal translation on readability, and to trigger a discussion about the scope of a revisor’s job.

‘In the final analysis, give preference to the reader’s needs over the client’s demands’ (Brian Mossop).


Jackie Senior, International science needs English editors


At the 2017 SENSE Professional Development Day, someone stated that science papers are still written in the passive voice. Time for an update! Science is now big business, performed by international collaborations communicating in English, and it forms a major ‘export’ product of the Dutch knowledge-based economy. At the same time, publications have become the measure of a scientist’s career, which puts many excellent non-native-English-speaking researchers at a disadvantage. The result is a real need for English editorial services.

In addition to research papers, science editors may also work on grant applications, press releases, and presentations to lay people (eg patient groups, journalists, or investors).

International researchers may not have had training in how to write in English nor in the formal style required by academic journals. The choice of active versus passive voice is just one example of how editors can guide authors towards a more readable text. Whereas the passive was once considered to convey an authoritative style, the active voice is now encouraged by most journals because it identifies the actor and lends itself to shorter, more direct sentences. It is one element to foster writing that can convey complex messages in straightforward English to a readership with a wide range of language proficiency. I will discuss how scientific publishing has changed and how editors can help scientists write clearly for an international readership.

I will give examples of what editors can do, including helping writers clarify their language and ideas, recognising when more information is needed, and considering the target audience and their background.

While academic publishers point struggling authors to commercial editing services, my experience of working with a top research group shows that an editor with good subject knowledge and direct access to authors offers an added value that an unknown third party cannot easily match. If you have a scientific/technical background, or an interest in certain fields, you too can become a language professional with a specialty, and you can certainly build up a worthwhile freelance career.


Joy Burrough, Editing English-language doctoral theses in the Netherlands: Are the SENSE Guidelines useful?


Now that most Master’s and PhD candidates in the Netherlands write their thesis or dissertation in English, there is much demand for these texts to be corrected. The many suppliers responding to this demand range from ‘convenience editors’, through online agencies, to experienced professional editors. What they amend and how they do so vary. Can SENSE’s Guidelines for Proofreading Student Texts clarify what thesis editing entails and reduce the variation in the nature and manner of language professionals’ interventions in such texts? I will address this question, considering doctoral (ie PhD-equivalent) theses only.

First, I will explain why variation in editorial interventions is unavoidable, pointing out that it depends partly on the parameters of the assignment and partly on the language professional’s personal skills, knowledge, background, circumstances, and attitude towards the ethics of editing theses. Expanding on the issue of ethics, I will argue that although concern about the ethics of editing student work drove the creation of SENSE’s Guidelines for Proofreading Student Texts, in the Netherlands this concern is not as important as it is in countries such as the UK and Australia. I will suggest reasons for this. I will then explain why the Guidelines specifically exclude the Dutch-style article-based doctoral theses that predominate in the sciences.

After discussing the editorial and ethical challenges these compilation theses raise, I will suggest how articles destined for journal publication and thesis inclusion should be edited and how ethical predicaments might be resolved. Aspects of the SENSE Guidelines turn out to be useful for this, after all.

Although the presentation focuses on doctoral theses – specifically, compilation theses – the issues addressed are relevant to all aspiring and practising editors working for clients in academia and science, and to language professionals interested in the ethics of editing.


These parallel sessions share the same time frames. See the programme table for visual clarification.


Jackie Senior, Joy Burrough, Carol Norris, Nigel Harwood, Panel discussion: Putting the Dutch practice on editing texts for doctoral theses/dissertations into an international context


For the four panellists involved in the editing (or proofreading) of student writing in one way or another – two from the Netherlands, one from Finland and another from the UK – SENSE Conference 2018 presents a unique opportunity to share and compare their approaches to the correction of student work in their respective countries and contexts. What promises to be a lively and wide-ranging exchange of experiences, approaches and views should give conference delegates a good idea of how academic editing in the Netherlands stands internationally, and perhaps some food for thought for their own professional practice. Questions and shared experiences from the floor will be welcome too!


Maria Sherwood-Smith, Outreach and research communication in English: Opportunities for language professionals


Certain trends in the research climate in the Netherlands – especially the growing emphasis on the societal relevance of research and the tendency towards large, multidisciplinary projects – open up opportunities for those language professionals who support researchers. Researchers increasingly need to communicate about their research with non-specialists, whether the general public or their project partners from other disciplines. The majority of this communication occurs through English. For English-language professionals, these trends are reflected in a wider range of research-related text types for translation or editing. The texts serve different communicative purposes and span a variety of registers, ranging from informal written texts such as blogs or tweets and texts for oral production (TED-talks, presentations) to more formal texts such as funding applications. In addition, language professionals are needed to teach researchers the skills they need for research communication in English.

In my presentation, I will discuss how the developments outlined above affect the language support and courses I provide at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences in Leiden. We will look at examples of the different types of texts I translate and edit for researchers. On the teaching side, I will discuss the Research Master’s course on ‘Presenting Your Research’ that I teach together with lecturers in Psychology, and how we have adapted this course to focus more on presenting to a broader audience. The central objective is to draw attention to the trends identified and to explore some of the opportunities they open up.

My presentation should be of interest to all language professionals who provide language support to researchers, whether as editors, translators, or teachers of academic or scientific English.


John Linnegar, Garnering those usage and style gremlins: Revealing the contemporary even-handedness of GMEU


Language practitioners nowadays have to grapple with many English grammar, usage and style issues when improving texts, and cannot do so authoritatively with at least one vademecum to hand. But which authorities to consult? Most of the available references are either outdated and a bit stuffy (eg Fowler’s MEU, Partridge, Treble & Vallins) or biased in favour of either AmE or BrE (New Hart’s Rules, Chicago Manual of Style). Yet others are avowedly either prescriptivist or descriptivist. So if one needs information on either or both Englishes, accessing it can be a problem.

In this respect, Bryan Garner’s magnum opus – Garner’s Modern English Usage (GMEU, Oxford University Press, 2016) – is an answer to many practitioners’ prayers, for four main reasons: first, the text and content are based on an analysis of a massive corpus that determines many of Garner’s observations and recommendations on contemporary usage; second, while he tends to favour a descriptivist approach to usage, he does not shy away from sound prescriptivist conventions when necessary, even if only to present a balanced view on the status quo (which sometimes goes about the difference between AmE’s conservatism versus BrE’s more ‘liberal’ approach); third, he presents what is currently the most balanced account of both AmE and BrE usage. (Remember GB Shaw’s witty ‘England and America are two countries separated by the same language’? Garner shows us how in some respects it is the case, in others it ain’t.) Finally, and perhaps most importantly for us 21st-century mortals, the text is written in the plainest, most accessible English (unlike many of the guides of the last century).

Being a recent addition to the literature (June 2016), GMEU is relatively unknown among, let alone used by, practitioners who have to grapple with contemporary English usage – whether AmE or BrE – and make decisions about which is appropriate. This session attempts to reveal (almost) all.

PLENARY TALK, 12:15–13:15

Sarah Griffin-Mason, Trends in translating and interpreting to 2050


Editing, translating and interpreting are professions on the move as the dual challenges of globalization and mechanization extend ever deeper into the language service sector.

I will present messages on key issues likely to affect practitioners in their professional lives in the coming generation on the basis of information gleaned from the International Federation of Translation* (FIT-IFT) conference held in Brisbane, Australia in early August 2017.

The aim is to encourage debate on key current issues such as artificial intelligence, the visibility and value of language service providers, the shortcomings of the gig economy, and the absence of right to title. An understanding of these issues and how they might develop over the coming years will empower practitioners to prepare for the forthcoming disruption, to adapt appropriately to the challenges, and to resist the more pernicious potential impacts of changing professional practices.

* FIT is an international grouping of associations of translators, interpreters and terminologists with more than 100 affiliated professional associations and training institutes, representing more than 80,000 translators in 55 countries. The international triennial conference therefore provides a broad and in-depth overview of the language service sector worldwide.