Friday, April 10, 2009

How Not To Write a Covering Letter

Got this in my past-midnight mail :-D I have deleted any identifying info.

[If you received this kind of letter from me before or our relationship has already been established, please just ignore this letter]

First of all, I would like to introduce myself, I am a professional translator searching for steady flow of translation projects. I offer translation service in ZYX to English and English to ZYX. ZYX is the national language of ZYX, a Southeast Asian country. I'm eager to offer my service to well-established translation agencies like yours. I earned my Bachelor's Degree from Blah-blah University (Leading, probably the best, university in ZYX), Faculty of Industrial Engineering. I have 7 years of translation experience in many fields. In fact, I can work and have been working with any type of translation. My rate is only US$0.08 per source word. Proofread rate is US$0.05 For job less than $10, minimum charge of US$10 will apply. For difficult to read text, eg. handwriting, additional charges applies I don't accept Paypal, credit card or check. Please pay by wire transfer. If you are interested in my service, please contact me via my e-mail address.

Best Regards,
XXXX. (Native speaker)

P.S. All of my details are in my resume. So, unless inevitably necessary, kindly do not send any contract or other kinds of document for me to sign or fill in.


  • Dear, ???? I have a name. If you are going to send someone a proposal for work, at least go figure out what their name and position is.
  • If you allege that you translate into English, please ensure your punctuation matches your claims.
  • "offer my service to well-established translation agencies like yours" - do your research before writing. I am not an agency, and if anything, I manage a team of independent colleagues who all work in my language group.
  • "ZYX is the national language of ZYX, a Southeast Asian country" - this is offensive. You tell me I have a well-established agency and then assume I don't know where your country is? I must be a well-established incompetent nitwit.
  • Make your education reflect your proposed skills. B.Eng has nothing to do with working with any type of translation.
  • Be specific: "I have 7 years of translation experience in many fields" means nothing to me. Which fields? Sorghum? Clover? Chives? Elysian Fields? The fields of Monte Casino?
  • If you provide very low rates, and not differentiate between types of work (in terms of delivery deadlines, content, specialization, etc.) then you are attracting the attention of Mr. Kumar from Nordic Services (see my posts yesterday). Not to mention that going up from that to anything decent would be nigh impossible.
  • Be flexible - wire transfers cost the payer money. Besides, if you can't accept Paypal, your SE Asian country must be one hell of a dump.
  • Use a proprietary email address. After 7 years of work, one would have expected you to have a domain name. Yahoo is just so unprofessional.
  • Your name is (Native Speaker)???
  • The PS is a classic. One, he is telling me what I should and shouldn't do, like he was the only ZYX translator on earth. Two, he wants to work without contracts. Keep dreaming. Oh, the eloquence of "inevitably necessary" :-D

He should apply for the Adult Website translations. ZYX country has a bit of a reputation that way.


adda said...

We got dozens of similar emails to

I usually give the credit to the translators as being just very bad in marketing themselves

USQ BEng(Civil) Student said...

I got a good chuckle out of this one :D

Linguanerd said...

Ah, Adda.. do they teach this in Translation School :-D

Some time ago a colleague of mine made the comment that people who become translators do so because dealing with words is easier than dealing with people.

That might have been the situation in the past, but today one needs to be an extrovert to survive the market.