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What Should You Know About Translation Style Guide?

Posted by Anne Q. on October 21, 2022.

A translation style guide is a key tool for optimizing your translation projects. It benefits your company by improving the overall translation quality with high consistency and reducing turn-around time. The process of creating this guideline might be time-consuming but is a worthwhile investment that will bring you a large return in the long run.

In today’s post, we will give you basic knowledge about translation style guides and how to create one for your company.

What is a Translation Style Guide?

A translation style guide is a guideline your company made for translators to follow while handling your translation projects. A style guide usually includes a set of rules about writing style, translation tone, spelling, punctuations, brand voice, and other textual and visual elements.

A translation style guide is mostly written in the source language to explain the source elements and their expected outcomes clearly to your linguists. For example, if your project is translating a document from Japanese to English, then writing the style guide in Japanese comes highly recommended.

Some people might be confused between the definition of a translation style guide and a translation glossary. While a translation style guide focuses on the presentation of your content, a translation glossary includes terminologies or words that have unique meanings in your content’s context.

Translation style guides play an indispensable role in the success of a translation project. Some of the most notable benefits of using this linguistic asset are:

      • Remain a consistent brand voice – The style guide ensures all language elements and writing styles the translators choose are consistent with your previous materials and your brand messages in different languages. It means your company can communicate effectively with your customers worldwide while remaining the brand’s voice and reputation.
      • Save time – By providing your translators with a set of standards and references ahead, both your company and the translators can save a great deal of time from sending back-and-forth emails to discuss the basic rules or reworking after the first delivery.


What to Include in Your Translation Style Guide?

Here are 5 elements you should always include in your translation style guide:

(1) General Information about The Project

To give your translators a general idea about the project they are about to work on, you should start the style guide by giving them a brief description of your company and the project by mentioning the following information:

      • The types of products or services you provide;
      • An overview of the project;
      • Purposes of the content that needs translating – for marketing campaigns, website, training, legal documents, etc.


(2) Tones of Voice

Every brand has its own tone of voice to convey the message to its target customers. The purposes of the content also have an effect on the tone translators should use. For example, content for social media should be in a more simple and conversational tone while documents for legal purposes should be written in a formal and sophisticated tone of voice.

Therefore, to help translators go on the right track, you should indicate your preferred tone of voice clearly. Here is a list of some common tones of voice you might find useful:

What is a Translation Style Guide_Tone of Voice


(3) Your Target Audience’s Profile

What’s more, it is highly recommended that you provide your translators with your target audience’s profile. Such information gives your translation resources a clear picture of the languages they should use to effectively communicate with your target audiences. Try to include:

      • Key demographic details namely ages, locations, education levels, and other lifestyle indicators.
      • Customers’ fears and concerns.
      • Notable market obstacles.


(4) Linguistic Preferences

The linguistic preferences of each company are unique based on the characteristic of the nature of the content and the company’s writing style. In general, this section should mention the following basic linguistic elements:


To make sure the outcome is as you expected, you should remind your  translators to pay attention to small yet important spelling factors as follow:

      • Words with various ways of writing. E.g. high-quality or high quality, fanpage or fan page.
      • Alternate spellings for different groups of audiences. E.g. British English or American English.
      • Commonly misspelt words. E.g. Facebook or Twitter without the first letter being capitalized or the list of commonly misspelt words below.Commonly misspelled words

Abbreviations and Acronyms

Provide your translators with a list of abbreviations and acronyms and whether you want to keep them unchanged or keep the source terms with an explanation in the target language in parentheses or translate them into the target language.

For example, when translating a document from English to Vietnamese, there are numerous ways to handle the FDA acronym. Each conversion has its own effect. Thus, your company should clarify to the translators which option you like the best.

Source Text Target Text
FDA FDA (Cục quản lý Thực phẩm và Dược phẩm Hoa Kỳ)
FDA Cục quản lý Thực phẩm và Dược phẩm Hoa Kỳ


You should indicate how you want to use citations and attributions in your style guide as well as give guidance on the common mistakes to avoid regarding the use of commas, periods, exclamations, and question marks. For example, do you want to use commas before “and” when listing items?

Names and Addresses

You should specify how you want your translators to localize people and place names in the content. They can either use localized spelling or keep the source names. For example, Mexico vs. México, Nueva York vs. New York, or Cologne vs. Köln.

Numbers and Measurements

      • Currency – Do you want the source currency to be converted into the target language’s currency or it should be kept unchanged?
      • Dates and time format – Each country uses its own format for dates and times. For instance, while most European and Southeast Asian countries like the UK, Italia, Vietnam, and Thailand use the dd/mm/yy format, people in the US are familiar with the mm/dd/yy format.  You should mention clearly your preferred format to increase the relevancy of your content to the target audiences.
      • Measurement units – There are two measurement systems used by different countries in the world – Metric and Imperial Measures. While most countries in the world are using the metric system (centimetre, degree Celsius, kilogram, and multimeter), three countries – the U.S., Liberia and Myanmar – mostly stick to the imperial system (such as pound, mile, and inch). If you need to translate a document from American English to Korean, for example, and want to change miles and pounds to kilometres and kilograms, let your translators know by mentioning this requirement in your translation style guide.


(5) Elements Shouldn’t be Translated

There are certain elements such as person names, product names, websites, etc. that you might want to keep unchanged throughout the translation process. In some cases, there is only a part of the phrases you want to be translated while the rest should remain.

For example, should “POÄNG” in “POÄNG fåtölj” be kept intact when translating into English as “POÄNG armchair” or should it be changed into “POANG armchair” so that international audiences can type the name easier? Whichever is your choice, please specify it to your translators in the guideline.


Who Should Be Involved in Creating Your Translation Style Guide?

Creating a style guide that works well for your translation project requires the collaboration of various positions, from both your internal and external resources.

Who should involve in making a translation style guide?

      • Internal linguists – If your company has a team of in-house translators, then we suggest you ask them for some input on the guideline. Your in-house linguists have experience in translating your company’s content for a certain period of time, thus, more than anyone, they understand thoroughly the linguistic elements or common mistakes to avoid.
      • A marketer from your company –  You will also need someone who is familiar with your company’s brand strategy, brand identity, content, etc. to work on the creation of your style guide to make sure marketing factors are taken into consideration. The purpose is to maintain consistent brand messaging in any language.
      • Linguists from your translation agencies – After creating a guideline with the help of your internal resources, you should share it with your translation language provider. This step gives your external translators a chance to understand your requirements and provide you with some insights to improve the guideline.




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