Effectively Reach Global Markets by Writing for Translation
Crafting copy that flows, excites, and maybe gets a laugh is hard enough in one language. Having that same copy translate effectively into other languages is time-consuming and expensive, if not impossible. Are you looking for a way around costly, complicated transcreation? Simply write for translation.
How Will Writing for Translation Help Spread Your Message?
For some marketers and content creators, writing for translation means fighting instincts and a knack for clever wordplay they’ve developed over the years. While it may feel odd at first to opt for a clearer writing style, writing for translation is a must for companies with an eye on global markets.
The primary benefit of writing with a global audience in mind is that the practice saves serious time and money. It makes translation easier, quicker, and as a result, more cost-effective.
If you write knowing translation is likely, you’ll save time and money on unnecessary revisions and mistranslations. This is true whether you rely on machine translation or human translation. And the savings in money and time will be exponential if you’re translating for multiple languages and regions.
Writing for translations also helps prevent inadvertently confusing (or even offending) potential customers. It isn’t possible to translate every turn of phrase easily, and you don’t want to scare off new markets with language that isn’t culturally appropriate or clear.
Even single words can make for translation stumbling blocks, as illustrated by the BBC’s list of “untranslatable” words. Imagine the German to English translator who comes across waldeinsamkeit (or a feeling associated with being alone in the forest) when trying to complete a project quickly.
Keeping writing simple, and yes, less poetic, will help prevent confusing or distasteful translations that fall flat.
It will also help ensure that the translations you receive are accurate. There’s no quicker way to scare off new customers than misleading content—even if it’s unintentional. Simple writing makes translating both the facts and the appropriate tone easier.
Finally, the practice will help you sharpen your writing. You’ll begin to habitually create content that is clear and effective in any language. Writing simply is an excellent practice, even when writing to customers in your native language. It’s best not to waste any reader’s time with unnecessary fluff.
Clarity is King
By now you’re hopefully convinced that you should write with the translation process in mind. So how do you get it done?
To start, clarity should be the primary stylistic goal of any content you create. Focus on concise, short sentences that get to the point quickly.
Use basic sentence structure to express your ideas clearly and simply. You don’t want your translators (or any readers) having to read phrases repeatedly to determine what they mean. The University of Montana’s guide to simple sentences gives examples of basic structures and is a great refresher.
For the sake of clarity, you should also try to limit your use of synonyms. Don’t leave translators wondering whether the words customers, clients, consumers, and patrons are all referring to the same group. Make it clear. Pick one word to describe those you’ll be selling to and stick with it.
Reduce the Frills to Reach a Global Audience
Although your English professor probably encouraged complicated metaphors and flowery language, the translation process requires different tools and writing devices. In a globalized marketplace, you must learn to cut back on the frills and keep it simple.
Along with flowery language, you should avoid idioms and attempts at humor when writing for translation. Both are difficult and often impossible to translate properly. Attempts to do so often leads to content that doesn’t strike the same tone as the source.
Avoiding sayings, slangs, and humor doesn’t mean your work should be dry and dull. Instead of these devices, rely on clear examples. These examples should be central to the solutions you provide and relevant to your global customer base.
Relevant examples will help illustrate your points effectively, no matter where in the world a customer is located.
For example, don’t write that your product will be “an ace in the hole” for small business marketers—a poker idiom that would be difficult to translate and isn’t globally relevant. Instead, briefly describe how one of your clients edged out the competition in a tough marketplace by using your solutions.
Use Resources to Perfect Simple Writing
Writing for translation may take a change of mindset, but it will make the entire translation process more successful. You’ll end up with content that’s clear in any language and a tone and message that’s constant around the globe.
For more tips on writing with clarity and without frills, the U.S. Federal Government provides thorough guidelines for the creation of plain language. And this video from North Carolina State University will help you avoid wordiness in favor of clarity.