Content writing and localization – rigidly separated or mutually dependent? One aspect is becoming clearer every day in the industry: developing a content strategy keeping localization in mind from the earliest stage of content production helps companies save time and money, increase the quality of translations and, ultimately, better satisfy your customers.

Keeping a customer-centric approach is key, not only as the best marketing strategy for your company, but also as the most successful content writing approach.

Content strategy – Thinking globally is the answer

For an English mother-tongue content writer, it may be natural to use idiomatic expressions, metaphors and cultural references; it may even seem to be adding value to the produced content. However, if localization is involved, the contrary is true. And it’s not easy to embrace such “think global” attitude. Adding too many references to the source culture may be dangerous, especially if the product is going to be localized in many languages that, possibly, do not have an equivalent. What is it easier then: assessing all possible translatability issues of a cultural concept beforehand or simply avoiding adding it and choosing a more neutral approach instead?

Someone may complain that a similar culture-free approach could lead to a plain language that is not catchy enough. However, in the increasingly mobile world, the attention spans of readers have been dropping dramatically and, to keep their eyes on the screen, content must be brief, clear, concise and consistent.

Source text for localization – Some content writing tips

As a translator and localizer, I found out some features of the source text to be extremely helpful in guaranteeing comprehensibility, quick translation turnaround and high quality.

Here some tips for content writers:

  • Be consistent and reuse content: a professional content writer may be tempted to use synonyms of a word to avoid repetitions throughout the text. Translation Memories (TMs), though, detect the exact same words, not synonyms, and their implementation highly decrease translation costs and increase quality. Moreover, writing in modules is very common nowadays with content management systems and it allows writers to reuse the same chunks of text, enhancing consistency and reducing localization costs here, too.
  • Avoid ambiguity: translators are not in the content writer’s mind, therefore when possible avoid the tricky long noun strings, stick to standard sentence word order, write international dates clearly, use pronouns such as “that/which” to connect sentences. In other words: be clear.
  • Allow for text expansion: localized versions may be up to 30% longer than the original text, so design and write your content bearing this in mind.
  • Do not indulge in humor or culture-bound concepts: some cultural references are not translatable, or will not have the same effect, avoid adding them, so that the translator will not have to decide whether to omit them or cause understanding issues.
  • Communicate with your partners: even if the content writer pays attention to all mentioned suggestions when writing, a solid and continuous communication channel with localizers sets a company up for success, in case of queries and in order to train the translators right from the beginning. Reference materials are also invaluable: glossaries, style guides, localization preferences, kick-off calls and ongoing feedback.

Wrapping up

Great articles with more detailed and practical indications on how to write content that will be localized have been written, and reading them is crucial when defining your content strategy and starting to write content for a global audience and for localization – click here to read one of my favorites.

From the point of view of a translator, it is crucial to think about localization right from the beginning, find out the locales that the content will be translated into and produce a documentation that has the above-mentioned features. Not only the success of the localized products is at stake, but also the source product will incredibly profit from a think-global and concise approach to writing!

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