February 2021 – The Importance of Staying in Fashion

This month, I discuss the the important role of style guides in the translation and localization process.

When it comes to providing top-quality services, continuity is key. One method of ensuring translation services exhibit a level of consistency appropriate to a client’s needs is to establish a tailored, client-specific style guide serving as the basis for future projects.

Providing consistency is about staying ahead of any potential issues through the regular review of any style guides employed.

For the uninitiated, a style guide is a document agreed upon between the language service provider (LSP) and the client containing clear instructions about how the client wishes specific linguistic elements to be treated in any works undertaken for them. This can include, but is not limited to, conventions on font types and sizes, date and time formats, how handwritten text, signatures, and stamps are represented, headers and footers, and the use of client-specific terminology. The latter usually takes the form of a glossary, forming either a relevant section or appendix, or a wholly separate document to be used in conjunction with the guide. Glossaries can also be converted in termbase files to be used by translators using any agreed CAT tool software. This complete guide should be then be shared with everyone involved in the translation and localization processes.

Clients may already have developed their own style guides and here at WMTS, we’re more than happy to employ these when available. As a requirement for compliance with ISO 17100, we’ve also established our own in-house style guide which serves a jumping-off point during discussions with potential clients who may never have previously had cause of consider such conventions.

So, a style guide is in place and the client is happy with its content, fantastic! At this point, you’d be forgiven for thinking the only thing left to do is get on with the business of translating and localising, right? Well, not quite. Just like your favourite stonewashed denim jacket or that rather expensive pair of shoes, today’s fashion do’s can quickly become tomorrow’s fashion don’ts. With longer-term and regular output projects, perhaps more important than the establishment of such a style guide is the continual process of reviewing and updating it as the client’s requirements evolve. In most cases, conventions may not change very much (if at all), but having regular confirmation of this provides LSPs with reassurance that their translations continues to meet the needs and requirements of their clients. Complaints and legal disputes could potentially arise if such quality assurance mechanisms are not in place.

As mentioned, one important area is client-specific terminology. While a style guide may comprise a client-specific glossary, it’s by no means a guarantee against potential lexical issues further down the road. There’s always the potential, especially at the outset of a new project, that terms not initially identified by the client as requiring specific treatment may end up requiring review. This can sometimes be the case in projects involving multiple translators. Within a given sector, the differing treatment of more commonplace nouns can lead to variation in the collective translation output, especially with interchangeable synonyms, e.g. doctor/physician/practitioner. The client should be informed and a decision made about their preferred treatment for all future work. The existing glossary should then also be updated to include any newly agreed terms and disseminated accordingly.

It’s said that staying in fashion is often about staying ahead of the trends, and by way of analogy, maintaining the level of consistency expected by clients is also about staying ahead of any potential issues through the regular review of any style guides employed.

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All images provided by Pixabay.com

Author: Will Maitland

German and French > English Freelance Translator

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