Many people think that localization is mainly connected with translation. But not only with that. Technical writing may be closely related to it as well. In this post, we will try to figure out why.

Localization, in this case, is the adaptation of your documentation to the culture of the targeting country. It is a bridge between the cultures. Yes, if your product is going to enter the market in another country, you should write in a manner that will enable the translators to make your texts suitable for foreign culture. This is an additional responsibility for technical writers. It might seem surprising for someone but localization takes place not only when we talk about cultures as different as Europe and Asia. Localization takes place as well in the documents that come from the USA to Great Britain and vise versa, or Spanish speaking countries, etc. The language might be the same but due to local particularities, it needs adaptation.

Localization in documentation may touch only the most obvious things like date format, currency, measurements, and other small inconsistencies. At the same time, localization may have a deeper character adapting more global things like the questions of rhetoric.

So, what should a technical writer bear in mind writing documentation for a foreign market?

  • Additional space. As a rule, companies want the documents in different languages to be identical and to look the same. It is easier for the readers to navigate and find the page or passage they need. This is a challenging thing to make the documents identical. You should be ready that your text in another language may become longer. Sometimes, this difference may be crucial. The text simply will not fit the layout. The best idea is to use additional space in the original document so that the new text does not ruin the whole document.
  • Wise font choice. Fonts are not universal for all the languages. Not all fonts are suitable for Asian languages, for example. The same can be said about many other languages. So, to avoid problems here you should choose your fonts carefully. Make sure that your fonts are suitable for all the languages that are going to be used in your documents. Besides, you should limit the number of fonts you use for documentation. This will contribute to simplicity as well.
  • Careful use of abbreviations and acronyms. They both can be a stumbling point of translators and technical communicators. A correct way out is to use the full version when they are going to be mentioned in the text for the first time. Then you can use the short version.
  • Separate use of text and visuals. When visuals contain text, that might be a problem. Technical writers or translators will have to prepare new ones with the proper text. Again that might affect the layout if the size of the visuals is wrong. It is better to avoid it and separate the visual materials from the text.
  • Attention to detail. One should keep in mind that the smallest details may affect the image of the product. For example, the choice of colors. In different cultures, they are perceived differently and have different meanings.

Poor localization spoils the image of the product on the market and creates a feeling of awkwardness. It all starts with misunderstanding between the cultures. That is a great deal of work to represent the product in the correct way and if you are going to create documentation that will be translated into other languages, you can improve the results greatly if you know what may cause problems.

Have a nice day!

Bradley Nice, Content Manager at — best online documentation tool for SaaS vendors

Bradley Nice


Bradley Nice

Content Manager at 👈. I write about web design, web development and technical writing. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook
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