Writing Tips for Texts to be Translated


  • Replace pronouns with a noun or name, if there can be any doubt as to their antecedent. When translated, pronouns do not always fall near their antecedent noun or name, or pronouns may be easily misunderstood.
  • Avoid parentheses as you avoid poison. Other languages may prefer to make parentheses into a separate sentence.
  • Use connecting words between clauses, such as ‘because,’ ‘so that,’ ‘when,’ ‘therefore’… For example, instead of ‘The balloon exploded. He stepped on it,’ write ‘The balloon exploded, because he stepped on it.’
  • Use direct quotations rather than indirect. For example, ‘I told him, “Please, sit down,”’ rather than, ‘I told him kindly to sit down.’
  • Stay in the concrete world. Employ active verbs instead of static and abstract nouns. ‘He was telling folk to repent and to get baptized,’ reads more clearly than does, ‘his prophecy of baptism of repentance.’
  • Avoid over-explaining points. If you assume readers are dull, they will quickly detect such condescension and read no further. This is especially important when dealing with the less educated. Less education does not mean less intelligence.
  • Think about what it will sound like in another culture. For example, Americans say, ‘Believers want to experience Christ in their lives.’ How many lives does one lead? Other languages would say, ‘Believers want to experience Christ in their life’, because one leads only one life.
  • Never depend on italic or bold type to express emphasis. Use words for emphasis. ‘I told him to go’ would get lost in translation, especially in languages that do not employ subject pronouns. Better to write, ‘It is I who told him to go.’
  • Write what you mean instead of piling up clichés, figures of speech and cultural allusions. ‘Think out of the box’ does not translate.

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