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How to write for translation – thinking multilingually from the outset

Thinking multilingually when writing a text that will be translated will save you time and money in the long run. You will also make it easier for the translator to produce as good a translation as possible. Follow our suggestions for writing a text that is ideal for translation!

Published 3/2/2015

Style

  • Keep it short, simple and concise. Avoid ambiguity, and use the active form and definite pronouns.
  • Who is the reader? Adapt your style, tone and facts according to your target group.
  • Avoid using flowery language. Word play and metaphors can be effective, but can also be hard to translate. You should also think about cultural references – these require special strategies when translating.

Content

  • Don’t write more than is necessary. A shorter text will be clearer, and will cost less to translate.
  • Ensure that there is a clear link between text and images. If the text refers to an image, it’s important that the translator has access to the image and that the reference to the image is clear.
  • Try out any instructions: carry out each step and check that there are no logical gaps.
  • Proofread the text and check the facts carefully to avoid errors spreading to more languages.
  • Be consistent with technical terms. Synonyms can confuse the reader, and if the source text is unclear there is a risk that the translation will be even less clear.

Layout

  • Use diagrams, illustrations and tables to explain your reasoning.
  • Avoid using text in images and graphics. Try to use symbols and/or figures instead. This will make the translation process more straightforward from a technical point of view, and will require less post-processing.
  • Use format templates for all layouting. Manual formatting (such as creating tables using tabs) makes the translation process more difficult.
  • When creating the layout, bear in mind that the text may contract or expand when translated.

Do you have any other useful tips? Please share them in the comments field below!

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