Writing for Translations

Just like a house needs a solid foundation so do dynamic documents. Changes cost money and even more so when doing it in multiple languages. When the initially translated document – the foundation – is solid, less cost will be incurred during updates.

What constitutes a solid foundation in terms of translations?

  • Consistency
  • Use pictures in place of words
  • Avoidance of idioms and acronyms
  • Reuse of information

To Write or Not to Write, That is the Question 

Be consistent with terminology. Don’t call it a widget in one paragraph and a doohickey in the next. Use steps to write out instructions, not a paragraph. A future change means translations will look at just that step rather than the whole paragraph. Use pictures with callouts that can be edited. Remember to use a large font for the callouts to accommodate Asian characters.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Chances are you have existing content that has already been translated. For example, frequently used cautions and warnings, a product warranty or a license agreement, are items that should remain the same across all publications. Reusing that information will not only save on translation cost, it will present a consistent face to the customer. A single sentence that tries to convey too much information could get lost in translation – literally. Use short sentences.

Don’t Be an Idiom

An idiom is an expression that is particular to itself for which the meaning cannot be derived from the phrase. For example, when the translation bill comes due you might say that it is time to pay the piper. Idioms are not specific to the English language, but they would be difficult, if not impossible, to translate if taken literally. Do not use acronyms that aren’t specific to the industry for which you are writing. Remember to define the acronym the first time; such as End of Business Day (EOBD).

For more tips, download the Geo Group Checklist found here: /geoedu/checklist/

Fun Facts

  • In English, it would be “raining cats and dogs”
  • In Afrikaans, they say “it’s raining old women with clubs”
  • In Norwegian, “it’s raining female trolls”

-Written by Dawn Lawien

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