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  • Writer's pictureIan Mac Eochagáin

Why is Elisa’s English so bad? Part 2

(Lue tämä postaus suomeksi tästä.)

I've previously written about Elisa’s poor English on its consumer-facing webpages. Elisa is one of the big three Finnish mobile operators and one of the country’s ten largest companies. However, it either doesn’t want to or isn’t able to run a basic spell check of its English content. This week, I discuss the poor English on its corporate webpages, which clearly haven’t benefited from a basic spell check either.

Getting the basics wrong

A casual perusal of the Elisa corporate site shows that no one in this large company cares how it looks to the outside world. There are several examples of basic spelling and typing errors that Word helpfully underlines for you. Other word processors probably do too. Here’s the first, and most obvious, mistake:

Majority of of our revenue comes from telecommunication services for consumer and corporate customers.

There is an extra “of” in the sentence. Obviously, it should read:

The majority of our revenue comes from telecommunication services for consumer and corporate customers.

(As a bonus, I’ve also added the missing article: “the majority”.)

Even if you fail to spot this with the naked eye, Word or another program will usually tell you about this. To boot, there is an extra whitespace between the two “ofs”. I always check for extra whitespaces when finalizing a translation. At Elisa, however, no one cares what impression the English on their corporate website presents.

Here’s another mistake that any word processor will point out to you:

Aligning with the 1.5 celcius target of the Paris Agreement

“Celsius” is always spelt with a capital C and with two Ss in English. Celsius is not a unit of measurement, but a scale, so Elisa should really say “1.5° Celsius” or the like:

Aligning with the 1.5° Celsius target of the Paris Agreement

Aligning with the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement

See, Elisa? Even if you can’t manage to spell “Celsius” correctly, you can avoid the problem and abbreviate it to C.

Again, this basic error was underlined in red by Word when I copied and pasted the text from the Elisa site.

Here is a third error Elisa makes which it could have avoided with a basic spell check:

We utilise waste heat from data centers

Depending on what language variant you are checking spelling in, your word processor will flag different parts of this sentence as wrong. In my case, in Irish English, the incorrectly spelt word is “centers”. Here’s how it looks on my computer:

It should be “centres” in Irish, British and Commonwealth English. If, on the other hand, you’re writing in US English, the incorrectly spelt word is “utilise”. In US English, the correct spelling is “utilize”, and the “-ise” ending is not possible. (Both “-ise” and “-ize” are possible in Irish and British English.)

So how should Elisa have written this sentence?

If the aim was Irish, British or Commonwealth English:

We utilise waste heat from data centres


We utilize waste heat from data centres

If the aim was US English:

We utilize waste heat from data centers

The key is consistency. Pick a language variant and stick to it. As it stands, Elisa managed to get this short sentence wrong in every possible way. There is not a single English-speaking country in which the sentence would be correct as spelt (though I’m open to corrections). And again: a simple spell check would have pointed out this error.

Further examples of Elisa’s confusion about what variant of English it wants are available. Elsewhere on the site are “Elisa Trust Center”, so US English, but also “a sustainable future through digitalisation”, so British.

All of these simple spelling mistakes and typos show no one at Elisa is concerned with how the company looks on their website. No one checked the English was correct at any level or with even the most basic of tools, such as the F7 key in Microsoft Word.

Investors? No thanks, we’re Elisa

An extensive section of the Elisa corporate site in English is aimed at investors. I wouldn’t invest in a company with a sloppy, misspelt website that got terminology wrong. Elisa, however, seems to hope that its poorly written website will attract backers. I’m not convinced. Here are some examples of sentences Elisa has on its website. It’s clear a Finn has written them and no native speakers have been anywhere near them. A spell check will not reveal these errors, but a native speaker can:

We are committed to improve the environmental impacts of our business and to promote environmentally sustainable operations.

The correct form of the verb here is “improving”. In English, you are always committed to the -ing form of the verb:

We are committed to improving the environmental impacts of our business and to promote environmentally sustainable operations.

Here is a nuance that is easily missed:

Read more about Elisa's environmental strategy, described according to TCFD.

What Elisa is trying to say here is that its strategy is presented according to the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). The problem is the verb “described”. It doesn’t mean the same thing as the Finnish “kuvattu” (Lue lisää Elisan ympäristöstrategiasta, joka on kuvattu TCFD:n mukaisesti). A better way to put this would be:

Read more about Elisa’s environmental strategy, presented according to TCFD recommendations.

This sentence contains a word which Finnish companies use a lot. However, it doesn’t mean what they think it does:

Elisa is a forerunner in implementing new innovations and technologies

In English, to my mind at least, “Forerunner” is most reminiscent of St John the Baptist, who preceded Christ. The meaning is similar but not what a company wants in a business context. I would write:

Elisa is a pioneer in implementing new innovations and technologies

This sentence contains a specialized term which a native speaker could have corrected for Elisa:

Expiry period of dividends and capital repayments is three (3) years since the 1 July 2007 alteration of the Companies Act.

In English, when parliaments change laws, they do not “alter” them. They “amend” them. The related noun is “amendment”:

Expiry period of dividends and capital repayments is three (3) years since the 1 July 2007 amendment to the Companies Act.

“Alteration” is the word for what a seamstress does to clothes to make them fit better. As the sentence looks now, it creates a very bad impression. It says that Elisa is indifferent to how it looks in English.

Conclusion: Why even bother?

I don’t know why Elisa bothers having a site in English in the first place. If they don’t want to or are unable to run a spell check or have a native speaker look over its content, they shouldn’t publish anything in English at all. Elisa’s corporate website in English gives an awful impression of the company. It’s damaging for the company’s reputation. Why doesn’t Elisa care?

Don’t look sloppy in the eyes of clients and investors. Look good in English. Get me to translate your content from Finnish to English (starting at €490 + VAT). Or, I can make your boring website sell better in English for €1,990 + VAT. The result is English you won’t be ashamed of. And if you’re not happy, I’ll give your money back.

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