Writing Tips to Avoid Confusion in Your Translations

When writers create content that will eventually be translated into many different languages, they must really focus on more than just good grammar, clarity and spelling. There are a lot of things we say in the English language that doesn’t translate well – or doesn’t translate at all – into other languages. For example, acronyms and slang phrases usually don’t work so well when translated. Americans can relate to being out in left field, but people in countries where baseball isn’t popular won’t understand it.

To avoid confusion and eliminate issues in the translation cycle, follow these tips when writing your content:

Say it one way and one way only.

Avoid overusing synonyms. There may not be as many different ways of saying the same thing in other languages. Instead of alternating between small, little, petite and tiny, choose one word and stick with it.

Avoid idioms.

A penny for your thoughts. A hot potato. An arm and a leg. While these three idioms might make perfect sense to us, some of your international audience might find them a little confusing. Be direct with your writing, and avoid using colloquialisms and other idioms.

Don’t shift gears.

When a word has more than one meaning, use it in one context only. For example, shift can mean a change in state, a physical movement or a period of work time. Don’t switch back and forth between definitions.

Leave the humor at the door.

It’s hard enough to write humorously in your own language. Don’t press your luck with a global audience. At best, you’ll come across as unfunny — at worst, you could insult your customers.

Keep it universal.

Avoid using symbols that may not have a meaning in other languages, such as $, /, or -. Stick with symbols that are more globally accepted. If you’re not sure, don’t use it, as it’s likely that some of your readers will be confused.

Think outside your office walls.

Inside the office, your brand might describe itself with a series of unique phrases that are specific to corporate culture. However, that kind of language can come across as jargon to those outside the office walls. Be sure to keep your writing direct and to the point.

Mind your Ps and Qs.

Pay attention to currencies, measurements, education levels, and other numerical terminology. Try to avoid using these kinds of phrases wherever possible as they might not translate perfectly from one language to another.

Be complete.

Avoid sentence fragments. Now, connect it. Connect what to what? In your translation memory, this clause may or may not be grammatically correct depending on context. Write complete thoughts cohesively so that nothing gets lost in translation.

Unify global content.

By utilizing a multilingual content management system you can ensure you are unifying your global content and keeping your content consistent no matter what language your audience/customers speak.

Keep it universal.

Avoid using symbols that may not have a meaning in other languages, such as $, /, or -. Stick with symbols that are more globally accepted. If you’re not sure, don’t use it.

Be complete.

Avoid sentence fragments. Now, connect it. Connect what to what? In your translation memory, this clause may or may not be grammatically correct depending on context.

Call us at 717-764-9720 or visit our website for help in getting started with your content management strategy.