Writing is a snap. Well, it can be. Take the easiest, most enjoyable type of writing: Sharing a simple message to a like-minded, familiar audience — an American whitewater kayaker, for example, relaying a story of his latest trip down the Upper Yough Sand Run to another East Coast kayaker, perhaps on an online kayak forum, or via email.
In this situation, there is not only no pressure to perform (i.e., gain business or attract customers) but you are writing for a reader with similiar background, interests, and linguistic/cultural perspective as your own.
What if… this were not the case? What if you knew the content you were creating was not only required to have impact in your own language market, but also might eventually (perhaps sooner rather than later) be translated for another?
Do not fear. Follow the five tips for developing global-friendly content, and you’ll make the translation process smoother than, well, that whitewater kayak ride.
The following tips are adapted from our Top 10 Tips on Developing and Managing International Content.
- Follow writing best practices.
- Write short, clear sentences.
- Limit dependent clauses. One thought per sentence helps translators and increases savings from translation memory matches.
- Avoid idiomatic expressions. These are easily misinterpreted.
- Avoid cultural references — like sports metaphors or quotations from literary or pop icons — as these often do not work across cultures.
- Make sure symbols are internationally recognized. Don’t assume that a symbol (i.e. a stop sign) has the same meaning in other markets.
- Be clear; consider your audience. More than likely you will be writing the original source content in English. But you ultimately may have an international, non-English-speaking audience. And think about the middleman: your content and concepts will need to be interpreted and translated from one cultural market to another. It should be clear enough for the translator to understand it correctly and appropriately render it for the target market.
- Create a glossary. To manage the unique terminology of your company, as well as that of your industry, establish a company-wide glossary vetted by management and reviewers. Consider which terms should stay in English (i.e. product name, trademarked items, etc.) Ideally this is done before localization, but it should at least be part of the first step of the process.
- Use a Content Management System (CMS). A CMS will help with version control, effective QA and reviews, and promote re-use and consistency.
- Be smart, and be strategic. Get management and in-country buy-in for your documentation process, and definitely make sure there is communication between departments. You may even want to create a simple portal or intranet with guidelines, contact information, etc. surrounding documentation creation and management. Lastly, make localization part of the global plan of your company.
Want to be even smarter about international content development?
Learn more about document translation: the different types, the process, the components, and the technologies that we use to make your project as efficient as possible.