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Localizing User Assistance Content: 15 Essential Tips for 'Help' Translation

Introduction

Translating help and documentation content is an essential part of many product releases. But, getting it right can be tricky, especially when multiple languages and target locales are involved.

To help avoid the numerous costly pitfalls related to user assistance authoring and translation we have pulled together 15 essential tips in three categories that can improve the quality of your content and reduce your costs.

This white paper will help you:

User Assistance Writing Considerations

Your user assistance content conveys important information about your product. Following the guidelines below will help to ensure that your messages are delivered effectively in your source copy and that your content is optimized for translation.

  1. Follow a style guide to keep your source content consistent and clear. A style guide will help facilitate a higher quality of translation later in the project and ultimately reduce the cost of entering new markets.
  2. Develop a comprehensive glossary for all your user assistance that provides terminology such as product names, trademarked terms, user interface (UI) field labels, product button labels, and acronyms. Once you decide to move forward with translation, this glossary will be a cornerstone for consistency and clarity throughout your translated documentation and your product. Make sure to indicate in your glossary which terms should not be translated (for example, product names and trademarked terms are not typically translated).
  3. Be consistent in your writing style to make documents clear and easy to translate. For example, keep headlines and sub-headlines parallel (chapter titles are noun phrases and procedure headings begin with gerunds, such as ‘Creating a New User Account’). Use the same term to mean the same thing throughout the documentation. This can be enforced through the proper utilization of a source style guide and glossary.
  4. Include both metric and imperial units of measure. The United States is one of only a handful of countries that has not converted to the metric system. This difference can cause significant confusion and costly errors if the units of measure are not clearly identified. Include both metric and imperial measurements in your documentation, putting the metric version first.
  5. Include international phone and date formats. Because phone numbers and date formats vary from region to region, make sure that you display these formats correctly in your documentation. For example, in the U.S., phone numbers are expressed as (208) 123-4566. However, international customers also need to know the country code, which for the US is +1. Thus, displaying the phone number as +1 208.123.4566 helps your international customers. Conversely, international numbers often use a different format, e.g., German numbers are formatted as +49 89 636 33300. Likewise, many countries use dd/mm/yyyy or the ISO date format (yyyy/mm/dd) to express dates. So, does 05/09/2004 mean May 9, 2004 or 5 September 2004? Clearly indicate which date format you are using, or better still, spell out the month.

 

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