copywriting guidelines for content translatability to reach international audiences
When it comes to reaching a global audience, the role of the translator is crucial. But before the content is translated, it is the copywriter’s task to ensure the message reaches the different targets effectively and accurately.
Planning is the first step in the process of effectively writing content that will be translated into one or more languages. Quality and context are essential for translators to succeed in their work, which entails some guidelines and rules the copywriter should follow first.
When creating content for marketing materials, it’s important to keep in mind not only language-related aspects but also those related to branding, culture, and international audiences. This will help spark the translator’s creativity and open up content possibilities, which will be key during this process.
1. Keep in mind the brand and audience. Good copywriting starts with knowing your target audience especially, if the content you’re creating will be translated and localized for international target markets.
2. Maintain brand consistency: It is essential that the content continuously transmits the values and style of the brand. For this purpose, the copywriter must create a style guide that the translators will later use as a reference.
3. Be consistent with the tone and voice: The copy must reflect the tone and voice of the brand, and this can be achieved through consistency. For example, you can use a formal or more casual tone, an academic or more technical language, or even a neutral tone. The important thing is to choose one and be consistent across all content.
4. Create a glossary of terms: This glossary is the most important document for translators when working with branded content. It should include all the terms to be translated and those that should be kept in the source language, such as industry terms or branding-specific vocabulary. For SEO purposes, it is also essential to include the most relevant keywords. When handing over the content to the translators, this glossary will become part of the Translation Memory System (TMS), establishing terms consistently. The use of consistently established terms ensures a correct translation. A glossary helps save time and, therefore, money.
5. Stick to an active voice: Writing in an active voice rather than a passive voice is recommended. This would optimize the translators’ work because the passive voice is more challenging to translate in other languages. In an active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action. In passive voice, the subject of the sentence has the action performed. The active voice also uses fewer words, which means that the price of translation can be lower.
6. Be clear and concise: When you write with clarity, you make life easier for the reader and the translator. In addition to using clear language, try to be brief without omitting any important information. The use of relative pronouns in your copy, such as “which” and “that,” will help you achieve that clarity.
7. Keep short sentences: Short sentences are easier to understand, so try to stick to no more than 20 words. This will improve even more the clarity of the message. One tip is to read the sentence out loud, and if it seems too long, ask yourself: how can I simplify what I want to say? If you find it complicated because of its length and complexity, another alternative is to divide the sentence into two or three phrases.
8. Avoid slang and colloquial phrases: Some idiomatic expressions are very specific to a particular culture that can be hard to adapt to other languages while maintaining the same context. For this, it is essential to avoid jargon, puns, regional phrases, and metaphors.
9. Avoid humor: Besides running the risk of not resonating with the target audience when translating, adapting humor from one culture to a new audience can be complicated. Content that includes humor could not only be misunderstood, but worse, it could potentially offend the reader. If it is imperative to include humor in the copy, consider transcreation to adapt the language and make it culturally relevant.
10. Beware of acronyms and abbreviations: Many organization names are translated differently in other languages, and the word order may differ. It is highly recommended to write the full name of the organization.
11. Abstain from using phrasal verbs: Phrasal verbs are difficult to translate. They often have several meanings according to the context.
12. Avoid double meanings: Try to avoid phrases or wording with more than one possible meaning.
13. Provide context: Don’t assume the translator already knows what you’re talking about. Working without this assumption is very helpful in the translation process.
14. Spell out dates: When writing dates, it is important to remember that the text will be translated for a global audience. For example, 5/10/21 may mean May 10th for one audience, while for others, it may be October 5th. As the style changes according to the region, it is recommended to spell out the month rather than using numbers.
15. Leave some space for expansion in layout: English is more direct and objective and tends to be shorter than other languages. Therefore, leave enough room in layout for expansion, especially when localizing software, apps, and platforms. For example, German, Russian and Spanish tend to have more characters, even up to 35%, and the same sentence may require more characters.
16. Provide a copy of the text separate from the graphics: When the text to be translated is part of a graphic or illustration, have the text in editable format so the translator can access it easily.