Preparing Technical Documentation for Translation
by Bradley Nice, Content Manager at ClickHelp — all-in-one help authoring tool
When creating content, there are many things to consider to make it consistent and easy to digest. Usually, translating is at the end of the list of things during the process.
So if you start thinking about translations before creating your source document, you are a true professional. Such forward-thinking pays off because translation-friendly writing has two main advantages:
- It improves the quality of your translation
- It lowers the cost of the translation and makes your translation faster
The question is — how to write a translation-friendly document? Well, I have some tips for you in that case.
- Write simply. Wordy writing gets in the way of clarity. Wordiness also has a price tag. The more text you write, the more text you need to maintain and translate. So, avoid bloated, multi-word expressions, like “due to the fact that” (instead of “because”), redundant expressions, pompous writing, repetition, meaningless modifiers are words that can often be deleted with no loss in meaning or clarity, e.g., practically, virtually, very, really …
- Be repetitive. If you write consistently, the re-use rate of your translation memory will increase, which in turn will result in lower translation costs. Consistency becomes even more critical when you are using machine translation. You can write consistently by avoiding synonyms and being consistent in capitalization, spacing, formatting, and sentence structure.
- Write clearly. If you leave room for ambiguity, there is always a chance that the meaning will be lost, that your reader will be confused, and will interpret your content the way you didn’t intend. One way to prevent ambiguity from intruding into your document is by avoiding long noun strings.
- Avoid cultural references. Humor and cultural references rarely translate well. What may seem like a good laugh in one language can be offensive in another part of the world. To make your text translation-friendly, the safest bet is to eliminate those concepts that will not likely translate and replace them with universal ideas.
- Avoid jargon. Idioms are groups of words with a meaning that isn’t obvious from looking at the individual words. A phrase that is a typically American idiom may confuse other parts of the world.
- Proofread. By proofreading your text, you can clear it of basic errors such as typos, missing words, etc., that may serve as distractions to readers. Reading the text aloud is also a good way of determining whether it has a good flow. In addition, it also helps get a second pair of eyes to look through the text, as our eyes tend to miss our own mistakes. Having someone else read through your text can also help identify parts that could use more elaboration or simpler language.
As you can see, some of these tips coincide with the rules of writing good technical documentation. And this is not a coincidence. Every good text follows the same rules, so it shouldn’t create any difficulties with content that needs to be translated.
Have a nice day!
Bradley Nice, Content Manager at ClickHelp.com — best online documentation tool for SaaS vendors