Making communication translation-friendly

Translation services are a vital part of reaching a wider international audience, and there are steps you can take to make the process smoother. In this blog post, we’re going to look at some key tips for making your writing suitable for translation, and the benefits that this approach to writing can offer your business.

Key tips in “writing for translation”

The easier a document is to translate, the better it is for you in the long run. It can help to reduce the complexity of the text, and remove anything that might later create issues in the translation process. 

Keep sentences brief

Short sentences are easier to translate, whether by a human translator or by Machine Translation. It is best to keep sentences to 20 words or less. This reduces the possibility of a sentence becoming complex or confusing even to native speakers.

Use standard English syntax

Syntax dictates the word order in a sentence. In English, the standard to observe is Subject-Verb-Object. For example, ‘John kicked the ball.’ By keeping to standard syntax when writing for translation, you can help ensure that each sentence is translated properly.

Keep to one word or phrase per concept

Writing for translation means avoiding the accidental introduction of confusion. This can mean repeating certain words, but does have the benefit of reducing the likelihood of error. For example, if you are writing about the aviation industry, it is best to stick to ‘plane’, rather than trying to deviate and appeal to native readers by alternating between ‘plane’, ‘jet’, and ‘aircraft’. Translators can work in the same way, choosing a single word or phrase for repeated terms in the piece they are working on, in order to make it easier for the audience to understand.

Avoid humour

Depending on the content you’re producing, this tip can be simple to follow. Humour is subjective, and even when people are speaking the same language in two different countries, jokes don’t have the same impact. Confusion about a joke is one thing, your audience may even be offended by a bad joke that doesn’t translate well.

Keep clear of idioms and metaphors

Unless you’re writing in a literary manner, you don’t need to use idioms and rarely have to deploy metaphors. Writing for translation means taking measures to avoid confusing your audience. This includes the translator. Finding the right fit for an idiom or metaphor in your target language can be difficult at best, and impossible in many cases.

Be clear with dates

International date forms vary in terms of the order of the day, month and year. Avoid this confusion by indicating months by their name. Clearer still is to put the day first, and write the year in full. Thus, for example, 05/07/02 could be interpreted in many different ways, but 05 July 2002 is clear to all.

Avoid using phrasal verbs

A phrasal verb is usually the result of colloquialism, and can create confusion when the verb doesn’t directly match the meaning. For example, use ‘met’ rather than ‘ran into’, as you probably aren’t talking about either person running.

Make sure it fits for translation

Languages take up different amounts of space when written. English is often ‘longer’ than other languages. Be mindful of how much space you need, and whether it matters, when writing for translation.

Why write for translation?

Writing specifically for translation can help to:

  • Improve language translation quality
  • Cut costs
  • Speed up time-to-market
  • Accelerate the revenue stream from translation

What next?

With all of that in mind, get in touch for a quote and help in your translation writing.

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