Writing and Designing for Translation

page4-img5When can I have it? is one of the most often asked questions in our business.The answer customers hope for is “yesterday”. While this is only possible in the realm of time travel, there are some things that customers can do to improve translation quality and turn-around time. As a very wise Sales Representative said:

“In the early stages of product launch it is important to provide the best service and customer support, including training and manuals, to develop a sound reference base to accelerate placements and continue sales momentum. Poor training or customer operational errors caused by incorrect, missing or misunderstood information can impact that momentum and provide ammunition to our competitors.“
Since a good translation begins with the writing of the source text, writing copy that is clear, concise, and grammatically correct will help the translators, for whom English is second language, generate product instructions that give your business a competitive edge and get to market earlier.
The following are a few helpful hints:
 Part 1 – Simplify Sentence Construction

In the United States we strive for writing economy. For example:

“Grasp knob and adjust lever before raising boom,” 

This sounds OK to us, but a translator could be mislead into thinking that “adjust lever” is a particular type of lever instead of a lever that needs adjusting. Therefore, to avoid confusion, it is better not to skimp on the articles.

“Grasp the knob and adjust the lever before raising boom.” 

This rewrite makes the sequence of events clear to the reader.

Telegraphic English is common to us, but hair-raising for a translator.Take for example this sentence:

 “Remove old peri-pump tubing”.

Translators would much rather see something like this:

 “Remove old tubing from the peri-pump.”

Some long, complex sentences that keep translators awake at night. For example:

“The method employed in the  measures of the rate of increase in light scattered from particles suspended in solutions as a result of complexes formed during an antigen-antibody reaction.” 

Huh? This sentence definitely needs to be split into two:

 “The method employed in  measures of the rate of increase in light scattered from particles suspended in solution. These particles are the result of complexes formed during an antigen-antibody reaction.” 

What a difference a period makes, right?

Proper sentence construction is essential to reader comprehension and particularly so when the reader is a translator trying to meet a tight deadline. Take for example:

“Directory synchronization uses the Dispatch program to run the programs that transfer the local address updates from the requesters to the directory server and to transfer the global address updates back to the requesters for processing.”

How much time would it save the translator to have this rewritten as follows?

“The Dispatch program is used for directory synchronization. It runs the programs that transfer both the local address updates from the requesters to the directory server and the global address updates back to the requesters for processing.’

You get the idea, just a few tweaks to the text can make “impossible due dates” almost achievable. They not only save time in translation, but also in project management, since it is the Project Manager who will have to translate English into English for inquiring translators. When you are facing a project with as many as 25 languages, this is very time consuming.

The next issue of this blog will expand on the topic of Writing and Designing for translation.

Stay tuned!