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5 tips for preparing your text for translation (and for other purposes)

Lukáš Slovák Ciferník23.05.2019 For Customers Reading time: 4 min.
man writing text on a paper using large pencil

A properly prepared source text is the basis of a good and quality translation. That’s why you should never neglect preparing the text for translation.

Creating the text is often just as important as the translation itself, whether it is a marketing text coaxing to use a favourable offer or a legal text full of precise formulations to be used at court.

In this article, we will discuss what to avoid and what to focus on when preparing your text for translation.

1. Appropriate file format

If you have the text for translation available in an editable form, e.g. a lease agreement in a Word file, please sent it in this format. We prefer it to formats that we cannot copy text from (e.g. a PDF with an uncopiable text created in Adobe Acrobat).

Sometimes only a scan of documents is available, most commonly in a PDF version. In that case, do not try to transcribe it or process with a character recognition software. The output from such a program does often have faulty formatting and is not suitable to be processed by more advanced translation tools, which we work with. If that is the case, send us the text in the format available and we will take care of the rest. 🙂                                                                                               

2. Correct formatting – alpha and omega of a quality text

If you are just beginning to create the text for translation, please choose a suitable format. For most texts (without the need for specific graphic adjustments), we recommend a word processor like Microsoft Word or its freely available alternatives.

Even when using Word, you have to follow a system and format the texts properly. If you need to indent a part of the text or move it somewhere else on the page, refrain from using too many “whitespaces”, so called non-printing characters – spaces and tabs. Even though it may seem simpler to hold the space bar down for ten seconds in order to move the text a step or have it “jump” to the next line, you should rather use indents or “invisible” tables (without borders). When the original is replaced by the translated text, it will look the same without the need for otherwise necessary adjustments and tweaks, which will shorten the delivery time.

3. There is no space for typos

Everybody makes mistakes, so once you finish your text, it is important to check it again and carefully eliminate the typos that could occur in the text. You can avoid possible mistakes in the translation this way – especially if the typo is in a name, measurement unit, number and so on. Several word processors offer a free automatic spell check and there really is no reason not to use it. If you need, there are even numerous online services that can check and correct your grammar. However, make sure you protect sensitive personal data when using such services. It is advisable to remove them from the text. You can never be too sure when uploading content to the web...

4. Mark updated versions of the document

If you are working on a draft that you would like to have translated before the final version is ready and have the minor changes added in the translation later, the following steps will make it easier:

First send us the draft, and if at all possible mark the sections that are likely to change. Specify in your translation requirements that you will additionally send an updated text and let us know approximately when. When making changes in MS Word, turn the track changes function on, which will record all the changes made to the document – content and format wise. Don’t forget to clearly mark it chronologically, which will save us time – e.g. you can name the first document “Summary_changes1” and the next one Summary_changes2” etc. After the changes have been made, send us the document and we will work the changes into the translation. If you are unable to use track changes, it is advisable at least to visually mark the sections of the text or words that have been changed. This process will save a lot of time, especially, when you need to translate the draft urgently and you plan to send in changes while we work on the translation.

If several people are collaborating on the text, for example two or more business parties who insert their remarks in the comments, the document may be clear for regular users because the individual authors are labelled. However, if there are tracked changes made by several authors in the text, sometimes it is not clear which version of the text should be translated. That is why it is always advisable to check and finalize the text for translation after changes have been made or note how to proceed – accept all changes, translated authors’ comments, etc. – in your translation requirement for the translation agency.

5. Don’t forget style

You don’t have to be a professional copywriter to write an engaging motivation letter or CV. The Internet is full of resources that you can use as inspiration, whether those are templates or articles with advice on how to write gripping texts. Translators will do their best, but they cannot perform magic. A stylistically bad text full of typos, unfinished sentences, thoughts and other flaws will be overly difficult to work with and the final result might not be up to par with your expectations, because it is always is based on the original.

That’s why you can never be too careful preparing your texts, no matter what you need them for.

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