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December 23, 2020 |

Why a Style Guide Is Essential to Your Translation Project

A style guide is the glue that brings all your translations together to reflect your brand’s voice. It allows you to create a unique global image for your brand despite having localized content for multiple audiences across different countries and regions. 

The style guide is a set of in-house rules that translators and linguists must follow when working on your project. The translation process is complicated, so without style guidelines, it’s easy for translators to lose track of what matters to your brand. As a result, your content will be inconsistent and lack brand personality. 

Your audience could quickly get confused, and you’ll end up sending the wrong message about who you are as a brand and what you stand for. A style guide also helps you communicate your expectations, making it easier for linguists to deliver excellent results on time. Let’s discuss some of the further benefits of investing in a style guide.

1. Consistency

Maintaining translation consistency is the most obvious benefit of having a style guide. It applies to everything brand-related – from register and tone to how you handle grammar issues, such as the Oxford comma, for example. 

Every language has its ambiguities, and you want to make sure that everyone in your translation and localization team follows the same grammar rules across your content. Note that many languages have different ways to express concepts based on gender criteria, so make sure you have a rule in place to avoid ambiguity. 

Do the same for spelling numbers or using official titles and punctuation – for example, some brands don’t like to see any exclamation points in their content. If you don’t want specific words in your content, make sure you mention it right from the start. 

For languages with multiple formality levels, such as Japanese or Korean, you need to clarify what tone linguists should use across your content. Otherwise, you risk having very formal marketing materials that lead to a not-so-formal website, or vice versa.

In this scenario, your potential international clients won’t understand who you are as a business or how you position your brand in the market. It may seem like a small detail, but it makes a big difference in Asian cultures.  

Last but not least, consistency means using terminology properly across various types of content. If you have patents or trademarks for the names of your products or methods, provide instructions for translation. Sometimes, it’s better not to translate the names, provided that they don’t have a specific negative meaning in the target language. 

Try to be as straightforward as possible when explaining brand voice, formality in writing, and terminology, for increased consistency. It’s best to use examples to illustrate various situations and how you want words used in different contexts. 

2. Efficiency

When you have a style guide, you streamline communication with your translation and localization teams. It smooths out the translation process, as linguists know what’s expected from them. Clear instructions also reduce stress inside the team as people feel confident about what they’re doing. Your translators work better independently and meet deadlines, and translation productivity skyrockets. 

Guidelines reduce redundant work and linguists and local content creators get quick access to information to focus on the task at hand instead of wasting several work hours on research. If you use transcreation to make your content more accessible to local audiences, a style guide creates the perfect framework for creativity. 

Furthermore, when you have a style guide ready, you don’t need to repeatedly carry on the same conversation every time you start a new translation project. You simply send over the guidelines, and linguists will get back to you only if they have any additional questions. 

Your style guide becomes an asset that speeds up the administrative processes when you’re starting a translation project. Moreover, if you decide to add new languages to your portfolio, you can always use the guidelines as inspiration to create additional guides. 

The secret is keeping the style guide updated and relevant to your brand. The more you expand globally, the more your guidelines can change to accommodate new audiences and cultural insights. You should analyze and update your brand voice and tone once a year or once every other year to make sure you remain relevant to the market and your target audience. 

3. Clear Messaging

Another advantage of having a style guide for translations is that you can write clear messages across multiple platforms in various languages. This way, your social media messages, email content, website, and even technical documentation will say the same things. 

Think of the languages that have multiple versions and dialects, like English, Spanish, or French. A style guide explains what version(s) you prefer so that everyone involved in content creation follows the same rules and writes in the same language. 

Last but not least, the guidelines enable large teams to adapt content to the same target audience. Make sure you write the rules with your public in mind. Elements like age, cultural background, education, and habits can influence how your brand speaks, so make sure it’s all explained inside the guide. Otherwise, your content won’t match your public’s expectations, and people won’t engage with it. 

In Summary

A style guide helps translators deliver top-quality content and preserve your brand voice in multiple languages. For this to happen, you need to mention all the elements that can influence translation and localization. This includes (but shouldn’t be limited to) brand tone, messaging and terminology, words and punctuation to avoid, indications for grammar ambiguities, instructions for handling gendered language, official titles, and numbers, the versions of the target language by region, and details that matter to your brand. 

Finally, make sure you provide examples to make the guidelines easy to follow so that your translators understand what you expect from them.