Email Best Practices: How Not to End Up in the Recycle Bin

It’s bound to happen sooner or later in our careers. That moment when someone thinks you have enough seniority and may be interested in subcontracting. Or your email address somehow ends up on a mass-distribution list. Or you just become the target of scammers.

Whatever the case may be, a message like the one below pops up in your inbox:

Complete with 14 attachments, this is a truly exceptional message that triggers an involuntary reaction in the recipient to hit “Delete.”However, it makes a great specimen to learn about the traits of a fraudulent message, as well as what NOT to do when reaching out to potential clients.

Let’s dissect this message together, but first, a disclaimer: I know our readership spans at least six continents, and perhaps the formulas in this message may be acceptable in your culture. But for the sake of this exercise, I will be analyzing this message from the standpoint of an American-based recipient.

  1. Email address. You’ve probably heard a million times that having an email address from a webmail provider as your work email doesn’t look very professional. But sending a message from email address X, and asking the recipient to send responses to email address Z is a clear indication that a) this message is spam, and/or b) that this is a phishing scam. Notice the domain on the sender’s email address is “@163.com”, which is a known spam transmitter domain.

Result: Hit “Delete”.

  1. Subject. It is true that the purpose of our email should be clear in the subject line, but when approaching potential clients or prospecting, we need to be a little more creative. How about: “Professional interpreter looking for collaboration opportunities in Miami”? Perhaps I would not hit “Delete” so fast, and at least give them credit for coming up with a personalized subject.

In our sample message, notice how the subject was written. Capitalization is off and there are extra periods. That kind of sloppiness is another indication of a fraudulent message.

  1. Being creative doesn’t equal being weird. I’m big on creativity, and I’m all for doing things differently. But opening your email with a strange statement (quote?) that’s supposed to be inspirational (or something) doesn’t cut it.

Some people like citing famous authors, or including interesting quotes in their messages, and I think that’s great and might work, depending on your audience. But it cannot be the first thing your reader sees when opening your email. Find a way to include it in the body of your email or at the end. Such messages should act as tasteful decorations to your main message.

On the other hand, scammers love to include intriguing quotes—often completely unrelated to the actual purpose of the email. I don’t know if it’s the shock factor, but I must confess that I’ve found myself staring at such quotes and trying to make sense out of them. But your prospective client won’t waste their time; they will just hit “Delete”.

  1. Different fonts and colors. Due to the difference in color in the text, there is no doubt that this message is a Frankenstein of fragments. I don’t like to realize that the sender might have copied and pasted the very message he is sending to me 50 times to 50 other people. If you want to make a good first impression, you need to make your recipient feel special.

I get it, we all draft templates that we then modify. And that’s perfectly fine. But your reader can never find out that the message she is reading has had many incarnations before. So, be careful when you copy and paste your template in a new message. Some email clients change the font or its color when you copy and paste directly from another message, or when importing from a word processor.

  1. Make it or break it in your opening paragraph. A memorable quote from our sample message is that this person is a business consultant who also acts as a translator, who then also provides market research. What?

Briefly stating who you are and what you specialize in is perfect. But then going on and on about yourself and the awesome things you could do is a big turn off. You must have a reason to send that message (a reason other than wanting a job, of course). That is, you must have something in common with that person. Why did you choose to send that message to Mary and not to Joe? If you are unable to answer this question, then I invite you to stop and think about it.

Sending messages out of the blue, without a clear purpose and for no reason other than distributing your résumé, is just as ineffective as going outside right now and handing out your résumé to any passerby.

See below for a simple checklist on what to include in your message.

  1. Spelling and grammar. If you’re reading this, then it’s safe to assume you are a linguist, and I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will anyway: Check your message multiple times and use the spellchecker.

This is another classic feature of spam emails: They’re poorly written and plagued with errors, punctuation issues, broken sentences, you name it.

  1. Attachments. The gentleman of the sample message sent 14 attachments, including his résumé, a few sample translations, a couple of inspirational memes, and so on. Needless to say, I didn’t open any of them. Even if he had sent just one, I wouldn’t have opened it either.

Nothing screams “spam” louder than receiving an attachment from a stranger. It’s just a big no-no in today’s netiquette. Even if the rest of the message didn’t raise any red flags, I would never open an attachment from a sender I don’t know.

Repeat after me: Thou shalt never send an unsolicited attachment.

What should you include in your message?

Here is a simple checklist to craft that very important first impression:

  • State your name, what you do (translator, interpreter, both), and briefly mention your areas of expertise.
  • Mention what you have in common with that person (i.e., you attended the same conference a few weeks ago, you both belong to the same group on LinkedIn, you read an article he wrote, etc.) This is your “hook”, that is, something that catches the other person’s attention and makes you stand out. It’s the personal connection you have with that person or organization.
  • State the purpose of your email (to follow up after the conference, to connect, to learn more about the topic of his article).
  • Make sure to include how you think you can help, or your previous experience in the field, or any other piece of information to pique your reader’s interest. It should provide additional information related to your opening paragraph.
  • If possible, include a call to action, that is, a question for your reader (i.e., “Is your agency interested in hiring in my field of expertise?” or “Are you looking for a French language editor?”)
  • Include a link to your website, blog, LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, etc., and invite your prospect to learn about you and what you do. Remember: No attachments!
  • Close your email (i.e., “Looking forward to hearing from you”).
  • Include your contact information in your signature.

The above recommendations apply not only when approaching other colleagues, but also if your target is an agency. Recruiters receive dozens of emails daily from people looking for opportunities. Your message should stand out, but in a positive way.

What would you do if you were on the recipient’s end? If you received such a message, would you be interested in reading more about this person?

Think about these simple questions and ideas the next time you send a prospecting email. I promise it will make a world of difference and will increase your odds of achieving your goal. Let us know how it goes!

Image source: Pixabay

Let’s Spring into Action in Miami this March!

From March 16-18, 2018, Miami is hosting what will surely be the must-attend event of the season for professionals of the T&I industry.

Co-organized by the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Florida (ATIF), the Spanish Language Division of the American Translators Association (ATA), and Florida International University (FIU),* Spring into Action will be a three-day event featuring the internationally renowned speakers of Palabras Mayores, along with 25 terrific professionals hailing from different parts of the U.S. and abroad, who will be presenting on various topics.

The four speakers of Palabras Mayores—Jorge de Buen Unna, Xosé Castro Roig, Alberto Gómez Font, and Antonio Martín Fernández—will guide us through the intricacies of the Spanish language, help us improve our technical knowledge of the language and brush up on our basic skills, and provide practical tips for writers and translators alike. The content will be relevant not only for translators, but also for interpreters, journalists, and basically anyone whose job is to communicate in Spanish.

Spring into Action was designed to offer something for everyone.

Even though Spanish is at the heart of the event, the conference is not geared exclusively toward practitioners working in the English/Spanish languages. In fact, of the 35 sessions, almost half deal with topics that may be applicable to other language combinations, are language-neutral, or are suited for professionals working into English.

The offerings are extensive, and attendees will have the opportunity to choose from as many as three sessions happening simultaneously in any given time slot.

Interpreters will be delighted to see advanced workshops to hone their skills, while translators—and dare I say writers and journalists?—will be able to delve into the depths of grammar, terminology, and style, and will even have the opportunity to explore the growing (and controversial) field of post-editing. Check out the program to learn more about sessions and presenters to get you all fired up!

ATA Certification Exam Workshop.

Bright and early on Friday March 16, translators working in the EN>ES combination and interested in taking the ATA certification exam will have the rare opportunity to have their practice tests corrected by ATA graders at the ATA Certification Exam Workshop. Participants must sign up ahead of time as space is limited. You will be asked to translate a 275-word passage and your hits and misses will be used anonymously to create the slides that will drive the workshop. Request your passage by writing to TallerEnMiami@gmail.com. They will send out as many passages as are requested, but only the first 20 translations received will be reviewed and used during the workshop. The first 20 people to send in their translations will be allowed to attend the workshop. This is truly a first come, first serve event!

Registration: Open to all and quite reasonable.

Despite the world-class level of this conference, it is extremely affordable and open to both members and non-members of the ATA. Early bird registration ends on January 30 and is priced at $175 for the general public. Interested in becoming a member of ATIF? Join and you will secure a $100 registration fee until January 30, in addition to a full year of benefits from ATIF. After January 30, registration increases to $250 for the general public and $175 for ATIF members.

The Magic City

Spring into Action will take place at the Modesto A. Maidique Campus of FIU, and information about the venue and accommodations can be found on the event’s webpage.

As if sessions and presenters (and affordability!) weren’t enough reasons, the attraction of Miami as a conference destination is undeniable. Tickets to Miami, a major travel hub, are usually very reasonable, whether you’re coming from anywhere in the U.S., South America, or even Europe, as some of our presenters are! Most airlines offer direct flights from major cities, so getting here is a breeze.

Spring is a fabulous time to visit Miami—not too humid, not too hot. It’s perfect for exploring the Magic City and, of course, its beaches!

Speaking of fabulous, in case you’re still reading this article and not over at ATIF’s website registering for the conference, let me casually mention the welcome reception. On Friday, March 16, after our first day of sessions, ATIF is inviting conference attendees to a swanky reception at one of Miami’s historical landmarks: The Biltmore Hotel. It will be the perfect backdrop to a perfect evening of relaxation and mingling with colleagues and friends.

As I said: Let’s Spring into Action, and see you here in Miami!

*DISCLAIMER: Florida International University’s Translation and Interpretation Program is providing space at the FIU Modesto A. Maidique Campus as a professional courtesy to the American Translators Association’s Spanish Language Division and the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Florida for the event “Spring into Action 2018.” FIU/T&I is not responsible for the content, finances, or administration of the event.

Buddies Welcome Newbies at #ATA58

This year, Buddies Welcome Newbies celebrates its fifth anniversary, and as part of the celebrations, the team is introducing a few new surprises!

After its debut in San Antonio in 2013, led by Helen Eby and Jamie Hartz, Buddies Welcome Newbies has grown to become a well-known event right before the Welcome Celebration of the ATA conference. Designed as an ice breaker for those attending the conference for the first – or even the second – time, it is the place to get your gears in motion, in a fun, comfortable way.

Buddies Welcome Newbies (BWN) is a part of The Savvy Newcomer, where we are constantly innovating, and putting new ideas to the test. New this year is Jamie’s role as official leader of the BWN program, with yours truly in a supporting role.

Based on our experience from previous years, we approached ATA Headquarters and suggested including BWN as part of the event choices in the registration form, instead of having a separate link, page, etc. Fast forward to now and the results are amazing: More than 300 attendees registered as of today!

However, if you missed that one question during registration, and are interested in being a part of this event, do not despair! We will be happy to send you a link to register. Just send us an email at atasavvynewcomer@atanet.org, and we will get back with you.

Another novelty this year is the unveiling of our new seasonal blog ATA Conference Newcomer Blog, packed with resources for newbies and buddies alike. We thought waiting until Wednesday the 25th to share the myriad of things we want to tell you was kind of mean, plus, we could not possibly do it in 45 minutes! So, check it out, if you have not done so already, and be sure to leave us a comment to let us know how we are doing.

Also new in this fifth edition of Newbies Welcome Buddies is the opportunity to earn 2.0 CEPs by participating as a Buddy! But, as the saying goes: “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke,” so the core of the BWN event continues to be the same.

What is Buddies Welcome Newbies, you ask? The answer is simple:

A Newbie is anyone who is new to the American Translators Association, to translation or interpreting in general, or a new conference attendee.

Buddies are the life of this event – experienced conference attendees, many of them seasoned T&I professionals, who donate their time and expertise for the benefit of Newbies. All our planning, ideas, and enthusiasm would mean nothing if we did not have the support of our awesome Buddies to make all this a reality.

During our opening session, Buddies and Newbies are paired up (the final ratio of Buddies to Newbies will depend on the number of participants in attendance), and off they go to enjoy the conference with the following “assignments”:

  • Newbies and their Buddies make their own plans to attend a conference session together, have a meal together, etc. The number of activities and frequency is up to you.
  • Attend the wrap-up session on Saturday October 28, for even more great information on what to do next and to hear presentations from guest speakers.

Pretty simple, huh? Yet, very powerful, as it can make a big difference in the life of new conference attendees, and who knows, maybe make a friend or two in the process.Of course, we have a few more surprises up our sleeves so you will have to come to both the opening session and the wrap-up to see the magic for yourself!

See you soon in D.C.!

Keeping a Steady Pace: Balancing work, volunteering, and family life

By Daniela Guanipa

BalanceDerek Yorek was a complete stranger until he appeared on television this year, leading the world-famous Boston Marathon at mile one. He savored his accomplishment for literally five minutes of glory; then suffered for three endless hours until he crossed the finish line.

One doesn’t have to be a marathoner to know that pushing oneself to the limit from the very beginning is rarely the best approach. But we tend to quickly forget about these words of wisdom, until we find ourselves gasping for air —whether figuratively or otherwise.

This is exactly where I found myself when January 1st 2015 arrived: I already had an agenda packed with plans, projects, and self-imposed expectations. I was ready to tackle them all, full of energy and enthusiasm.

I had made a big commitment to my local professional organization, ATIF, by assuming the role of Vice-president of the Interim Board. I was getting close to wrapping up the revamp and redesign of their website—a titanic task in itself that started in mid-2014, when I was still Secretary. Next up were all the plans for the upcoming ATA Conference here in Miami, where, naturally, our local chapter will play a big supporting role.

At the same time, I started to notice a shift in my client portfolio, and some local organizations approached me with rather interesting (should I say irresistible?) projects that demanded a lot of work, but have proven to be very rewarding experiences.

Perhaps the closest to my heart was the HistoryMiami museum exhibit, Operation Pedro Pan. This was a unique project where I had the opportunity to apply my subtitling skills, indulge in creative translations, and take advantage of my Cuban heritage when writing. The exhibition offers an interactive experience, unlike anything I’ve seen before. It was very exciting to see it all at opening night, as I had never had the opportunity to experience my work in 3-D (if you come to Miami, you’ll have to visit the exhibition to see what I mean!).

Aside from this professional-related landslide, I am also a wife and have two daughters, one of them in school. This translates into homework, playdates, extracurricular activities, and sometimes even volunteering or attending school functions, all of which I enjoy very much and wouldn’t miss for the world!

Have I mentioned I love cooking? Oh, yes, and I also like exercising, reading, and enrolling in the occasional online class.

Similar to what happened to Mr. Yorek, the fact that we have the ability to run close to the limit of our capacity doesn’t mean this is the best plan. After about three months, no matter how excited and happy I was with my accomplishments, I was already exhausted. This is when I took some time to rethink and redefine my strategy:

  1. Define your priorities. Ask yourself what is the most important thing in your life right now. (Hint: The answer doesn’t have to be business-oriented.) To identify my priorities, I applied a reverse approach: Instead of finding what I wanted to do, or what made me happy, I identified what made me unhappy at the end of the day, what caused that feeling of emptiness or dissatisfaction. That is what I was really craving for, that’s what I wanted. Our priorities change as we grow and go through different stages of life. But we must identify what these priorities are, and use this knowledge as the guiding principle of your life at this time. Try to limit your priorities to a manageable number (3 or 5, for example).
  2. Assign weight to these priorities in terms of time. Define the number of minutes or hours you want to allocate to each priority on a daily basis. For example, during my work day, I spend about 1-2 hours replying to emails, and I set aside at least 30 minutes of my day to do professional-related volunteer work (The Savvy Newcomer, ATIF).
  3. Use a time-tracking app. I downloaded the free version of RescueTime to help me keep track and see where my time was going while working. I am almost ashamed to admit I see RescueTime as my boss—when I have it running, I focus more and work more diligently, because I hate to see my daily averages dropping, or the red bars rising to indicate I’ve been wasting time. There are many other great tools like this to help you plan and achieve your time goals.
  4. Develop a daily routine. It’s hard to predict when the next big project will land in our email inbox. But it really helps to plan out at least the bare bones of your day to fill in with new projects, tasks, or the inevitable unexpected. I find that having a structure works best for me. Don’t forget to include in your daily routine some type of physical activity or another pastime you enjoy. This is your “me time” and this should be accounted for in your day.
  5. The unexpected happiness found in the word “no.” We should all set limits, but we must know what these are. When in doubt, it’s a good idea to revisit the priorities you set in #1. This doesn’t mean I immediately dismiss things I don’t want to do, but if after repeatedly trying I find that a certain project, company, or scenario isn’t working for me, I try to find a happy medium. If I still can’t solve the issue, then it’s best to free up my time for a more fulfilling experience.

After I completed this self-analysis and designed my game plan, I started to notice how—as if by magic—I had more time to do other things, even free time! I became more efficient and less stressed. Work hasn’t slowed down—in fact, we’re about eight weeks away from the ATA Conference, and things are starting to get hectic around here. There are still nights I have to work, but just by managing my time more effectively I get much more accomplished without neglecting my personal life.

As I compared my time-management strategy to that of Derek Yorek I realized we didn’t have as much in common as I initially thought: While he ran so that his family could see him on a TV screen, I want to sit on the couch with my girls reading stories with them or playing their favorite games.

International Translation Day: A celebration of language and human rights

By Daniela Guanipa

atlas-62742_640Today’s post is a celebration of all the language professionals who make a difference in our world – whether it is as medical or court interpreters, literary or technical translators, and every (in)imaginable field in between. We celebrate those linguists who came before us – just as Saint Jerome, whose feast we also celebrate today and who is best known for translating the Bible into Latin – and those who will continue with the work we do today after we are long gone.

The 2014 theme of International Translation Day: “Language Rights: Essential to All Human Rights” captures this spirit by recognizing that through the work we do every day as language professionals, we are also protecting our basic human rights; we enable communication among individuals who otherwise would not have access to needed services or the opportunity to be on equal footing with his or her peers.

The communiqué from the International Federation of Translators written by Izabel S. Arocha from IMIA, on the occasion of International Translation Day, is a great statement to our profession.

“We all need to work together to raise awareness and ensure that language services are available at all the interfaces between the public and service-providers.”

What better way to celebrate this special day than attending a professional conference or a local networking event during the upcoming month?  We have prepared a list of gatherings happening around the world during the next few weeks. It is, by no means, a comprehensive list, but it is certainly a token of our appreciation to our readers.

We are always interested in finding excuses to get together with colleagues, so if you know of an event that should be included in this list, please send us a message!

Let’s stand together and proudly celebrate with colleagues around the world on this day, our very own.

Happy International Translation Day from The Savvy Newcomer!


October

 3-4  Colorado Association of Professional Translators (CAPI)
CAPI 2014 Annual Conference
Grand Junction, Colorado

3-5 Asociación Española de Traductores, Correctores e Intérpretes (ASETRAD)
Asamblea general y encuentro anual
Tudela, Spain

4 Michigan Translators/Interpreters Network (MiTiN)
Regional Conference on Interpreting and Translation
Novi, Michigan

4 Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters (OSTI)
First Annual Conference
Albany, Oregon

10-12 California Federation of Interpreters (CFI)
12th Annual Continuing Education Conference
Los Angeles, California

25 Colegio de Traductores Públicos de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires
IV Encuentro Argentino de Informática Aplicada a la Traducción
Buenos Aires, Argentina

27-28 Translation Automation Users Society (TAUS)
Annual Conference 2014
Vancouver, Canada

Oct 29 – Nov 1 Conference of Interpreter Trainers
2014 Biennial Conference
Portland, Oregon

November

5-8 American Translators Association (ATA)
55th Annual Conference
Chicago, Illinois

8-10 8th International Postgraduate Conference in Translating and Interpreting
Dublin City University, Ireland

12-15 American Literary Translators Association (ALTA)
2014 Conference
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

21-23 American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)
Annual Convention and World Languages Expo
San Antonio, Texas

27-28 International Assn for Advancement in Language Technology (ASLING)
Translating and the Computer Conference
London, UK

29-30 Organización Mexicana de Traductores, A.C.
XVIII Congreso Internacional de Traducción e Interpretación San Jerónimo 2014
Guadalajara, Mexico