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How to Write Content that will be Localized Successfully

content localization tips

Last updated on December 27th, 2017 at 11:00 am

translation and localization writing tips
Why is writing for localization necessary?

 Accuracy and clarity of the message are both of great concern when translating document and website content. A good way to help achieve those goals is writing the source material while being mindful that it will be submitted for translation and localization services.  Writing technical or marketing material with localization in mind helps to save time and money

Properly translated and localized content is an effective marketing tool to increase sales and promote your brand.   When you present the translated copy to your target audience, you are not only conveying a message, you are representing your organization and product.  Both need to be clear and engaging to capture attention and get a positive reaction. 

There are steps you can take to ensure that translation of documents, videos, and websites, as well as localization of websites, are done properly.  If you take the following do’s and don’ts into consideration while creating the original content in the source language, you could avoid mistakes that can be costly and time-consuming

What to DO when creating a copy that is going to be translated:

  • Use or create a glossary of terms where you define any acronyms, technical terms, and special vocabulary.
  • Create or use a style guide that has specific rules and guidance about the way content should be written. Examples include tenses, grammatical person, formal or informal. Different organizations have their own preferences.
  • Use the active voice over passive. “Mary tossed the ball to Joe” will translate better than “The ball was tossed to Joe by Mary.” 
  • Use gender-neutral terms such as “they, their” instead of “his, her.”
  • Avoid too many contractions. “They are” will translate better than “they’re.” 
  • Maintain consistent grammar and sentence structure. This will help the translation company to more effectively localize your documents or website. 
  • Try to maintain the same number of page breaks, especially if one part of the text will reference another.
  • If you already have reliably translated and localized content of a similar nature, recycle as much as possible for consistency in your translated content and savings.
  • Avoid images that may be culturally specific, ambiguous, or offensive.


What to avoid:

  • Do not use long, overly complex sentences with too many adjectives and commas. These often become a tangled mess and complicate translation when passing your message across. 
  • Do not say things more times or in more ways than necessary. Expect the text to expand after translation, and simplify as much as possible.  Concise text is both clearer and easier to read both in the original and the target language.
  • Do not use specialized fonts as they often do not display well in all the languages. Select fonts that you know will work or test them before the final design. Be especially careful when testing Asian languages.
  • Avoid jargon, colloquialisms, and indirect language. There may be no equivalent translation in the target language and will add complexity for the translation company to localize the idea.
  • Do not use symbols in place of words, such as the ampersand for “and” or the angle bracket for “less than” or “more than.”
  • Do not use unnecessary abbreviations.
  • Avoid content that is not relevant to the target audience. In particular, think about the translation and localization of taglines or examples that do might not apply to the new culture. Example: Expressions that come from a sport like football: Throw a Hail Mary! Or, religion and holidays references like the Easter Bunny.
  • Avoid inconsistencies in formatting addresses, phone numbers, time, dates and numbers


Write with Localization in mind, when you know you need to translate

No matter what kind of content you are creating, writing with localization and internationalization in mind is the smart way when you know you will require translation services to expand your brand to the global community.  With the diligent incorporation of the do’s and don’ts we discussed, barriers to communication will be simplified to allow conversation, commerce, and innovation to flow freely.  Using the services of a professional translation company skilled and experienced in localization will give you a stronger voice in the international marketplace. 

Jackie Ruffolo
Jackie Ruffolo
Jackie was born in Venezuela and has a BS in computer engineering. As President of JR Language, she spends time researching new technology and productivity tools for the Company. She holds a certificate of Localization and Project Management- Localization. Through her many years of experience working in multilingual corporate environments, she understands firsthand the value of bridging language barriers in creating smooth communication that allows for productive and happy work environments. She is fluent in Spanish and English, and is a frequent contributor to both our English and Spanish blogs. 20 Years of experience in marketing Jackie loves nature and to be outdoors.