What is translation-oriented writing?

It makes sense to write clear and comprehensible texts. This almost makes even more sense if the texts are going to be translated. After all, The more comprehensible the source text, the more comprehensible the translation result – and the simpler, faster and cheaper the entire process. Translation-oriented writing contributes significantly to this. We explain the essential aspects, show what to look out for and reveal why those using the source texts also benefit from it.

How is translation-oriented writing defined?

Translation-oriented writing considers any translation that may be done later when creating the source document to avoid potential translation problems and unnecessary queries, and therefore additional work and costs.

The term translation-oriented writing is commonly used in technical documentation, an area where clearly understandable and error-free content is critical to success at all times. Efforts have been made to create optimal foundations for these requirements, which led to the DIN 8579 standard in July 2022 “Translation-oriented writing – text creation and text evaluation”.

What are the benefits of translation-oriented writing?

Texts to be translated should always be written clearly and understandably. The input (source text/material) and output (translation result) are directly related. The following applies, regardless of whether human translation or machine translation is going to be used: The better the source material, the smoother and more effective the process and the better the result.

When creating documents, in terms of the comprehensibility and quality of the text, it is helpful to take into account the fact that they are going to be translated later. This has significant advantages not only for the translator, but also for the customer:

  • Easier and faster translations
  • Minimal time agreeing and correcting elements
  • Reduced costs as a result

“Well-formatted and structured source documents avoid unnecessary queries and subsequent corrections and reduce production and processing time.”

What is translation-oriented writing like when using translation technology?

Translation-oriented writing is essential, especially in view of the standard use of translation technology today. This means that the relevant texts are optimally prepared for translation memory systems. Because if source-language content is not formatted cleanly, the standard segmentation rules of translation tools quickly lead to unclean TMs with translation units that cannot be reused in subsequent projects. Even machine translation tools quickly reach their limits when there is problematic formatting, e.g. hard breaks that divide a sentence into two segments, and a disproportionate amount of effort is then required during the post-editing process. Termbases used in translation are in turn dependent on consistent and correct use of terminology in the source text so that the appropriate target language term is displayed.

What should I bear in mind with translation-oriented writing?

To avoid ambiguities and misunderstandings during translation, which results in wasting time, additional effort or additional costs, the translation and the functionality of the translation technology should be considered when writing content and potential queries should be anticipated.

Observing some essential ground rules in the following areas is the basic requirement of translation-oriented writing:
  • Formatting
  • Terminology
  • Grammar, syntax & style
  • How content is presented

Correct formatting is essential, especially when working with translation memory systems. Incorrectly placed line breaks or unusual abbreviations can lead to incorrect segmentation. Little things, such as superfluous spaces, tabs, manual hyphenation or symbols not embedded correctly in the sentence, quickly lead to an unclean TM and thus to loss of value of the matches in subsequent projects. Multilingual source texts should be avoided and links to other pages/chapters should not be placed manually. Some languages are shorter after translation, others longer. This should be taken into account in the layout of whole pages, but also of tables or text boxes, in order to avoid time-consuming changes later on.


Clear and consistent terminology is important. It helps to define unambiguous terms in advance and to use glossaries if they already exist. To ensure that this terminology is recognised by the translation technology and that the specified target-language terms are displayed, it is important to avoid ambiguities, synonyms, short forms or orthographic variants when writing, regardless of the relevant subject area.

Grammar, syntax & style

The motto for the linguistic part of translation-oriented writing is: concentrate on the essentials. Clear, consistent and precise phrasing and correct information take centre stage here. This includes creating complete sentences that are not too long or complex, avoiding compounds that are too long, regional word variants or filler words, clarifying references and terms, as well as clearly addressing the reader, providing a clear style and using gender-sensitive language.

How content is presented

When creating source language content, country- and culture-specific elements, examples or references should be avoided. Moreover, content is not always represented by text alone; images or symbols, for example, should also be considered, as they may have completely different meanings in other countries or need to be localised for other reasons.

Conclusion: Translation-oriented content is primarily a matter of form

Clean formatting, logical and unambiguous structures, and consistently and precisely formulated content are the foundations of translation-oriented writing. The more structured the preparations, the source language content and the preparation of the files are, the better the translations will be. Without requiring time-consuming changes. Especially when there is little time available and the texts have to be translated into several languages.

This, in turn, also benefits the source texts: since texts that are suitable for translation ideally contain no ambiguities, unclear references, inconsistent terminology and other linguistic or formal pitfalls, they are ultimately also optimised for users reading the original language.

Would you like to use translation-oriented writing and benefit from its many advantages? Then talk to us. Our language and translation experts will be happy to help.

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