;   Medical Translation Insight: Finally some useful tips on writing for translation - ForeignExchange Translations

Did you know that the way you write your source documents can have a direct impact on how much translations will cost and how long they will take, not to mention the end quality?

English content that is poorly written, full of colloquialisms and complicated grammatical structures take linguists longer to translate, offer less potential for re-use and is less clear to a target audience of non-native English speakers. We've been offering seminars on writing for translation this year and attendees have found many of the best practices worthwhile. So we've decided to share a few tips in this month's newsletter.

When preparing a document to send for translation:
  • Proof for spelling, punctuation, capitalization, section numbering, etc.
  • Check proper names, titles, addresses, and names of divisions/institutions/associations. If these are to be translated, the writer should note this.
  • Clarify "buzz" words and phrases. Eliminate any sentences and words with possible double meanings, or explain them in a short note.
  • Make sure any last-minute author's or editor's changes are legible, clear, and consistent throughout the document.
  • If you are authoring in Word, make sure that any comments or Track Changes have been removed/accepted.
  • Be consistent - chose one capitalization style.
  • Make sure the label in the text matches the button, label, placard, symbol or graphic.
  • Every verb must indicate the doer of the action (active voice).
  • Avoid contractions and apostrophes.
  • Do not invent new terms.
These are only a few tips. There are plenty more (for example, check here and here). Feel free to add your own tips by leaving a comment below.

Let us know if you have questions about writing for translation or if you'd like to attend one of our "Writing for Translation" seminars in the future. Just contact us.


  1. Matt Gredley said...
    From a translator's perspective, clarifying the source document is all well and good, but we must not forget that the document is being written for the readership, not for the translator. Buzz words are perfectly appropriate if they are meaningful to the intended audience. The document shouldn't necessarily be dumbed down for the benefit of the translator, but rather the author should be prepared to explain the terminology to the translator. In other words, the author and translator should be prepared to work as a team.

    I am intrigued by the increasing usage of "linguist" when talking about translators - is this a peculiarity of the US industry? To my mind (I'm a practicing translator) the two are entirely different occupations.

    mattgred@ozemail.com.au, Sydney, Australia
    Nenad said...
    I totally agree with your tips and I will always choose professional human translator.

    It is hard to program a computer that will understand a text as a person does and therefore provide quality translation. Translator machine must have in-depth knowledge of the grammar, semantics, syntax, idioms, etc., of the source language and I think that no modern service can provide that.
    VesnaB said...
    Below is the link to an excellent research article re health information articles disseminated for translation in major community languages in Sydney, Australia. And yes, it is not only about writing in plain English , neither it is about patronising the target audience. How much of an assumed knowledge we decide to aportion the readership is another matter.

    "Clear English for Translation: A report on a quantitative survey"
    Anne Burns, Mira Kim. Worth chacking out www.plainenglish foundation.com
    Anonymous said...
    Thanks VesnaB, I'm checking that article out.



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