Mind the gap? Not at all! Revision across the AmE–BrE divide

Maria Sherwood Smith & Erica Moore, the Netherlands

When translating the work of a single author, part of what we do is develop their English-language voice. In this process, we are guided by any number of considerations: the genre and tone of the original text, its intended readership in the new language and the author’s own personal style. How should the author ‘sound’ in English? What sorts of words and expressions might they use if they were a native speaker? In all of this, of course, we are guided by our own natural idiom, which is in turn influenced by the language context in which it developed.

But many translations are also revised – by an editor or a second translator. What happens if the revisor’s idiom differs from that of the original translator? How does that affect the author’s voice in English? What criteria determine whose version ‘wins out’? Does the country of publication play a role? And what if the work is to be published in several English-speaking countries?

The two speakers come from either side of the AmE–BrE divide and have been revising each other’s translations for years. This process has made them more aware of the countless idiomatic differences between their variants of English. At the same time, however, they have come to realise that they seldom disagree on the essentials.

This presentation will explore the ‘gap’ between AmE and BrE in the context of revising translations. The speakers will share their experiences of revising across the gap and present examples for the audience to consider. They argue that their different language backgrounds can bring new insights, enriching the revision process.


About the presenters

Maria Sherwood Smith

Maria Sherwood Smith is a lecturer in Academic English at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences in Leiden and at VU University Amsterdam. She also works as a freelance translator and language editor, mainly for academic publications. From 2003–2018 she was an in-house translator for the Dutch police.


Erica Moore

Erica Moore is the language girl, and provides non-fiction translation and translation editing, as well as a matchmaking service for authors and translators, and newsletter content and strategy for Dutch authors and public-interest organisations. She chooses natural language over strict grammar rules, always. And yet: is an Oxford comma diehard. (It’s complicated.) Rediscovered reading thanks to smartphones. Twitter lurker. Bike infrastructure enthusiast. A graduate of the Plan II liberal arts program at UT Austin, Erica’s lived in Amsterdam now for 10 years.

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