Why do you need a translation style guide?

How can you ensure your brand image remains consistent when translating content for the global marketplace? Many businesses use style guides to create English language content, but they may not realize the importance of developing one for their translated content. A translation style guide establishes style and tone, grammatical conventions, and terminology for maintaining your company’s voice and image in multilingual materials.

What are the benefits of a translation style guide?

  • Reducing time spent answering queries regarding terminology, style, localizable elements (i.e.: phone numbers, currency, abbreviations, measurements), and contextual meanings.
  • Ensuring a smoother review process by providing proofreaders and editors with an evaluation framework. This can save time and money by reducing the number of preferential changes and revisions during the review process.
  • Improving consistency and quality by identifying and standardizing the terminology or branding elements that should be employed by linguists across languages.

What should I include in my style guide?

A translation style guide should be concise. If possible, it should include relevant examples for each language pair from previous translation projects.  Some companies may choose to prepare a general style guide for all languages. Others may elect to create a style guide for each target language. A translation style guide should include each of the following:

  • Information on the target audience, such as nationality, age, and reading level
  • Instructions for style and tone: Should the translator use a formal or informal tone? Should linguists find equivalents for cultural references? Is the style of writing more technical or more creative?
  • Grammatical conventions including punctuation, capitalization, syntax, and spelling.
  • Conventions for localizing date and time formats, currency, measurements, numbers, and addresses.
  • Terminology and branding guidelines including company, industry, and audience-specific terms that must be translated consistently or remain in English, and conventions for acronyms and abbreviations.
  • Reference materials, either internal or external.

How can I leverage my style guide?

Share the translation style guide with everyone involved in the translation and localization process, from content stakeholders and copywriters to translators and reviewers.  It should become an invaluable tool that is integrated into every step of content creation. However, remember that the guide is not a static document. As your brand and services evolve, update it to reflect any changes.  Incorporate feedback from translators, reviewers, and project managers; the style guide should reflect an ongoing dialogue with your translation partners as your company’s global presence matures.

When used in tandem with translation memories, glossaries, and quality assurance tools, the translation style guide can increase translator productivity, streamline the review process, and reduce costs. Most importantly, consistent use of your style guide helps assure that your brand continues to resonate with your target audience.

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