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Writing for Translations: 5 Tips for Clear Communication

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Verity Hartley at LanguageWire Verity Hartley , Marketing Specialist, LanguageWire ||  Reading Time: 3 minutes

"The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place." - George Bernard Shaw

We all want to be understood when we communicate. Whether in our working or personal lives, clear communication makes life easier for everyone.

When it comes to translating our ideas and content it is vitally important that we are clear in our meaning. When writing for translation this is extra important as you need to not only be clear in your ideas for your reader, but also for the person doing the translation.

This is doubly true when using machine translations as a computer may not be able to identify a double meaning in the way a human expert could.

So, starting from a point of clarity in your writing is always a good start. With this in mind, here are some useful tips on preparing your content to get the best out of your translations. 

Keep it Simple

A good tip for any kind of writing is to not overcomplicate the topic. Make sure you outline your writing plan before you put pen to paper so that your thoughts are clear.

Avoid using idioms, colloquialisms, or industry-specific jargon that may not translate well. Instead, opt for simple, direct language that gets your message across without confusion.

As a result, translators won't have to fight with challenging language or complex ideas to faithfully translate your message into other languages.

Obviously, with some technical and very specialised content, it will not always be possible to avoid complex terms or phrases. Therefore, it is essential you work with a translator who is also a specialist in your field for these topics.

Write in the Active Voice

The active voice is more direct and clearer than the passive voice. It makes it easier for translators and readers to understand the subject and action in a sentence as well as who is doing what to whom. This can help prevent mistakes and confusion when translating.

For example, writing the sentence, "The dog chased the cat" in the active voice is clearer and easier to understand than "The cat was chased by the dog" which is in the passive voice.

The active voice will keep your readers on the page longer than an article filled with passive sentences as it is much more engaging and interesting to read.

Avoid Ambiguity

Ambiguity can lead to misunderstandings. Speak clearly with your writing and don't attempt to hide your meaning under weak or vague statements.

Your translator will be forced to try and interpret your actual meaning if you do not speak plainly. They could take your meaning in a different direction and turn a positive message into a more negative-sounding tone.

However, if it is your intention to remain ambiguous on certain topics then you should at least leave some notes for your translator to guide the tone of the message.

Good writing should be clear and concise and leave little ambiguity about meaning.

Use Consistent Terminology

When writing for translations, it's important to use consistent terminology throughout your text. Constantly switching terms can leave a reader confused and make a translator's job quite difficult.

Certain words may have several synonyms, for example, a car can also be called an automobile and even within the same language they could even have different meanings. Thongs, for example, are very different in Australian than in British/American English.

If you use words with several meanings make sure you are clear about your intended meaning of the word. Communicate this clearly with your translator, or better still, use a Termbase to keep a controlled list of words you would like to use in all your content.

Work with a Translation Professional

If you're writing for translations, it's essential to work with a professional translator who has experience in your industry and can provide accurate translations. This will help ensure that your message is conveyed correctly and that your text is translated in a way that is easy to understand.

Translators can do far more than simply translate your words if they fully understand your content's intention. They can provide a second pair of eyes on your work and in the cases of creative translation, even rewrite your copy to achieve the best fit in your target languages.

Be Clear and Concise When Writing for Translations

Overall, writing for translations is all about being clear, consistent, and specific. Hopefully, by following some of these tips, you can ensure that your message is conveyed correctly allowing your text to be translated in a way that is easy to understand.

Whether you are creating a marketing campaign, website, or any other document for a multilingual audience, writing with clarity will help you achieve success in your spreading as well as translating your message.

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