Creating localization-ready source content enables your localization process to be more efficient, faster, higher-quality, and lower-cost. Understanding clearly why you should write and design with a localization mindset is very essential (see How to Apply Localization Mindset in Translating – Part 1). So, the next question is how. Here are some best practices you can utilize when you build content.
Keep It Simple and Concise
Writing in a simple, and concise style allows you to speed up translation. Moreover, you can also save on cost since translation work often charges based on word count. Let’s take a look at some tips on how to write simply and clearly:
- Choose the simplest words: For example, write “understand” instead of “comprehend”. Avoid compound verbs, such as “figure out” when you can just write “understand”.
- Keep sentences short: It’s more confusing to translate long and complex sentences. They could also turn out much longer once translated. So divide long sentences into two sentences. Avoid fillers, such as “due to the fact.”
- Use active voice: This helps translators a lot to identify the subject of the sentence.
- Clarify antecedents: When it’s not clear which noun or a pronoun refers to, just use the noun again. Or rephrase the sentence to be clear.
- Spell out acronyms and abbreviations: These don’t translate well, so explain them. Or at least define them in the first instance.
- Avoid homonyms. These are words with multiple meanings. For instance, “wealth” can mean both “rich” and “well-being”.
- Avoid cultural references: These could be a historical event, a national holiday, or a pop culture reference. You should not use them unless they do apply to other countries.
- Don’t use humor, idioms, slang, or anecdotes: They may not remain equivalent in another culture. So. they can be misunderstood, or worse, offend. Skip them.
- Use standard formats: It depends on where your regions are, currencies, numbers, and dates have varied in different formats. For developing websites, use standard formats, such as ISO time, epoch time, or UTC to store them. You can also use libraries, such as Date.js or Moment.js that automatically format each locale and convert to the right time format.
Applying the same writing style is an efficient approach when translating. It makes your terminology and style consistent across content types, from your marketing collateral to your technical manuals. These are some practices to do this:
- Use translation memories (TMs): These are documents that have already been processed and stored for use again. Translators don’t have to start from scratch. And their translations maintain consistency whenever the same word or phrase is used.
- Use a glossary: Your industry or field may have its distinctive terminology. A glossary helps your content writers to use the same terms invariably.
- Have brand guidelines: A brand guideline guides your writers, designers, and translators to follow your brand voice, tone, and style.
- Use a style guide: Ensure your content developers stick to the same standards for writing, formatting, and designing your documents and content assets.
Design for a Global Audience
It’s crucial to adapt to the changes in your design, formatting, and layout, no matter what your type of content is. Since your original English content may be totally different when translated. These are some things you should take into consideration carefully:
- Allow for text expansion: Text translated to languages, such as Spanish, German, Italian, and French, are usually much longer. They can extend outside of a menu, button, table, or page in the original layout. To avoid this, allow for more white space to accommodate text expansion.
- Make fonts legible: Avoid elaborately or highly decorated fonts that are difficult to read when translated. Allow for larger font sizes to make words in Chinese or Japanese, for example, easy to follow.
- Use the right character encoding: Depending on what languages you apply, different characters will be varied a lot. Websites and web applications use character encoding to convert text data to binary numbers. Without this, the text is confusing, with annoying question marks and squares. The standard is Unicode, specifically UTF-8, however, for longer Asian languages, UTF-16 is better.
- Plan for directionality: Taking Japanese and Arabic as examples, scripts go from right to left. So, keep in mind that designing is required for both text directions for websites and documents.
- Choose appropriate visuals: Be careful with images, colors, and symbols that aren’t neutral or culturally appropriate. Some may have a different meaning or offensive connotation.
- Separate text from graphics: Technical documents, such as manuals, use a lot of graphics, charts, and screenshots. This can be a problem when the visuals contain text. You may have to recreate them. Therefore, it’s best to keep them separate. If you can’t do this, at least provide editable files.
Other Best Practices
There are many other ways you can write and design with localization in mind. Keep these other tips at the forefront:
- Give context: Supply your translation team with text information and reference materials. Give them early access to source and reference files.
- Test early and often: You can utilize machine translation in the process so that you can see what the content looks like in different versions. Don’t wait until your website or app is complete before translating. In this way, the actual localization process will be faster and easier.
- Partner with an LSP: Collaborate closely with a language service provider (LSP) from the beginning. Share the same resources with your LSP, from glossaries and translation memories to style guides and reference materials.