Planning Ahead—Writing for Translation



One of the things a good translation depends on is a good source text. Often a poorly written document costs more time, effort, and money to translate. For documents destined for translation, here are five tips to keep in mind to help make the translation faster, easier, and more accurate:

  • Write clearly and simply. If the document is confusing in the source language, it will likely be confusing in the target language—or it will take longer for the translator to complete the translation.
  • Finalize the text before sending it off to be translated. Changes to the document after the translator has already started can be both costly and time-consuming.
  • Avoid using jargon, slang, or culture-specific terms. Instead, use simple, common language that is easily understood in the source language.
  • Keep sentence length to 20 words or less where possible. Try to have only one main idea in each sentence.
  • Provide definitions for acronyms or specialized terms, either within the document itself or in a separate document for the translator.


For more information, see the pamphlet Translation; Getting it Right by the American Translators Association at, as well as the article at


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