Drafting with a view to translate01 February 2021 Reading time: 4 min
Writing a press release, a structural reorganization announcement or a blog post is never simple, especially when your text must be translated afterwards. When drafting, we often get carried away and lose sight of the fact that a translator will later be tasked with accurately rendering the information. Here are a few useful tips to help you write a factual text intended to be translated.
Keep it simple
Since deadlines are usually very tight, facilitate the translation process by using simple language to avoid any confusion. When it comes to drafting, clear and concise sentences remain your best weapon. They will help the translator fully understand your work, for a quicker and more accurate translation.
Make sure the terminology is clear too. While you should absolutely vary your vocabulary, always describe discrete concepts using the same terms. For instance, “organization” and “business” are synonyms, but if you use both terms indiscriminately, the translator may wrongly believe that the words express different concepts.
Accuracy is key
If you provide the translator with detailed information, they will be more effective and won’t require further clarification mid-translation. Accordingly, don’t forget to give the full name of every person mentioned in the text with their pronouns and send all the necessary reference documents. If the name of a position, program or product already exists in the target language, relay them to the translator as quickly as possible to keep them from conducting pointless research or using inconsistent terminology. The quotations and boilerplates may already be translated. If that is the case, don’t forget to provide them to avoid unnecessary work.
Puns and idioms are known to slow down the translation process. Adaptation is a discipline in its own right with its unique set of challenges. Consider the Coca-Cola ad campaign promoting new Diet Coke flavours on Toronto’s streetcars, where they played on the placement of the billboards and encouraged transit riders to taste the products “because it’s time to take your taste buds for a ride.” If this slogan were to be translated literally in French, the ad would be informing consumers that it was time to “deceive their taste buds.” This was obviously an extreme example to illustrate our point, since this type of humour is rarely used for other than marketing purposes. You may, however, slip a few idioms in your draft without even realizing it. While commonly used, these expressions have no direct equivalent in other languages. A copywriter may be tempted to write: “Better safe than sorry with our new security system” as a title for a press release. A simpler phrasing such as “Prevent the worst with our new security system,” might be preferable. The bottom line is that avoiding phrases and expressions that require adaptation will save you time and money.
When in doubt, get in touch with a contact person who will be more than happy to list the documents you should provide and give you advice on drafting a document to be translated. And don’t forget, simplicity is the key!