Simplifying the Process: Content Writing Tips For Translation and Localization

December 13, 2022 No Comments

Are you developing content or in need of documents that get sent for translation and/or localization? It’s important to understand how your writing and formatting of the content affects the process because it’s not always a clear and direct one. A lot of extra effort may have to be put into your project if the documentation isn’t clear and properly prepared for the translation services work that lies ahead. Also, if you have a very detailed layout with manual formatting, this can be a lot of work for the language services company (LSC) you are working with.

Once you understand how your writing and design impacts the procedures that need to be followed, you can make changes to better prepare for what lies ahead. The writing tips outlined below for translation and localization can help improve the quality of your content, resulting in better translations, reduced costs, and reduced turnaround time.

1. Use an Active Voice Over a Passive One

Always use the active tense whenever possible. It’s more direct and easier to understand by both the end users and the translators. Reduced complexity means it’s easier to translate, and with fewer words, it should take less time.

2. Use Easy to Understand Phraseology

Simple and clear phrasing is key. Opt for shorter words in your writing over longer, more complex ones and avoid complexities. This works to diminish the word count overall and helps make the translation more precise.

3. Avoid Jargon, Abbreviations, Slang, and any Cultural References

Avoid using abbreviations, jargon and cultural references. This type of content may be understood by a particular region or culture, but other audiences may not understand it and it can be very difficult to translate. Many companies have made mistakes because they didn’t realize how their choice of words either wouldn’t translate directly or led to offensive translations.

4. Avoid Noun Strings

When it comes to sentence structure, having too many nouns in a row can be hard to read and grasp right away. It can be especially hard to translate noun strings because the relationship to the nouns isn’t clear. As a result, the noun strings can be translated incorrectly. Reword noun strings to make the sentence clearer.

5. Avoid Manual Formatting

Although it can be tempting to tweak formatting here and there to make things fit and look just perfect, every time you override a style, for example, the translation services team you work with is going to have to look at that override and manually decide what to do with it. If you have to tweak the formatting a lot, you might want to change your styles.

6. Keep Sentences as Short as Possible

Keeping sentences short may seem obvious, but it’s definitely easy for copywriters to become long winded. It’s also hard to translate sentences that run on and on, so keep your sentences short. Be aware that some languages take up more space than English, so you don’t want to run out of space for the translated content. Keep it simple with as few words as possible!

7. Note That Data Formats May Need Adjusting

Dates, phone numbers, currencies and other types of data may be formatted differently in other languages. Make sure these types of data are accessible so that the translators can make the necessary changes. Also, if you reference any numbers like temperature or weight that are in imperial units, you need to add the metric equivalent as well since most countries use the metric system.

8. Be Consistent with Terminology and Content

If you don’t already have a list of product and/or industry terminology, create one for your language services company to use before work starts. Your translators will then translate these terms and your in-country reviewer can approve them. The terms can then be imported into a translation memory (TM) tool for future use. When a translator you’re working with sees an applicable term, the TM tool will then show the correct term to use. This saves a lot of time!

Also, reuse content wherever possible. Although it may be tempting to change what already exists to improve it, it’s best to leave it alone. TM tools rely on word segments, so even if you only change one word, it’ll impact the pricing. Ideally, you already work with content that’s in a content management system (CMS), so you can more easily identify which content to reuse. This is a good technique to decrease costs and turnaround time.

9. Separate Text from Graphics

Translators need to be able to access all text that is embedded within graphics and screenshots. A workaround is to create separate text boxes for the text, or you can create callouts below the graphic. In either case, this allows the translator easier access to it for translation work. If the text is inaccessible, it will require additional desktop publishing work by the translation company which adds time and money to the project.

10. Allow Room for Text to Expand

Translated content can take up to one-third more space than English, so you need to leave enough room for text expansion in tables, callouts, labels, etc. Translated text can often become longer than the source text. If you don’t think about text expansion before sending content out for translation and localization, you may end up with additional DTP charges.

Prepping Content Benefits All Involved!

Spending some time thinking about translation as you develop and format content will benefit your English-speaking and global customers, while lowering your costs, reducing the turnaround time, and improving the quality of the final translations. As a provider of document translation services in all of its forms, Geneva Worldwide is here to help you with all of your translation and localization needs. Please contact our New York based offices for more information or to request a quote.