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Three top tips for writing with translation in mind

Writing for a global audience is a tough task, because naturally you want to speak to just one audience. But when you know translation is in the pipeline, it is important to bare it in mind from when you first put pen to paper.

While English is the common default language, it will often be translated into French, Italian, German, Spanish and even languages like Korean or Chinese. All of these languages have their own style, nuances and differences and, as a writer, there are certain things you can do to help make the audiovisual translator’s job that little bit easier, so we have compiled our top three tips for writing with translation in mind.

1. Every language is a different length

One of the key mistakes made by writers is that they don’t realise the length of text can dramatically alter when translated. For example, one word in English might equate to three in Italian. This is ever more omnipresent in audiovisual translation, when time becomes a factor. It is best to give your script a little space to breath, expand and contract within the context of the audio or visual it supports, to give the translator some flexibility.

2. Think global, not local

It’s often too easy for expressions to get lost in translation. More often than not, it’s localised and colloquial phrases that don’t exist, or the expression in one language means something totally different in another language. When you know your work is going to be adapted for a global audience, our advice is to stay away from local phrases you’re familiar with and, where possible, work with generic language that everybody can understand.

3. Keep it simple

Sometimes, especially when writing about healthcare or academic subjects, it can be easy to get carried away with long, complicated words. Quite often, these can leave your own native tongue twisted, so imagine how difficult it can be to find the same or similar word in 32 other languages. It’s important here to keep it simple, and explain technical jargon in a way that can be understood.

It’s good to bear these principles in mind, but don’t let them hold you back. Whatever the media, a translation agency has the skills and experience to get your local writing ready for a global audience.