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8 Ways Translation Errors Can Ruin Your Content
(and How to Avoid Them)

A person realising they have made a mistake

Verity Hartley at LanguageWire Verity Hartley , Marketing Specialist, LanguageWire ||  Reading Time: 5 minutes

We all strive to achieve excellence when managing our translation projects. The hard truth is that mistakes are part of the process and as much as we try to avoid translation errors they can, and will, slip into our content.

Both human and machine translations can contain errors either generated by a misunderstanding of the source material or a mistake in the translation process.

However, we can manage the quantity and frequency of mistakes made by first recognising the common types of errors and by adhering to strict quality rules.

Keep reading to learn more about the more frequent translation errors you might encounter and look at some of the best ways to eliminate them. 

Objective Errors vs Subjective Errors

When reviewing translations, you may encounter two different types of errors: objective and subjective.

Objective errors are those which are beyond argument and can be clearly seen as mistakes, such as spelling or grammatical errors.

Subjective errors may encourage a little more debate between parties and are not always as clear-cut. These include different types of mistranslations, or style guides not being correctly used.

Both types of errors will affect the overall linguistic quality of your content and ultimately the understanding of your meaning by your readers.

A button with oops on it

Common Translation Errors

A translation error is when the source and target texts do not align after a translation is complete. They can be created by machines and humans alike.

Translation errors can be costly, embarrassing and even potentially harmful, which is why it is essential to have rigorous quality protocols in place. The following is a list of some of the most frequent translation errors both subjective and objective that should be picked up in any post-editing validation of your content.


Mistranslation occurs when a word or phrase is translated inaccurately. They can happen for a myriad of reasons including misreading the source material or a lack of understanding of the subject area.

This can result in confusion, misunderstandings, and even harm especially in industries that require technical translations.


Omissions occur when important information is left out or skipped by the translator during the translation process. This can result in missing details and inaccuracies which could completely change the meaning of the final message.

Culture Differences

Cultural differences can also lead to translation errors, especially when translating idioms, colloquialisms, and expressions. Without an expert understanding of cultural nuances and context, a translation may not be able to accurately convey the intended meaning of a text.

No Reference Materials

The absence of reference materials, such as glossaries, dictionaries, and style guides, can also lead to translation errors. Translators need access to these resources to ensure consistency and coherence in their translations, especially when working with companies that have a fixed term base.

Typos and Grammatical Errors

Typos and grammatical errors can be easily overlooked during the translation process, especially if the translator is not an expert in one of the language pairs. However, these simple errors can undermine the credibility of the translated text and negatively impact brand image and credibility if not caught prior to publication.

Spacing & Layout

Languages take up different amounts of space on a page. Inadequate attention to spacing and layout can also lead to translation errors. In some languages, the spacing between words and sentences can affect the meaning of the text, and an incorrect layout can make the translated text difficult to read as well as understand.


In some languages, capitalization rules are different, and it is important to ensure that the target text is correctly formatted. Incorrect capitalization could potentially change the meaning of the text, leading to confusion and misinterpretation.

Limited Post-Editing

Limited post-editing, or the lack of thorough review and revision of the translated text, can result in missed errors, inconsistencies, and inaccuracies. Post-editing is essential to ensure the quality and accuracy of the translated text.

No Validation

Finally, the absence of validation, or the lack of a final quality check by a native speaker of the target language, can result in errors and inaccuracies in the translated text. Validation is essential to ensure that the final content is accurate and free of all types of errors before it is published.

How To Avoid Translation Errors

As we stated at the start, you can never avoid 100% of mistakes every time. But there are things that you can do to mitigate the number of translation errors in your content so you can edge as close as possible to the goal of perfection.

Make the Source Material Clear

A lack of clarity in your source materials will make it more difficult to achieve a perfect-quality translation. Ensure that you write clearly and without ambiguity to make it easier for a translator to fully grasp your meaning. We have some additional tips on clearly writing for communications in another blog post.

Give Clear Accessible Guidelines

Make sure that your translator has access to all the reference materials that they may need including any company style and language guidelines that may affect the tone of voice of the content. Ensure they can easily access your translation memory database and any termbases you may already have.

Proofread and Validate Translations

A second expert pair of eyes is by far the best way to catch any errors you may have in your content. Proofreaders can spot errors in translation or layout and a native-speaking validator can identify any localization errors.

These are essential steps in the process if you want the highest level of quality assurance.

Keep Common Translation Errors Under Control

Inevitably, mistakes will creep into our content if we are not vigilant. By working with professional translators, proofreaders and validators you can minimise their impact on your translations.

Taking these steps will ensure the accuracy and quality of your translations enabling you to get the right message out to your global audiences.

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