Helpful Tips for Translating Help and Support Content

Category: Translation Services

As a technical translation agency, we’ve learned a thing or two about the documentation translation process, including help and user assistance. What do you need to know to make your project a success?

Start at the Source

Good technical translation starts with strong source content. To create effective source copy optimized for translation, keep in mind the following:

  • Create a style guide. Following a style guide ensures clear and consistent source content, which leads to better translations, saving time and reducing the cost of entering new markets.
  • Make a comprehensive glossary. This should cover all terminology relevant to user assistance: product names, trademarked terms, user interface (UI) field labels, menu items, product button labels and acronyms. Come translation time, you’ll be thankful for this touchstone of consistency and clarity.
  • Use a consistent writing style. The more consistent your source content, the clearer the translation. Always use the same term to mean the same thing. Your style guide and glossary will help you with this.

Technically Speaking

Once you have your source content in hand, you’re ready for the technical authoring process. This includes things like tools and technologies, layout, design and graphics. Some things to think about:

  • Choose authoring tools that are Unicode compliant. This ensures your content can be authored and translated in any language. Many older versions of authoring don’t support Unicode, so make sure your technical writing group uses versions that do.
  • Use tools and/or technologies that let you generate all your help content — printed manual, help system, web content, etc. — from the same master set of content. Known as multi-channel publishing, this can lead to big savings if you’re translating help content into multiple languages and formats.
  • Understand the potential costs of graphics. Above all, try to avoid placing text within images because it will need to be translated. If you do have text within images, make sure you have the layered source files of all images that include text. Without the layered source files, the translators will have to re-create the graphic text, which can eat up time and budget.

These are just a few of the considerations that go into translating user assistance content. For more on everything from creating your original source content to the final linguistic review, check out the 15 essential tips in our white paper

Photo Credit: LiminalMike