Technical document translation: top 10 tips

By Acclaro
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Technical document translation: top 10 tips

Use multilingual documentation to drive your business in new markets

Translating technical documents can raise many challenges, especially as you manage content across various product lines on tight deadlines. The right combination of preparation and expert partners streamlines the process but saves both time and budget. Here are our top-10 tips for avoiding translation pitfalls when translating technical publications. With this guide, you can be well-prepared when it comes to translating technical documents.

1. Follow technical document writing best practices

When crafting the document itself, it’s important to follow certain guidelines, which will make future translations a lot easier.

  • Write short, clear sentences. Limit dependent clauses. One thought per sentence helps translators better understand the original meaning. It also increases savings from translation memory matches in translation software.
  • Avoid idiomatic expressions, which are harder to interpret.
  • Refrain from using cultural references, as they may not work across borders.
  • Make sure symbols are internationally recognized. Many symbols, such as a stop sign, don’t have the same meaning in other cultural contexts.

2. Avoid hard and soft returns when aligning texts

Using hard and soft returns can add extra time at the translation stage. Broken sentences can cause difficulties for linguists and any tools, like translation management software or machine translation.

3. Use automation in your documents

Table of Contents (TOCs), Indices (IX), cross references, variables and internal/external links can be automated. Also, we recommend using style sheets, which instantly apply any updates or resizing.

4. Prepare for text expansion

If your source language is in English, you’ll want to allow 20% more space for most target languages. You’ll want to account for text expansion when designing or creating your original printed piece, including artwork, graphics or charts. You may also need to resize your documents (for example, U.S. letter sizes are normally converted to A4 for foreign markets).

5. Link graphics whenever possible

We advise linking graphics in technical documents rather than embedding them, which simplifies replacements in localized versions and future updates. It also reduces file size to better accommodate translation tools.

6. Provide editable source files

Editable/layered source files, including images, are key to a high quality translation — especially for any digital designs or artwork. If you don’t add them, you may need to recreate them before translation. Of course, that can add considerable time and cost to your initiative.

7. Compress files

When delivering files, compression helps protect corruption-prone fonts and transmission speeds during tight schedules.

8. Provide instructions to sync expectations

When providing files to your translation provider, be sure to define the translation effort’s scope and your desired deliverables. It’s also helpful to outline your tools and any different versions. Specify any information required for the task, including output formats (PDFs, HTML, image types, etc.) and settings.

9. Organize your file submissions

Make sure to include all relevant files for the technical document translation and avoid including extraneous or unused files. An organized folder structure helps make the process as efficient as possible. Messy structures can also delay your product’s launch and create technical issues, like broken links, which can cause compiling errors.

10. Plan updates in advance to avoid surprises

A solid plan made ahead minimizes rework and avoids budgeting and scheduling issues. An experienced technical document translation service provider will advise you on the best, most effective ways to coordinate updates.

Apply these technical document translation best practices to keep pace with your enterprise goals

Successful technical documentation translation strategies are key to meeting your time-to-market, budget and quality objectives.

Get in touch to discuss your unique needs and how Acclaro can design a custom translation program for you. You can also visit our document translation services page for more information.

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