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Guidelines for writing for translation

content_highlightedIn the translation world, we talk a lot about quality.  The first building block of a top-quality translation is a quality source text.

Writing source content with translation in mind is critical.  In addition to the standard rules for well-written English, there are specific guidelines to follow when creating source content for translation.

  1. Short sentences

Not only do sentences aid comprehension, thereby reducing the risk of errors, it creates smaller pieces for the translator to fit together.  It is easier to fit smaller text segments  together in different ways to create a flow that is more natural in the target language.

  1. Grammar/punctuation: check the basics

Proofreading your own work prevents errors from being replicated in the translation, and limits opportunities for misunderstandings. Also, if it seems like you haven’t bothered much with your own content, a translator is less likely to see a polished, top-quality translation as imperative…

  1. Text expansion

Some languages use more words than English to say the same thing, and some have really long words, like German.  When creating graphics, PDFs, software or anything that has restricted space, make sure to budget for more space in the translations.  If you want the translations to use the same layout, it may be that you need to cut a sentence or two from the English, or make a text box bigger than required by the English content.

  1. Clarity

If it’s not obvious in the source language, it may not be clear to the translator, so prioritise clarity.  Ensure pronouns are clear, and use relative pronouns like ‘that’ and ‘which’ even if they aren’t necessary in English. Ditto for words like ‘then,’ ‘a,’ ‘the,’ ‘to.’ Repeat verbs that have multiple subjects, repeat helping verbs belonging to multiple verbs, repeat subjects and verbs, and repeat markers in a list or series.  For examples, look at Mailchimp’s style guide:

  1. Consistency

Use technical terms and expressions consistently.  When writing product descriptions or other repetitive content, re-use the same blocks of content as much as possible. This will increase repetitions in the text, reducing translation costs.  Synonyms and variations are great for single-language content, but with source content, by writing something the same way every time, clarity improves and costs drop.

  1. Slang / Humour / Metaphors / Regional phrases / Clichés

We have seen many mistranslations of these, and often there isn’t an acceptable substitute that doesn’t involve adding an extra explanatory sentence.  Bear in mind that foreign readers have a different frame of reference to you, and only use these elements in your source content when necessary.

  1. Dates

Be clear with dates – write out the month if possible to avoid people from wondering if you mean the 3rd of February, or the 2nd of March.  Your target audience, and translator, may be more familiar with the American date format, or vice versa.

  1. Active voice

Write in an active voice. It’s easier to translate than the passive voice, and uses fewer words. Fewer words mean a lower price.  Words like ‘by’ and ‘was’ may indicate the passive voice.

Passive: The translation was completed on time by Maria
Active: Maria completed the translation on time

  1. Abbreviations / acronyms

Avoid abbreviations and acronyms or explain them at first mention.

  1. Provide background information

You have background knowledge of your company which may not be obvious to a translator or other outsider.  For example, a Japanese translator will need to include Mr/Mrs in any names they mention, so if a name is not a traditional English name, please clarify if the person is female or male.

If you don’t think your English text will be improved by these suggestions, and your English content is your main priority, it may be an idea to “pre-localise” another copy purely to be used as a translation template.

Writing for translation

bookcountriesThe London-based author Kazuo Ishiguro writes with translation in mind. ‘I want my words to survive translation,’ he says. ‘I know when I write a book now I will have to go and spend three days being intensely interrogated by journalists in Denmark or wherever. That fact, I believe, informs the way I write – with those Danish journalists leaning over my shoulder.’

Ishiguro concedes that the process of globalisation, of appealing to and ensuring that one is understood by audiences around the world, may lead to a ‘greyness’ of language: ‘There are a lot of things I don’t write now. I stop myself writing certain things because I think, for instance, that it wouldn’t work once it’s translated out of English. You can think of a line that’s brilliant in English — with a pun or two, you know — but of course it becomes nonsense once translated into a different language, so I don’t use it.’

Keeping the target audience in mind has worked well for Ishiguro; translations of his novels are international bestsellers.

We often advise our clients to write for translation, just as Ishiguro carefully considers how his work will be affected by translation. Clear, well-written English content is much easier to translate, and a lack of ambiguity means the target text is much closer in meaning to the original source text. In our next post, we will share our guidelines for writing copy for translation.


New government grants for exporters

britain_eu_mashupDIT funding worth £6.7 million is now available to businesses in Yorkshire and the Humber

The Department for International Trade (DIT), known as UK Trade & Investment until it was rebranded last September, has 9 English regional DIT branches, as well as Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish branches.

The DIT Yorkshire and the Humber will deliver a programme of £6.7 million of funding for its Enterprise for Growth programme.

Funding for the programme comes from the EU to strengthen the region’s businesses. Targeting both first time exporters as well as businesses already exporting, companies can access matched financial support to develop exports and create jobs.

To qualify for the funding, companies in the Yorkshire and the Humber region must work with the DIT, who will help them to develop their international trade plans. Funding provided will support a company’s export strategy, which may include translation of marketing collateral for international visits, website localisation to improve positioning in target markets, translation of product packaging, and more.

If you are interested in the programme, please get in touch and we can facilitate contact with your local International Trade Advisor, who will help you get started.

The results are in… 2016’s Most Valuable Translator awards

Happy New Year!  We have had a great start to 2017, and would like to announce
Web-Translations’ Most Valuable Translators for 2016.

We’re extremely grateful to our network of linguists, whose extensive talents allow us to offer translation services across a wide range of industries. We’re privileged to work with many exceptional translators;
our MVT awards showcase just some of these. (more…)

Style. It’s not just for Versace…

I awoke this morning to find…

I woke up this morning and found…

When I woke up this morning, I found…

When I awoke this morning to find…

When writing original English copy, there are multiple options for conveying an idea. Similarly, there is almost certainly more than one way to translate a particular idea from another language into English.  The same is of course true when translating from English into other languages, to varying degrees.

You can probably think of other ways to express the idea of waking up this morning and finding something.  Imagine how many variations there are in a full sentence, a paragraph, or a page of text. (more…)

Is your site mobile-friendly?

Ours is! You can easily check with Google’s Mobile Friendly Test.

Visit, pop in your URL, and Google will analyse your site. Having a mobile-friendly website is incredibly important, not only because so many people rely on their smartphones for internet access, but because Google uses mobile friendliness as a ranking signal. (more…)

When’s a paella not a paella? When it’s rice with stuff…

The rise of social media giants like Twitter and Instagram have changed the food industry. With instant access to an audience voraciously consuming ‘little twist’ recipes and how-to videos, TV chefs are now better placed than ever before to sell their brand to the public and attract more fans. However, increased access to followers works both ways, and the risk of a misguided post going viral is one downside to this new form of exposure. This is something Jamie Oliver found out on Tuesday when he took on Spanish gastronomy and lost.

Jamie_paella (more…)

Happy International Translation Day!


We would like to take the opportunity to wish all of our lovely translators a Happy International Translation Day!

The event began in 1991, when the International Federation of Translators set the 30th of September as the date for an annual celebration to recognise the translation profession. This particular day was chosen as it is the feast day of Saint Jerome, the translator of Biblical texts and patron saint of translators.

Celebrating the European Day of Languages in Leeds


Join us and other members of the Leeds language community in celebrating the European Day of Languages on 26 September.

For a list of events happening in the Leeds area, visit

At Web-Translations, we are excited to be participating in some of the events:

Francesca has been interviewed on video as part of a career advice programme for sixth-form students, Jennifer will be presenting at the Language Showcase on the 26th, and Jasmine will be attending the Business Breakfast on the 27th.

Please stop by and say hello!

Google’s new Expanded Text Ads: what we understand so far

With the new-format Google ads running alongside standard text ads for nearly a month, we’ve noticed some quirks, understood a bit more, and most importantly – seen the benefits.

Google announced the change back in May, and launched the new Extended Text Ads (ETAs) at the end of July.

Advertisers have until 26 October to create old-style standard text ads (STAs); after this only ETAs can be created. Google hasn’t given an end-date for running STAs, but it’s in your best interests to make new ads. We recommend you start by running both sorts of ads simultaneously; if your ETAs don’t perform as well as your old ads, tweak them until you are comfortable removing the old ads.

The Google guide to expanded text ads is helpful, as is the Google blog post from the day of the launch.

More Content
The old-style character limit rule of 25/35/35 no longer applies. ETAs have 2 headlines and a description, and the fields will allow 30 characters in each headline + 80 characters in the description. However, the new format is based on the pixel width of a letter instead of the number of characters, so it is highly possible that your ad might be truncated, even if it is approved by Google. Google has recommended the combined number of characters in the headline should be kept to 33 to ensure the headlines are are not truncated, but this seems like a wasted opportunity if you might be able to use 60 characters… The ad preview is not entirely reliable, either. It seems the only way to know your ad displays 100% correctly is to actually see the ad running, which isn’t very helpful.

Overall, you can make longer ads, which give you more of an opportunity to convince someone to click on your ad.

The lack of a set character limit is making translating the ads more tricky; each ad needs to be checked in the editor/preview, and tweaked as necessary.

Longer Display URL
Previously the display URL as a field with 35 characters, but the new version combines the domain from the Final URL field with 2 fields of 15 characters each, separated by / characters, which will allow the display URL to take someone deeper into your site, but possibly not to a specific product, which you may have been able to do before.

Google says the new format is to help advertisers ‘succeed in this mobile-first world’. With an iPhone 6, I noticed that the entire first screen is taken up with sponsored ads, requiring me to scroll down to see the organic search results.

Improved CTR
At Web-Translations, we have seen higher CTRs for our primary keywords with the new ETAs. Perhaps our competitors haven’t all started using the ETAs, but whatever the reason, the ads are performing better for us. The data below is based on English-language ads from 2016.  ETA data is only from the month of August; we expect these figures will drop in the coming months as more companies move to ETAs.


keyword Standard Text Ad
Extended Text Ad
professional translation 2.41% 3.43%
translation services uk 2.19% 3.23%
professional website translation 3.26% 5.36%

Mistaken identity: the importance of checking your references…


Following Andrea Leadsom’s withdrawal from the leadership race, it was announced yesterday that Theresa May will take over from David Cameron as PM later this week. The news was soon trending on Twitter, with Brits across the country documenting their reactions.

Amidst the ranting, raving and jokes lay one subtle spelling error that caused a stir: Teresa May (without the ‘h’) actually refers to a UK Glamour Model, not the next Prime Minister. It is evident that Teresa uses Twitter as a marketing tool to good effect; as such, we hope that the added publicity was positive rather than negative. Nevertheless, it must have quite bemusing to suddenly find yourself involved in such a public discussion! We noticed this morning that Theresa (with an ‘h’) had now taken over as a trending topic; it seems that the general public did eventually check their spelling. (more…)

Poochas gracias!

Fran and Jasmine enjoyed meeting all of the lovely guide dogs

Fran and Jasmine enjoyed meeting the lovely guide dogs

Thank you to Gateley solicitors for inviting us to your Guide Dogs for the Blind event.

Well done on your fundraising efforts – we hope that the dog named ‘Gateley’ has a long and productive life as a companion.

Brexit: what does the future hold for exporters?

Last Friday the nation woke up to the news that the public had voted by a slim majority to leave the European Union. The shock waves were felt across the world instantaneously: the pound dropped to its lowest level in 30 years, the stock markets were in chaos and the political and social repercussions of a resounding ‘no’ to the European project raised questions for other member state governments.

Watching the political situation unfold over the past ten days has not always made for pleasant reading, and – as is customary for such an uncertain time – it would seem that almost everybody has put their two cents in. As an office we have strong links to Europe both through our multilingual projects team and international freelancer and client networks. As such, we couldn’t help but wonder what the future might hold for us as a translation company, and for the exporters we translate for.

As a translation company, we are not altogether worried for now. We work with a wide range of European and non-European languages, and recognise that the need for language services prevails even whilst trade lines are re-drawn. The languages we work with the most are those which are most widely used in eBusiness; these trends do shift, but not over night. A remote workforce also makes most translation companies less susceptible to economic uncertainties at home than others. So, to exporters. What will the next few months be like? (more…)

A sad day for Britain


To all of our European translators and clients – we are disappointed that the UK voted to leave the EU. We are proud to call ourselves European, and as a company we supported the “Stronger In Europe” campaign. You may have seen our name in The Times this week. The letter to the editor, including the list of signatories, is available on the Stronger In website.

“Britishness” is in demand around the globe

“Our research shows that 70% of British business do not consider exporting” – UK Trade & Investment (UKTI)

Why not? It’s so easy to have your website translated, allowing you to trade internationally. Different currencies don’t pose a problem, either. In Olden Times (the 90s!), businesses were required to make a substantial investment in order to explore a new market. Now you can test the waters quickly and cheaply.

At Web-Translations, we offer Microsite and Website localisation packages to help you launch globally. For as little as £395 exc VAT, you can create an international online presence.

“Britishness” is in demand around the globe…export to profit from it. British exports amount to £24.9bn, according to the Sunday Times*, however these numbers are in decline based on the previous year. Theories as to why confidence in the export sector has dropped include uncertainly about the EU referendum, preventing companies from starting new export plans, and lack of government support, as well as an economic slowdown in China.

If your business needs support, the UKTI may be able to guide you about foreign legislation, which products you’re allowed to sell, and what you need to include on product labelling, etc. If they can’t help you, they know who will. If a Brexit is the concern, consider localising for a range of countries, including those outside the EU.

Localising your website is the key to exporting successfully, and unlocking the potential of foreign markets.

*29.05.16 / Business section page 9

Buy Yorkshire 2016

Jenn and Jasmine_edited

In May, we exhibited for the first time at the Buy Yorkshire conference held at the Royal Armouries in Leeds. As a Yorkshire-based company, we are proud of what the region has to offer, and were eager to take part in an event focused on the idea that “we are stronger together”.

At Web-Translations, we have no sales team, so we rounded up everyone from our MD to our Vendor Manager to come and talk about what we do at Web-Translations. In hindsight, we realise that a Sales Executive would be a great asset to the team – so if you’re interested in working with us, please contact us! We are a friendly bunch and don’t bite.

Over 5,000 people came to the conference, whether it was to see what Nigel Farage had to say, or to stock up on sweets at the Clear Workplace stand (@Clear Workplace: thank you – they were delicious, especially the gummy snake!). We enjoyed chatting with visitors and exhibitors, and we learnt a good deal about what local businesses are planning for the rest of 2016.

With over 20 seminars and workshops, there was plenty to keep delegates busy, so we would like to thank everyone who took the time to speak with us. Thank you also to the Yorkshire Mafia – it was a brilliant event!

Boost your multilingual SEO with hreflang tags

Multilingual website? Make sure you use hreflang tags to indicate to Google what language a page is in; proper usage of these tags can improve search engine positioning for your multilingual sites.

You can also mark content for a particular country.

The tags should only be used when the same content is available in more than one language. All of the languages available should be listed together as a complete set in the header. For example, on a French page you would not have only:


but instead:


Make sure that the pages you are tying together have the same content – although in different languages of course. Confusing Google with mis-matched sets of pages will hurt rather than help.

We use the WPML WordPress plugin, which adds the tags automatically so as to avoid any mis-matching. It also allows manual locale selection.

For more info on how WPML handles the hreflang tag, and for general information on how to use Google’s Webmaster tools to check that everything is working correctly, please read WPML’s developer information article on hreflang tags.

‘Czechia self’: what’s in a name?

Czech flag

By 9am this morning, the Czech Republic was trending in the UK, as news that the country’s parliament is discussing changing its name to ‘Czechia’ hit our media.

Proponents of the name change put forward a range of compelling arguments. For starters, ‘Czech Republic’ is a political term, reflecting constitutional changes brought about by the splitting of Czechoslovakia into two countries in 1993. Secondly, the length of ‘Czech Republic’ means that the shortened ‘Czech’ is already used for some sports team kits and other product branding; ‘Czech’, however, is a reference to the country’s people rather than its geographical location. Thirdly, other countries refer to the Czech Republic using a variety of unofficial shortened versions, which results in confusion. (more…)

Come visit us at Buy Yorkshire 2016!

buy yorkshire 2016

Web-Translations will to be exhibiting at Buy Yorkshire 2016 on 17th and 18th May at the Royal Armouries in Leeds.

Come visit us at Stand 151 in the Royal Armouries Hall.

Buy Yorkshire is a terrific multi-format platform for innovation, conversation, business education, connecting and building better business relationships.

It’s a huge event built on a simple idea… that We are Stronger Together. When people come together to share ideas and build relationships, in meaningful numbers, we can really make difference to our own businesses and to our wider community…

Top 5 Twitter techniques


Is there a formula for writing a perfect tweet?

Composing a 140-character tweet, which must entice despite its brevity, requires some thought for anyone wishing to use Twitter as a marketing tool. Here are our top tips:


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