5 tips to write translation-friendly technical documentation
In the content creation process, translation is usually at the bottom of the priority list. This is unfortunate, because it pays off when you already start thinking about translations before you create your source document.
Translation-friendly writing has two main advantages:
- It improves the quality of your translation.
- It makes your translation faster and more affordable.
But how do you write in a translation-friendly way? Let’s look at five tips to help you on your way.
1. Avoid wordiness: write simple and short sentences
Technical authors often feel the need to indulge in long-winded sentences. However, wordy writing usually gets in the way of clarity. Wordiness also has a price tag. The more text you write, the more text you need to maintain and translate.
There are various types of wordiness you can avoid:
- Bloated, multi-word expressions, like ‘due to the fact that’ (instead of ‘because’)
- Redundant expressions:
- The reason for this is because… ⇨ The reason for this is that …
- Small in size ⇨ small
- Pompous writing:
- Utilize ⇨ use
- Finalize ⇨ end
- Facilitate ⇨ help
- Repetition: Usually, it is possible to avoid unwanted repetition by rephrasing the sentence or by using a visual, table or bullet list.
- Meaningless modifiers are words that can often be deleted with no loss in meaning or clarity, e.g. practically, virtually, very, really …
2. Be consistent and repetitive
If you write consistently, the re-use rate of your translation memory will increase, which in turn will result in lower translation costs. Consistency becomes even more important when you are using machine translation. You can write consistently by avoiding synonyms and by being consistent in capitalization, spacing, formatting and sentence structure.
3. Avoid ambiguity by writing clearly
Writing clearly can help you avoid ambiguity. If you leave room for ambiguity, there is always a chance that the meaning will be lost, that your reader will be confused and will interpret your content the way you didn’t intend. One way to prevent ambiguity from intruding into your document is by avoiding long noun strings.
Consider the following example:
- Ambiguous: Underground mine worker safety protection procedures development
- Unambiguous: Developing procedures to protect the safety of workers in underground mines
4. Avoid cultural references and humor
Humor and cultural references rarely translate well. What may seem like a good laugh in one language, can be offensive in another part of the world. To make your text translation-friendly, the safest bet is to eliminate those concepts that will not likely translate and replace them with universal ideas.
5. Avoid slang, jargon, idioms and colloquialisms
Idioms are groups of words that have a meaning which isn’t obvious from looking at the individual words. For example, a phrase like ‘more bang for your buck’ (meaning: more for your money) is a typically American idiom that might cause confusion in other parts of the world.
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