Why a Translation Style Guide is Essential for Localization

Why a Translation Style Guide is Essential for Localization

Content translation is a critical step in any localization project. Ensuring consistency and efficiency during this process is key to effective localization management.

But how can you coordinate multiple translation teams across different locales to ensure that they’re rowing in the same direction so you can present a consistent brand message across markets?

Before you start a localization project, you need to establish a translation style guide. Investing in this crucial document now will save you many hours and dollars in the long run by minimizing errors and delays in the translation processes.

First Thing First… What Is a Translation Style Guide?

A translation guide is a manual that translators follow when creating localized content for your website, software, app, or game. It details the tone and voice of your brand and the formats and specialized terms they should use. It also provides the context on how you want the audience to perceive your brand and how you intend to position your products or services.

Why Do I Need a Translation Style Guide?

When you work with multiple translators, it’s challenging to ensure that everyone is on the same page and keep your brand image consistent.

A translation guide helps you improve the consistency and accuracy of the localized content, no matter who works on the translation. This will, in turn, help you build trust and credibility with your audience while increasing brand awareness in a crowded market.

importance of a consistent brand experience

Here’s how a translation style guide can help you improve translation quality and avoid unnecessary mistakes in tone, syntax, and style:

  • Increase engagement: A translation guide ensures that you’re using terms relevant to the local audiences and context. This will help establish your brand’s reputation and build trust with prospects and customers.
  • Shorten time to market: A translation guide streamlines the translation process by reducing revisions rounds and back-and-forths with regard to basic rules. Your team can work faster and more accurately with minimum supervision.
  • Deliver a consistent customer experience: Assets that deliver the same brand message helps you maintain a consistent customer experience across markets — setting a foundation for global recognition.
  • Reduce costs: A style guide and translation glossaries provide a standard reference for your marketing and translation teams to minimize confusion and rework due to inconsistent terminology, which could take up 15% of translation project costs.
  • Streamline translator onboarding: When you have a translation style guide, you can simply share it with new linguists and translators when they start a project. Providing clear instruction helps improve efficiency, so you can do more with less.

How To Create a Translation Style Guide

Your translation style guide should be concise and easy to use. It should set the tone and voice for your brand with examples to illustrate your direction.

Your translation guide is a living document that evolves with your brand. It should be accessible from a central location (e.g., a localization management platform), so your team can refer to the latest version no matter where they are.

If you already have a corporate style guide, you can use it as a starting point for creating the translation guide. Otherwise, ask stakeholders to list out their preferences and develop a set of guidelines based on the input.

With this foundation, work with your in-house translation team or language service provider (LSP) to create a translation style guide for each locale:

  1. Compile style guide elements and send them to your translation team or LSP, along with reference materials (e.g., previous style guides) and the content to be translated.
  2. The translation team or LSP analyzes the source text and reference materials to identify elements that should be included in the style guide, then extract and define them.
  3. You’ll review and approve the suggested elements. Also, get input from teams in the target locales to ensure that the translations are appropriate for each market.
  4. The translation team or LSP will finalize the style guide. They should involve your local teams in the review process.
  5. You’ll review and approve the style guide. Then, the translation team or LSP will insert localization tools and add linguistic assets.
  6. The translation style guide is now ready to be shared with translators, editors, and reviewers via your localization management platform.

What To Include in Your Translation Style Guide

Your translation guide and glossaries should cover terms that are critical to your brand and products, including:

  • Brand overview: Provide context to translators with a brief overview of your brand and target audience. For example, what products are you selling, and how does it solve your audience’s pain points?
  • Company- brand-, and product-specific terms: Show how names associated with your organization and products or services should be displayed. List out copyrighted and trademarked terms that should not be translated and must appear consistently in all localized content.
  • Audience-specific terms: Increase engagement with your audience by using terms that are relevant to the local markets. This also helps you maintain consistent emotional associations with your brand.
  • Terms with multiple meanings: Define how industry-specific terms should be translated to avoid confusion among translators and audiences. This is particularly important for words that can mean different things in different contexts.
  • Keywords for SEO: Keywords that rank high in overseas markets may not be the direct translations of those you use domestically. Work with local SEO experts to identify keywords that rank well in each locale.
  • Writing style: Indicate the tone and voice of your content (e.g., formal, witty, irreverent) to help translators gain a nuanced understanding of word choices. Also, specify sentence lengths and include guidelines on how to approach transcreation.

What To Include in Your Translation Style Guide

  • Jargon and slang: Determine how jargon and slang should be translated. Make sure the translation is relevant and culturally appropriate while preserving the essence of the content.
  • Formatting: Specify how content like date/time and currency should be formatted. The style guide should cover the use of punctuation, capitalization, acronyms, abbreviations, addresses, phone numbers, and lists/bullets. You should consider local conventions while maintaining consistency across markets.
  • Typography: The fonts you use for your domestic market may not work well in a different language. In that case, specify the fonts to use for various purposes (e.g., headline, body text, quotes) to maintain a consistent brand image.
  • Calls-to-action (CTAs): Your CTA buttons are key to driving conversion, so don’t overlook their importance! Besides text length, consider their cultural appropriateness. For example, “Contact me today!” may sound upbeat to a U.S. audience but may be too aggressive for a French customer.

button localization language

Additionally, include information and metadata, such as definition, context, part of speech, etc., as well as an overview of your review and approval processes to minimize errors and delays.

Streamline the Translation Process with a Localization Management Platform

Managing localization projects and ensuring consistency across multiple markets is challenging. You can streamline the process while increasing the accuracy and quality of your translation by using localization management software.

Besides making the translation style guide accessible to your translation teams or LSP, a robust localization platform offers translation memory to help you improve translation cost-efficiency in the long term.

OneSky is an all-in-one localization management platform trusted by global brands such as Airbnb, Hubspot, Shopify, Microsoft, and more to help them maintain a consistent brand experience worldwide.

Learn more and try our complete localization solution for free.

Mandy Fong

Head of Sales, OneSky

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