Translation quality and your brand: Does your personality carry through to your translations?


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You work hard to develop engaging copy to position your company brand in just the right way to resonate with your intended audience. You send it off for translation, expecting to get back content that still epitomizes your brand–just in another language.

However, your translations don’t pass muster with your in-country reviewers. The concern is that the message sounds like a totally different company. While this translated content may be grammatically correct and accurate, it doesn’t carry the style and tone that represents your brand. That is just not going to cut it.

Don’t settle for a brand identity crisis. You can address this translation quality shortcoming with style guides.

Your brand’s got style – and your linguists need to know that

Because translation quality can be subjective, a style guide provides linguists with background information about your company and gives guidance to ensure that your message retains your brand identity. This eliminates time spent reworking stylistic errors on the backend that could have easily been avoided from the start of the project.

If you are new to building a translation style guide, here are some common topics to consider addressing within the document:

Tone of voice and style

The tone of voice sets the stage for your message. Therefore, it is important for the linguist to capture the right style. When it comes to translations, you want to be sure your company voice remains consistent across each language. To steer the linguist in the right direction, specify how you want your brand positioned to your target audience and provide specific guidelines on how to do so.

For example, in Microsoft’s translation style guide, they state that they want to come across as friendly and attentive. Because of this, they instruct linguists to use tù-the informal form of you-for Spanish translations. They also advise linguists to use direct speech instead of indirect speech.

Spelling and word usage

When it comes to spelling, words and acronyms can change after translation. If there are acronyms within your source content that should remain the same in your translated content, you need to identify them. You’ll also want to clarify if your company name should be spelled the same across all languages or localized to the target language.

In addition to spelling, consider word choice. While two words may have similar meanings, one may have a negative connotation or association that you do not want used within your content. Providing instructions to choose words that convey a particular feeling or meaning will help linguists use the most appropriate terms in the translation; therefore improving your translation quality.


In certain instances, capitalization is something that can vary depending on content type. Ask yourself these questions: Do you want the first letter of every bulleted phrase to be capitalized? How should titles be handled? Do you want all letters to be lowercase because it’s part of your product’s design and packaging?If there is a specific style you want applied to these types of scenarios, it is important to outline the rules clearly for the linguist. This prevents costly rework later, because the linguist understands upfront how you want capitalization to be handled, even if it technically goes against standard language rules.

Punctuation and grammar

You’ll likely want to follow the common rules of the language for punctuation and grammar. However, stylistic elements can be open to interpretation and so are important to cover as well. Do you want bullets to end with a period? Are there grammatical rules linguists should hold tight to? Do you want grammar to be less formal to portray a particular style? Whatever the answers to these questions, the key is to make sure these pieces are defined in the style guide so that consistency is maintained across all of your translated content—ensuring you get the translation quality you expect.

Sentence structure

Since sentence structure can impact tone and style, it’s important to state your organizational preferences within the style guide. After all, translation is not typically a word-for-word process. Consider whether you would rather have many short sentences or longer, more complex ones. The same expression can often be stated in multiple ways, so clear direction helps a linguist choose the most appropriate way to state a thought to represent your brand identity.

Metrics and data

While numbers may seem consistent across most languages, the way data is portrayed can vary from country to country. For example, many languages use commas instead of decimal points when referring to money. In this instance, do you want to follow the rules of the language, or would you prefer to keep the decimal point? Or perhaps you need to indicate if imperial measurements come first. Anything that deviates from the normal language rules around numbers should be explained in the guide.

Images and examples for increased clarification

Along with safeguarding translation quality, if you want to create a more in-depth style guide, you can also include images and example translations. For instance, in French, the word for a car battery is “batterie” while a battery for a remote control is a “pile.” In this case, images offer more context and clarification, an addition to your style guide that increases the linguist’s understanding of your content.You may even include examples of translated sentences to demonstrate specific word choices that most accurately reflect your brand style and tone.

Multiple languages, multiple style guides?

It is a good idea to create a style guide for each of the languages your content will be translated into, because different languages have distinct rules to consider and address. The linguists will translate your content according to the rules of that language. That means if you want to deviate from any of these rules, it should be clarified within the style guide for that specific language.

However, having one general style guide can still be effective in increasing your translation quality if you are unable to create one for each language. For example, many of the same rules for metrics, capitalization and spelling can apply to all languages.

Avert the brand identity crisis with translation style guides to help linguists capture your company essence. A little upfront guidance goes a long way in ensuring high quality translations that truly represent your global voice.

Creating these resources can be a challenging task if you don’t speak the language. If you need help, Sajan can work with you to create these style guides and bring any important language rules to your attention. Just let us know.

Interested in other ways to improve your translation quality? Check out our whitepaper to learn the 10 questions you should ask your translation vendor to gauge their quality standards.

Rachel Chilson
Rachel is a marketing communications coordinator at Sajan, a world-recognized language translation services provider. Sign up for Sajan Blog posts to receive new translation best practices every week.


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