Technical Writing and Localization

Writers who write technical documents intended for localization need to pay awareness of much more than verb agreement and active voice. fenster These writers should also concentrate on rules that make it possible for translators to match the original document in intent and in structure and minimize the price of these translations along the way. When I researched articles and books on writing for localization, I did find one interesting fact. Following the rules for localization generally made the document better in English as well.

Some basic guidelines

In case you are serious about writing for localization, get this book, A global British Style Guide: Writing Obvious, Translatable Documentation for a Global Market. Until you get the book, here are some guidelines to get you started:

Make use of shorter sentences. Avoid nested clauses or phrases.
Reuse or repeat just as much vocabulary as possible: phrases, conditions, notes and warnings.
Avoid words which may have more than one meaning.
Use nouns as nouns and verbs as verbs.
Use ‘that’ in all those places you were taught not to use the word ‘that. ‘ Removing ‘that’ as we were taught in Freshman English only makes translations harder and more subjective.
Avoid idioms. Favor usages that have been in an ordinary dictionary.
Give clear instructions to the translation agency. Make sure everyone is on a single page.
Retain it simple with reduced sentences

This is always a good writing approach. I have found that when I am seeking to write a concept and it the concept just cannot be framed, I probably need to break up the thought into two or more sentences. It is like trying to put 10-pounds of stuff into a 5-pound bag.

Keep in mind that sentence structures, even thought structures, are not the same globally. If you want as direct a translation as you can, do not use a sentence structure that is predominate only in English. It can get mangled fairly easily.

Constant verbiage

This is a great rule in that it helps the translation, helps the readability in any language, and it will save on translation costs. Obviously, you are using the same words for all of your UI controls or technical terms but if you start almost all of your software tasks with the same phrase, “On the command bar, select… ” or “At the key window, choose… ” You have just made the author’s job easier, the translator’s job easier, the user’s reading experience easier, and you will not be paying for as much “fuzzy complements. ”

This is correct for any words, phrases, paragraphs, such as notes, cautions, and warnings, or any consistently repeated and reused object. Repetition also puts the emphasis where it is supposed to be: on the content.

Idioms for the Idiomatic

Some idioms and idiomatic key phrases are extremely ingrained in our culture that we have become not aware that they are idioms. My best recommendation is to become aware. Some examples of words and phrases follow:

the bottom line
bear in mind
Also, utilizing a phrase that has more than one meaning in British:

‘since’ when you really mean ‘because. ‘
‘figure out’ when you mean ‘determine. ‘
Rules for the Translation Agency

Regulations breed consistency and they also set up realistic expectations for your converted materials. In most cases, you would not want an interpretive translation of technical material. That means that you want your copy translated to match the proper execution and function of your tasks, concepts and references. I didn’t realize how important all this was until a translation organization, a previously reliable interpretation agency, totally botched the translation of our freshly minted DITA XML data files. They had done fine with the trial replicates and all languages but almost all of the completed data files needed to be sent back for them to fix.

First, they said they could handle DITA XML when they really didn’t understand what it entailed. Using their translation tool, it may have been simple. Strip out there the phrase, check the context, translate it, put it back in, no problem. Right? Oh, and validate the reconstructed record against a DITA Document Type Definition (DTD). DITA has an element, menucascade, that allows you to enter a food selection item > menus item > food selection item structure.

For example, select File > Print. A few of the files came back with, “Select Print out on the File menus. ” Not so bad. However, a few of these were 3-level cascades and they read like spaghetti by the time they were converted. But worst of all, it broke the computer code.

Another example of interpretive translation occurred in the German born translation. We noticed that some of the words were partially rendered in boldface font. We use boldface font for selectable UI controls and home windows. The translation agency provided a translation of the Results window like this, ‘Ergebnisfenster. ‘ That do not work for all of us style-wise. We checked other German translations from other agencies and found that the norm was, ‘fenster Bilanzaufstellung. ‘

These are just some of the examples of deals you must make before you go too much with translations. Here are some suggested actions:

Hire really good proofreaders to examine your translated documents from the original English.
Keep a record of any and all disparities between your expectations and the translated documents. Use this list on every new job with every new interpretation agency.
Create a Glossary of terms. This is an absolute necessity for most translation agencies.
Rest, have fun. This is easy.


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