Dead Copywriting for the Dead Sea

It's difficult to write original copy for any location or project associated with the Dead Sea. Whether you're promoting its hotels and spas, its beauty-care products, its natural wonders or anything else. Seems that everything has been said.

Having written, translated and edited a lot of that type of text, I thought I was inured to the common, trite and/or pretentious bla-bla. But one writer (I don’t want to know who) managed to surprise me. I'll call him Yankele for the sake of convenience.

Yankele wrote, for example:

- תוכלו גם לטבול במי מרפא טבעיים וחיים
Tuchlu gam litbol b'mei marpeh tivi'im ve-hayim.
Excuse me? You can dip in what kind of natural, healing water? The Dead Sea as a source of mayim hayim? The connotation of this idiom is refreshing, potable water.

- תוכלו למרוח את גופכם בבוץ השחור ולחוש את הבריאות מחלחלת אל כל תא בגופכם
Tuchlu limro'ach et gufchem babotz ha'shachor ve'lachush et ha'bri'ut mehalhelt el kol ta begufchem.

You can apply the local black mud to your body and feel health as it suffuses every cell of your body.
- Nu, schön, I'll let that pass. If that's what Yankele feels, fine.

- The thermo-mineral water… nourishes the skin, making it shiny and beautiful.
Or something to that effect. Which I think is an exaggerated promise.

- The friendly sun caresses you 330 days a year.
Dead Sea sun, in summer, caressing? At 40 deg. C? Scorching is more like it.

- The only lake in the world in whose water you cannot drown.
This is plain wrong. Of course you can drown. If you're floating comfortably on your back, you're not likely to drown. But many floaters, when attempting to get back on their feet, have found themselves inadvertently face-down in the water. Not fun.

This is just a sample. There were plenty more wild exaggerations and inaccuracies in the text, stemming from either ignorance, provincialism, or just carelessness and being swept away by the desire to write impressive copy.

Though I had been asked to translate the Hebrew text into English, and did my best to side-step the above problems, I couldn't help but express my exasperation with the Hebrew. I provided my client (the Super Duper Agency, not Yankele et al) with a marked-up version of the Hebrew, pointing out the problematic words, expressions and statements. I didn't expect to be paid for this, and indeed Yankele et al refused to pay, which is understandable; they didn't ask for a critique or editing of the Hebrew. The agency, however, appreciated my efforts and said they'd find a way to compensate me, which is very decent of them.

I wondered what would become of the Hebrew text. Would the end-client ignore my comments and use the text as written?... Quick Googling of some of the Hebrew phrases indicated that the text was probably based on the official Dead Sea website. Looks like they wanted a shorter, spiffy version for advertising purposes. I do hope they come up with something better than the document that landed on my desk.

English Editing studies offered at Beit Berl

Editing is important.
It's a fact of life, there's no getting around it.

In the coming school year, Beit Berl College is offering a program in English editing. The program covers two semesters and the course is given in English. My only complaint is that the relevant web-page is in Hebrew only. If there is an English version somewhere on the site, it is well-hidden.

Want to know more about it? Can't read the Hebrew? A Campus Day (generally referred to in Hebrew as "open day") will be held on September 2nd; and entrance exams on September 5th.

Have fun!

My colleague Yael Sela-Shapiro has undertaken to call Beit Berl's attention to the omission.
Update to the Update: Here's the info in English, courtesy of Beit Berl:

A Diploma in Editing English

Course Coordinator : Dr Yitzchak Enav

The Beit Berl English Editing Program offers students a range of theoretical and practical studies. The program, about to enter its tenth year, includes courses and workshops on a variety of texts spanning the literary and Judaic to the academic and technical. This hands-on, practical experience prepares editors of English for competent work in their field.

The course is open to Native and Near-native speakers of English and to e graduates of Beit Berl College's English and Translation Departments. No knowledge of Hebrew is required: a welcome fact that makes the course most suitable for new immigrants anxious to equip themselves for their first work in Israel.

Prospective candidates wishing to learn more about the program are invited to visit classes during the academic year.

Course Schedules
The duration of the course is one academic year of some 280 academic hours of study. All classes take place on one day each week. At the core of these studies is a very solid grounding in editing English in general. The courses then focus on several varieties of texts in areas relevant to English editing in Israel.

Conditions of Acceptance
Computer Literacy
- An entrance examination
- A personal interview with teachers of the program

Course Requirements
- Attendance of at least 80% of the lessons given
- The completion of all written work on schedule.
- The completion of all final projects.

Graduation Certificate:
Graduates are awarded a Beit Berl Academic College, "Diploma in Editing English."

A Brief Description of the Courses

* Aspects of Language: vocabulary, syntax, grammar and discourse
analysis : Dr Pamela Peled
* The Fundamentals of Editing English: Anita Tamari
* The Literary Sources of the English language : a study of varieties of literary texts in their linguistic and cultural context : Dr Yitzchak Enav

Textual Varieties
• Editing the Technical Text: Shirley Gamaroff
• Editing the Academic Text: Anita Tamari
• Editing the Business and Marketing Text: Renee Salzman
• Editing the Journalistic Text: Carol Novis
• Editing the Judaic Text: Ilana Krauss
• Editing the Medical Text : Dr Neil Schwartz
• Editing the Legal text: Roy Engel
• Editing the Literary- Critical Text

• Creative Writing: Lia Nirgad
• Workshops in Profession Readiness : Dr Doron Narkiss and Shirley Zauer