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Melt Digital
November 21, 2016

Tips for writing translation-friendly content

The world is shrinking as people and places become more connected than ever. For content teams, building a global presence can be a headache because content needs tailoring to suit different target audiences. Whether you already operate overseas, or you plan on doing so, producing translation-friendly content from the start will save you time and money.

There are a few things to bear in mind when producing international content for translation. Here’s a list of our top tips.

Keep it simple and concise

Use short, clear and succinct sentences and stick to one topic at a time. Be literal and steer clear of ambiguity. Bite-size chunks of text are much easier to translate than long-winded, complex sentences. This will result in a faster and more accurate translation.

Be consistent and repetitive

Keep formatting and language consistent. Use the same words and terminology to describe the same concepts and use the same format for the same type of article. This will aid understanding because more variety leads to more confusion and mistranslation.

Check symbols

While images and symbols can be a great way to describe something, not all symbols have the same meaning in different countries. Avoid unnecessary confusion and leave them out.

Avoid abbreviations and acronyms

It’s not worth using any shortcuts or acronyms for content destined to be translated. Meaning can easily be distorted or misinterpreted.

Avoid cultural references

Steer clear of anything that could cause offence. As a general rule, avoid political references or historic events. A slight misunderstanding could seriously tarnish your reputation.

Avoid slang, jargon, idioms and colloquialisms

Many phrases don’t have an equivalent in another language, so translating them literally can alter meaning. Think of the English phrase ‘piece of cake’ and imagine how it would change the meaning of a sentence if translated literally. Don’t be too conversational or casual, be precise and direct.

Plan for extra space

Make extra space to enable your content to expand – it can grow or shrink when it is translated.

Know your content management system

Some content management systems have translation facilities built into them, while others require new plugins. Know the capabilities of your CMS.

Don’t include unnecessary information

Be brief and direct to make translating much easier.

Thoroughly check spelling, punctuation and grammar

Ensure your documents are accurate and correct. Translators won’t necessarily correct mis-spelled words or faulty grammar.

Provide context

If anything is unclear or highly technical, provide notes to give translators context. You can do this by adding comments or providing alternative phrasings.

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