Writing English Professionally in Japan

One thing you discover right away after moving to Japan is that English is everywhere. From store names to advertising to funny T-shirts, there’s a hunger here for English content. While most of it is limited to a handful of words for decorative purposes, there is a market for professionally written and accurate English-language materials.

I started writing books and articles in English just over two decades ago. (You can find details on my latest books at owanipress.com.) That’s why, right after I moved to Japan, I joined the Tokyo-based Society of Writers, Editors, and Translators, known affectionately as SWET. The group was created forty years ago to support the community of English-language wordsmiths living in Japan, although today they have members across many continents.

As with other industry-specific professional groups, SWET offers opportunities to discuss the craft through interactive forums, live events, and publications. Thanks to COVID-19, all in-person opportunities have moved online, though that brings a silver lining of making those events accessible to a larger audience.

My initial introduction to the organization was through the Japan Style Sheet. The book is akin to the Chicago Manual of Style, documenting language standards of particular interest to those writing English-language materials in a Japanese context. The book provides recommendations on incorporating Japanese-language terms within English writings, the complexities of surname and given-name ordering, navigating between Western calendars and emperor-year systems, and other linguistic matters begging for standardization. Even if you don’t live in Japan, if your writings bump up against the Asian world, you should consider this excellent book.

Membership in SWET costs ¥6,000 per year. (The Style Sheet book is available to purchase without joining.) Signing up will put you in touch with a group of language experts, aficionados, and translators who are passionate about the written word. Visit them online at swet.jp.

[Image Credits: titidsn/photo-ac.com]

Tim Patrick

Tim Patrick is an author, software developer, and the host of Japan Everyday. He has published a dozen books and hundreds of articles covering technology, current events, and now life in Japan. Find his latest books at OwaniPress.com.

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Leave a Reply to Jeremy Whipple Cancel reply

  • Let me mention that SWET has a mailing list, SWET-L, that serves as a forum for exchanges among professionals writing in English about Japan. Non-members are welcome to participate. You can check it out and, if interested, subscribe at https://groups.io/g/SWET-L. (Jeremy Whipple, SWET membership secretary)

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