How to write texts that are easily translated

To create easily translated content, make sure the text is as clear and direct as possible. This golden rule should be applied regardless of whether the translation is done manually by human professionals or whether it is being send for machine translation and post-editing.

There are a number of strategies that can help with writing a text that is easily translated into other languages, simplifying the process and ensuring the translator(s) are able to achieve a good result more quickly:

1 Write short and simple sentences, maintaining the “basic” subject, verb and object structure – short sentences are easier to interpret and link together in a cohesive text. Also, machine translation tools handle this type of content better, which can make the translator’s job even easier.

2 Use correct punctuation – while context can help us understand the meaning of a sentence, it is often not enough. A simple misplaced comma can completely change the meaning of a sentence: “A panda eats shoots and leaves” is completely different from “A panda eats, shoots and leaves”!

3 Avoid spelling mistakes – this might seem obvious, but typos and spelling mistakes are more common than you might think. And, as with punctuation, they can result in major changes to the meaning and interpretation of the text!

4 Use the active voice – the active voice is easier to translate and interpret than the passive voice. Moreover, sentences written in the active voice are shorter, making the final text more accessible. For example:

“The engineer finished the project on time” (active voice)

“The project was finished on time by the engineer” (passive voice)

5 Avoid jargon and idioms – unless there is a clear creative need, avoid words that refer to specific cultural references in the source language. It is very difficult to translate idioms, popular sayings and phrases designed for other languages, since in most cases there is no direct translation which, consequently, makes it difficult to understand and translate the text.

6 Limit the use of abbreviations and acronyms – they should only be used when absolutely necessary and when their meaning is clear or can at least be translated easily or directly.

7 Proofread the final text – never forget to proofread the final text, if possible more than once and by more than one person to catch any mistakes that are not immediately obvious. During the proofreading process it is usual to find many of the mistakes and errors mentioned above.  Proofreading can also include the visual presentation, the text formatting and support used (file or document format)

The more errors and ambiguities there are in the text, the longer it will take the translator or proofreader to interpret and correct the document, resulting in costly and time-consuming delays. If we take these tips and strategies into consideration when creating the content, we will make the translation service easier, meaning the translator will be able to spend more time producing a high-quality final text that will delight the client.

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