Introduction

Lately, controlling translation costs has become just as important as ensuring translation accuracy. Consequently, writing for successful translation involves carefully planning your source content so you can more easily convey the same message across languages and cultures while staying on budget. As a content author, when you provide the concept and source files to a translator, he / she must take time to fully comprehend the meaning of your content and determine how to replicate the tone in another language. There are numerous steps involved with preparing your files for translation, including securing qualified translators, proofreading, formatting and ensuring quality control. To help you improve translation quality, reduce costs and shorten timelines, we’ve prepared a guide to aid in the creation of content for translations that are compatible with Computer-Aided Translation (CAT) tools.

Content check

First and foremost, create content that is relevant to your audience.

According to a Content Marketing Institute survey, ~90% of B2B companies use content marketing, but fewer than half are “very successful” at it. A DemandGen report also reveals ~50% of B2B buyers rely on content to support their buying decisions. Thus, it is critical to generate content with the following tips in mind:
  • Keep your audience in mind: A LinkedIn survey reveals the number-one attribute that makes content effective is relevance, so always keep your audience in mind. Are you targeting a prospect, a lead or a customer? Address their specific needs and provide next steps that seamlessly advance them through the sales funnel.

  • Make your content stand out: Create content from a unique perspective and focus on trendy topics or real-life examples to help accentuate your message. Also, don’t be afraid to repurpose good content you may have previously developed.

  • Read your work out loud: Reading your content aloud lets your brain automatically catch grammatical errors, ensure the point of the content comes across clearly and confirm the message is relatable. 

  • Take a break: If you have been working on a piece of content for a while, take a break. When we get “too close” to our content, we often miss errors we’d normally catch with a fresh pair of eyes. For example, if you mistype ‘liaise’ as ‘liase’, your brain may fill in the missing ‘i’ and you will miss the spelling error. A good trick is to take a break, and when you return, copy / paste your writing into a new format. The combination of a rested brain and looking at the content in a new format will help you catch mistakes. 

  • Have the facts: Facts mentioned in your content must be accurate, especially names, brands and dates. Including incorrect facts reflects negatively on you and your company.

Grammar check

Grammar mistakes are very common and can severely impact your content quality. They often go unnoticed and require careful attention to identify and correct. Here are some tips to help you catch grammatical mistakes:

  • Use the “backward” trick: Proofreading backward is ideal for checking spelling and punctuation because you view the words outside their normal context. Start reading at the end of the document and continue reading to the beginning, correcting mistakes as you find them.

  • Ensure the subject agrees with the acting verb
    Correct: “The trees (subject) sway (verb) in the wind”.
    Incorrect: “The trees sways in the wind”.

  • Confirm your pronouns support the right nouns
    Correct: “The company exceeded revenue expectations for the year, thus it gave all employees 100% of their bonuses.” g “Company” (noun) is represented by “it” (pronoun), and “employees” (noun) is represented by “their” (pronoun)
     Incorrect: “The company exceeded revenue expectations for the year, thus they gave all employees 100% of everyone’s bonuses.” g “Company” (noun) does not agree with “they” (pronoun), and “employees” (noun) does not agree with “everyone”.

Sentence check

Here are few tips for perfect sentence structuring:

  • Avoid sentence fragments and use independent clauses properly: In a sentence, independent clauses can stand on their own; however, sentence fragments cannot.
      Correct: “Scientists report no human deaths due to excessive caffeine consumption, although caffeine does cause convulsions and death in certain animals.”
     Incorrect: “Scientists report no human deaths due to excessive caffeine consumption. Although caffeine does cause convulsions and death in certain animals”. This example incorrect because the second sentence cannot stand alone / is clearly dependent on the first sentence.


  • Avoid faulty parallelism: Parallelism is when two or more parts of a sentence are roughly the same in meaning and parallel in form / grammatical structure. You should avoid faulty parallelism, which is when two or more parts of a sentence are roughly the same, yet they do not have parallel grammatical structures.  
    Correct: “The candidate’s goals include winning the election, enacting a national health program and improving the educational system.”
    Incorrect: “The candidate’s goals include winning the election, a national health program and the educational system.” This is incorrect because it lacks parallel verb format.


  • Avoid using lengthy sentences: Too many weighted phrases and lengthy clauses can make a sentence confusing and tiresome. Make sure your sentences are clear, concise and punctuated properly.

  • Avoid choppy sentences: Do you use a lot of short phrases? Do they make your document difficult to understand because they interrupt the flow of meaning? If so, you may be using choppy sentences, which should be avoided.
     

Spell check

Here are some points that will help ensure you use the proper words to convey the proper meaning:

  • Focus on each and every word: When proofreading, do not skip sections of sentences because the first few words convey the meaning of the sentence. Read everything so as not to miss spelling errors.

  • Double-check homonyms: “Bear” and “bare” are two different words with two different meanings, but when read aloud they sound the same. Slow down and determine if the word you are using is correct for the sentence.

  • Be aware of “demon” words: These are words about which you often confuse usage, spelling, etc. Pay particular attention to them. 
    - Common “demon” words: necessary, recommend, separate, a lot, all right, judgment, truly, restaurant, eighth, twelfth, etc

  • Prefixes, suffixes, double letters and dropped letters: These are often irregular word forms that can be tricky. 
    - Examples of prefix, suffix and double-letter words: unnecessary, disappoint, disappear, granddaughter, occurred, written, beginning and finally
    - Examples of words with dropped letters: writing, forty, lonely and believable 

  • Use correct plural forms: The plural form of some words can be confusing. For example, the plural of “deer” does not have an ‘s’ but ‘s can be used to indicate possession. Using that example in a sentence correctly could look like this: “The deer gathered near the pond to drink water but the little deer’s mother was missing.”

  • Ask for help: It is alright to ask another person to check your work. Seek the help of a second set of eyes to make sure your content is correct and clear.

Punctuation check

How hard it is to read this really long tiring sentence if I do not add punctuation to it You should to avoid these – How difficult was that to read and understand? You probably read it twice. Here are some tips to avoid sentences like these in your content:

  • Use the apostrophe: An apostrophe can connect sentence fragments and add a flowing tone to the content.

  • Be careful of comma use: Commas are normally used during a clausal or a syntactical indication. Most editors and proofreaders miss this. The best way to determine comma use is to read aloud. If you pause between any two phrases, it might be missing a comma. 

  • Add quotation marks with care: Dialogue and emphasis are areas where proofreaders will often find errors. Some writers choose to use a single inverted quotation mark to indicate speech, while most use the more standard double-inverted quotation marks. When proofreading, watch for the common mistake of switching between the two. Punctuation must be consistent throughout the text. 

  • Capitalize properly: All proper nouns must be capitalized, as should the first letter of every sentence. Never capitalize the beginning of every word in a sentence.
    Correct: Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes in North America. My dog loves swimming in the lake during the warm summer months.
    Incorrect: Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes in North America. My dog loves swimming in the Lake during the warm summer months. 

    Incorrect: Never Capitalize The Beginning Of Each Word Like This.

  • Never forget a period at the end of a sentence.
     

File and format check

Not all file types and formats are compatible with CAT environments, and that an impact translation quality and costs. Below are some points to consider when creating and designing your content:

  • Avoid using PDF files as source documents: Instead, provide the original file formats in which the content was created. PDF files cannot be processed directly in CAT tools and must be converted to another format (e.g., Word) before translation and editing. This is done to correct formatting deficiencies that may affect translation memory (TM) tools. The time needed to perform this conversion can result in additional project costs and delay the start of the translation process.

  • Plan copy layouts with the printed format in mind: Properly planning your print layout before you start creating copy can simplify the writing process and reduce the project management costs. If the layout includes color palettes, ensure you leave enough room to accommodate text expansion and graphics. Text length will expand for some languages and contract for others. This can impact the font sizes and page margins you select, as well as the space available for graphics. For example, Chinese characters become illegible at six-point font.

  • Be cautious of screenshots: If your content includes screenshots, the English copy within them cannot be accessed for translation. Thus, unless you translate the webpage first and provide new screenshots in the correct language, English copy will be locked into your graphics. If you must use pre-existing graphics, see if your translator can recommend a solution, such as a reference table, to help readers understand the meaning of all graphics.

  • Apply the rule of thirds: Keep your content length to two thirds of each page. That way, the number of pages in the source and translated documents will be the same, even for longrunning languages.  Use preset program functions: If you need to use page breaks, indentation or numbered lists, use the automated functions available in Word. Often, the lenght of content will be different after translation, and manual page breaks will usually not remain in their original location. Manually indenting text with spaces or tabs and manually numbering lists can cause confusion when working with translation tools; therefore, these manual elements may not be reflected in the final translation.

  • Use automatic syllable separation instead of hyphens: Normal hyphens are recognized as additional characters in a word and are displayed as such in the translation. This means two things: 1) The translation unit stored in the TM will not give a 100% match if the same sentence occurs without a hyphen, and 2) The automatic terminology detection will not display a match from the terminology database since the naming was separated by an incorrect character.

  • Consider the file size of documents (especially Word documents): Very large files can cause problems when being imported into CAT tools. Files should be no larger than 10 MB. Some Word elements, such as text boxes or SmartArt, increase file size and do not display well in all CAT tools, so only use them when necessary.

Final tips

  • Work when you are rested and refreshed: Content writing is a detail-oriented, skilled process that can be taxing on the mind. Make sure you take breaks and refresh your mind in order to avoid making mistakes. The best time to work is when you are energetic and wide awake.

  • Slow and steady wins the race: Even if your deadline seems distant, start your project in advance so you have ample time to complete your work, revise it and rest before the next project.

  • Track and learn from your mistakes: Make note of your mistakes to avoid repeating them in future projects.

Conclusion

Too often translation project costs run unnecessarily high, and the quality of the finished product is compromised because the final translation format was not considered when preparing and writing the original content.  Apply the checklists in this guide to your content planning and creation processes and share it with your team of authors to help reduce errors and stay on budget. If you are happy with the results, share them with us!

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