Writing with translation in mind
Writing for different language communities
Brief the translators on the target audience.
Please let the translators know what audience you are running the website for so that they can adapt the translation style accordingly. Some languages make distinctions between younger/older, general/specialist ... audiences.
Write neutral text which needs minimum localisation.
Information specific to one language or country often needs localisation, i.e. customisation for the specific language community concerned. Translators will have to adapt this kind of information for the language community they are addressing. For convenience, avoid local references where possible, especially if you are not intending to put your text onto your site in every official language.
If you need to localise, please always notify translators in advance which parts of your content have been localised.
How to proceed? Two possibilities:
- Once you have finalised your original text and created a file for each language (see also below), insert the words you want directly in the relevant place in the corresponding language version.
- If your text includes a list of several examples (e.g. of projects in different Member States), give priority to the information of interest to a particular target language community by putting it first in the list in the relevant language version.
If you just need to replace a language or country name with that of the target audience, you can ask the translator to do it for you.
Write addresses in their original language where possible and not in the language of your document. The same applies to proper names. It is rather difficult and time-consuming for a translator to find out the original name of a company, an organisation or a brand. The best approach is to give both, a description combined with the proper name.
Describe link contents rather than giving proper website names only. Remember that what is common sense in one language area can be completely unknown in another. Example: "Bundestag" could read "German Parliament (Bundestag)" or Bundestag (German Parliament).
Keep it short and simple. Remember that each page may be translated into over twenty-three languages, which will multiply any shortcomings (errors, excessive amounts of text, etc.) by the same factor. See the IPG recommendations on web writing or any of these style guides).
Dos and Don'ts
- Contact the Directorate-General for Translation (DGT) as early as possible so that when planning your project you can take account of the period required for translation.
- When you send your content for translation, try to also send all navigation elements, links, etc. at the same time, as these are difficult to translate later out of context.
- Provide the DGT with as many references as possible (documents and/or URLs) to help translators to understand the text and improve text quality.
- When making a Poetry request, specify clearly where the text is to be posted, i.e. give the full URL (http://europa.eu/...)
- Give the DGT maximum instructions on text formatting, taking over any underlined text, adapting URLs, and page layout. This will greatly help to get the text properly formatted.
- Rework the translation documents (ex: to ensure the translation coherence with the pages already online).
- Be consistent on your site (terms/expressions used, etc.)
- Mix languages on one page except in very specific cases, i.e. when the home page is also used to announce daily news on the site or news connected with the domain covered by the site.