Successful translation is one of the things that may help the product smoothly enter the foreign market. But you are wrong if you think that the quality of translation depends on the translator only. It depends on the quality of the whole text as well. Being a technical writer you can influence the quality of translation thus taking care of the image of your product on the foreign market.

Let`s see how to prepare the documents for translation:

  • Simplify your sentences. If the structure of your sentences is simple, it is easier to translate your text. Be careful with the use of complex and compound constructions. Sometimes, they seem to be wordy and clumsy even to native speakers. It may be challenging for the translator to work with texts like that. As a result, end-users will get a document of poor quality.
  • Be consistent. Some things in the technical world may have several wordings. You should define at the very beginning what terms you are going to use. Once chosen do not change them. Unprepared translators and readers may not be ready for that. Your documentation will not benefit in this case.
  • Use similar constructions and structures. Once the translator gets used to your choice of constructions and structures, the process of translation will become easier. The same can be said about the readers. Once they get used to your style, your document seems to be easier to understand.

  • Create a glossary. If you have to use specific terms in your text and you cannot substitute them, it is a great idea to create a glossary. Just take the most important and widely-used terms in your sphere and explain them. This will help a translator make the text accurate, understandable, and clear. Most probably you will use this glossary for many purposes. Let`s say when you give instructions to your less experienced colleagues.
  • Avoid ambiguity. Make sure that all the passages, sentences, constructions, and words in your text create no ambiguity. If the source text is not clear enough, the translation will hardly be clear and full of sense.
  • Avoid humor, cultural traits, idioms. All those things may cause problems. Not only in translation but in understanding the text as well. What is allowed in one culture may be prohibited in another. What is funny in one culture may seem odd in another. Not all idioms may have an adequate equivalent in the translation language. Your aim is to be clear and concise. The above-mentioned things do not contribute to it.

These are the main things you should pay attention to while preparing your docs for translation. For more information, you can check my recent post ‘Localization in Technical Writing’. Localization is closely connected with translation and aimed at neutralization of cultural characteristics of texts. I hope both posts will give you a good idea of how to write documents for foreign end-users.

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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