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I am copywriting for an app that also includes French as a language. According to official writing guidelines, grammar may be wrong for the sake of brevity, e.g. instead of saying "Would you like to save the changes?" one may ask "Save changes?"

Now, in French there is a tendency for sentences to become very long. e.g. "Select profile picture" would become "Sélectionner une image du profil"

As I am not a native speaker of French, I am unsure in which ways shortening of French sentences is acceptable for the sake of title brevity. Would it, for example, be acceptable to write "Sélectionner image profil"?

What are common phrasings for this title in French?

Edit: Would it be acceptable to only drop "la", "une", etc. as a general rule? E.g. instead of "Sélectionner une image du profil" "Sélectionner image du profil"? I know that there are shorter words than "Sélectionner", but I need a general rule, so that's not the point of discussion right now.

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  • I agree with Graffito. Very good solution.
    – Frank
    Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 15:55
  • For the record, there’s nothing wrong with the grammar in “Save changes?”. Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 22:24

3 Answers 3

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The general rule is that if you want to shorten UI messages, look for shorter expressions first, then abbreviate if it's not enough. Removing articles would only be a last resort solution, unless it doesn't hurt the eyes, e.g. Choix couleur, dropping de la. Otherwise, I prefer to use a smaller font in such a situation.

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Not acceptable :-) "Sélectionner image profil" sounds like the app developers were really cheap, and it won't make for a quality experience. Besides, if you find that French titles are too long (to fit on buttons in UIs etc etc), wait till you have to handle German.

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    Bien que tu aies raison, je préfère quand même une traduction "cheap" mais effectuée par un humain que celles qu'on peut trouver parfois où l'on sent que les mots sont bêtement passés par la moulinette Google Trad.
    – Hippo
    Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 14:56
  • I expect it's better to abbreviate common long words, e.g. Sel. photo de profil.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 15:00
  • @Hippo Ah ça, je suis entièrement d'accord avec toi.
    – Frank
    Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 15:11
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    @LukeSawczak I don't know, when I see "Sel.", my immediate reaction is "what is that?", not "oh, that means 'sélectionner'", plus "sel" means "salt", so, rather confusing :-)
    – Frank
    Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 15:12
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    @Frank "Sél. photo de profil" would reduce the ambiguity.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 18:28
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Assuming that profile picture is an icon or figure representing a particular person in a video game, internet forum, ...), just use the word "avatar" like in English.
Then, the text would be "Sélectionnez votre avatar".

For "save change", the text would be "Sauvegardez les modifications".

Note that :

  • the verb infinitive (ending with "er") is as valid as the imperative (with "ez"),
  • the verb may be replaced by the name "sauvegarde (de)",
  • "votre" may be replaced by "un" (or "les" by "vos").
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  • Upvoting - I think this is a good solution in that case. It's not a generic solution for other titles though. But it does render "Select profile picture" in a good, shorter sentence.
    – Frank
    Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 0:20
  • "Choisir" is shorter than "Sélectionner" and seems as appropriate here. (French-golfing is fun) "Changer" would seem the most natural to me but this would imply that there is already a default avatar, which might be good anyways.
    – Kaiido
    Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 0:59
  • @Kaiido Yes, sélectionner feels too long and almost formal here. Choisir is better.
    – Frank
    Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 14:20
  • great for that example, but I need a more generic solution as above was just an example sentence of many. Commented Sep 4, 2023 at 8:26
  • @SarahMultitasker It's going to be hard IMHO to come up with a general rule, like "verb + noun, no article", or "noun + infinitive, no article".
    – Frank
    Commented Sep 4, 2023 at 14:48

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