Write and Design With Localization in Mind – Part II

welocalize October 26, 2021

Developing localization-ready source content results in a faster, more efficient, higher-quality, and lower-cost localization process. Knowing why you should write and design with localization in mind is important (see Write and Design With Localization in Mind – Part I). The next question is how. Here are some best practices you can apply when you create content.

Keep It Clear and Simple

Writing in a simple, clear, and concise style simplifies and speeds up translation. And since translation work often charges based on word count, you also save on cost. These are some tips on how to write simply and clearly:

  • Choose the simplest words. For example, write “use” instead of “utilize.” Avoid compound verbs, such as “make use” when you can just write “use.”
  • Keep sentences short. Long, complex sentences can be confusing to translate. They could also turn out much longer once translated. So break up long sentences into two sentences. Avoid fillers, such as “due to the fact.”
  • Use active voice. This makes it easier for translators to identify the subject of the sentence.
  • Clarify antecedents. When it’s not clear which noun a pronoun refers to, just use the noun again. Or rephrase the sentence to be clear.
  • Spell out acronyms and abbreviations. These don’t translate well, so define them. Or at least define them in the first instance.
  • Avoid homonyms. These are words with double meanings. For example, “once” can mean both “after” and “one time.”
  • Avoid cultural references. These could be a historical event, a national holiday, or a pop culture reference. If you can’t translate them or they don’t apply to other countries, don’t use them.
  • Don’t use humor, idioms, slang, or anecdotes. They may not have a counterpart in another culture. These can be misunderstood, or worse, offend. Drop them.
  • Use standard formats. Currencies, numbers, and dates have different formats in different regions. For developing websites, use standard formats, such as ISO time, epoch time, or UTC to store them. You can also use libraries, such as Date.js or Moment.js that automatically format each locale and convert to the right time format.

Be Consistent

Using the same words and writing style is an efficient way to translate. It makes your terminology and style consistent across content types, from your marketing collateral to your technical manuals. These are some ways to do this:

  • Use translation memories (TMs). These are words and phrases that have already been translated and stored for reuse. Translators don’t have to start from scratch. And their translations will be consistent every time the same word or phrase is used.
  • Use a glossary. Your industry or field may have its unique terminology. A glossary guides your content writers to use the same terms consistently.
  • Have brand guidelines. A brand style guide helps your writers, designers, and translators stick to your brand voice, tone, and style.
  • Use a style guide. Make sure your content developers follow the same standards for writing, formatting, and designing your documents and content assets.

Design for a Global Audience

Keep in mind that your original English content may look a lot different when translated. It’s important to be flexible with your design, formatting, and layout, whether it’s your website or documents. These are some things to consider:

  • Allow for text expansion. Text translated to languages, such as Spanish, German, Italian, and French, are much longer. They can extend outside of a menu, button, table, or page in the original layout. Allow for more white space to accommodate text expansion.
  • Make fonts legible. Avoid ornate fonts that are hard to read when translated. Allow for larger font sizes to make words in Chinese or Japanese, for instance, easy to read.
  • Use the right character encoding. Different languages use different characters. Websites and web applications use character encoding to convert text data to binary numbers. Without this, the text is confusing, with annoying question marks and squares. The standard is Unicode, specifically UTF-8, however, for longer Asian languages, UTF-16 is better.
  • Plan for directionality. Some scripts go from right to left, such as Japanese and Arabic. Consider designing for both text directions for websites and documents.
  • Choose appropriate visuals. Be careful with images, colors, and symbols that aren’t neutral or culturally appropriate. Some may have a different meaning or offensive connotation.
  • Separate text from graphics. Technical documents, such as manuals, use a lot of graphics, charts, and screenshots. This can be a problem when the visuals contain text. You may have to recreate them. So, it’s best to keep them separate. If you can’t do this, at least provide editable files.

Other Best Practices

There are many other ways you can write and design with localization in mind. Keep these other tips at the forefront:

  • Give context. Provide context information and reference materials to your translation team. Give them early access to source and reference files.
  • Test early and often. You shouldn’t wait until your website or app is complete before translating. Use machine translation in the meantime, so you can see how the content would look in different languages. This way, the actual localization process will be faster and easier.
  • Partner with an LSP. Work closely with a language service provider (LSP) from the start. Share the same resources with your LSP, from glossaries and translation memories to style guides and reference materials.

Further Reading:

Blog: Write and Design with Localization in Mind – Part I

Welocalize Guide: Write + Design with Localization in Mind

Welocalize can help you optimize source content and improve workflows with our project managers and translation teams. We can even create your source content from scratch, including transcreation, for digital marketing campaigns. Find out how we can work together to write and design content ready for localization.