Word Wise: According to Habit

By Richard Medhurst

While it is handy to have default translations for terms, a little variety can refresh both writer and reader. The phrase によると is common in Japanese and commonly rendered by translators as “according to” in English.

With a company or public figure, it may be possible to use “stated” or “announced,” when the context is clear or easily checked, while “said” hedges one’s bets if it is not obviously an official statement. So  安倍首相によると might become “Prime Minister Abe Shinzō stated that” or perhaps “Abe said” if his name has previously appeared. I tend to find it snappier to start a sentence with a subject and verb through using “X stated” rather than “According to X,” especially early in a piece.

Another regular use is with reports or surveys. Here “found,” “discovered,” or similar words can work. For example, 国土交通省の調査によると can become “A survey by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism found that. . .” Depending on context, different tenses may be appropriate.

Naturally, “according to” is also often a good option, but for engaging prose it’s worth considering other possibilities. If you have any feedback, please leave a comment here, contact SWET or comment on the Facebook page.

Illustration: Stuart Ayre


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