How to improve translations: create a style guide

Much like a brand style guide, a translation style guide will help you improve the quality and consistency of your translations. The guide should spell out your organization’s preferred language elements, such as voice, tone and syntax. Your translation team should work with you, and, if possible, a team of key bilingual employees, to develop this guide, which will ensure consistency in style and language.

Ideally, a style guide should include a glossary of key industry terms.

Glossaries, which can range from a single Excel sheet to an expansive database, ensure that the most important terms that your organization uses are translated consistently and correctly, eliminating confusion and time wasted making corrections.

Don’t reinvent the wheel

Big organizations have gone to considerable expense to create style guides that are freely available online. Save time and expense by using an existing translation guide as a reference. Examples:

  • Mail Chimp Writing for Translation Guide
  • Microsoft Translation Guides
  • The World Bank Translation Style Guide

Even basic information about your audience, mission and preferences can help your translators make effective choices. The more your translators make good choices, the more your translations will fit with your overall mission while serving your audience’s needs.

3 steps to a quick style guide

The idea of creating a translation style guide may sound long and laborious. But you don’t need to create a beast. Instead, opt for a simple three-step process that encourages consistency, without endless pages on grammar and punctuation.

Take it one step at a time. Your translators need to know:

  1. Why do you want your content translated?
    Your answer guides your translation team. For example, content that persuades has a different tone than content that informs. Tone affects language and style and the final translation. To determine your why, use a “know-think-feel-do” framework:
    • Know: What is the main concept you want your audience to know about your nonprofit?
    • Think: What do you want them to think about your nonprofit?
    • Feel: How do you want them to feel about your nonprofit?
    • Do: What actions do you want them to take?
  2. Whom are these translations for?
    Is your information for people who are new to your services? Is your content for people who don’t know you at all? These details help your translators explain concepts, make good word choices and adapt vocabulary. Your audience information doesn’t have to be extensive. It can simply include:
    • Age
    • Gender
    • Socioeconomic status or background
    • Main struggle in life
    • Main reason for using your nonprofit’s service
    • Even this small snapshot lets translators hone their “voice” to make the translations more engaging for your audience.
  3. How should the translations be written?
    Your guidelines should reflect your nonprofit’s brand to ensure consistency and quality.
    • Tone: Are your texts informal or formal? What literacy or grade level are you aiming for?
    • Brand: What elements from your branding should translators be aware of?
    • Glossary of titles and programs: Consistently translated titles of your departments and programs.
    • Glossary of language unique to your industry and organization: Identify key words, terms and phrases to prevent confusion about your internal organizational structure.

Read our Guide to Great Content and Translations for Nonprofits for more tips and ideas.

2018-01-29T14:47:44+00:00 Tips|