Writing for machine translation

By Tom Castor | December 28, 2023 | ,

Writing for machine translation involves considering the capabilities and limitations of automated translation systems. Here are some guidelines to help create content that is more suitable for machine translation:

  1. Clarity and Simplicity:
    • Use clear and straightforward language to convey your message.
    • Avoid complex sentence structures and convoluted expressions.
  2. Avoid Ambiguity:
    • Be explicit and minimize ambiguity in your writing.
    • Clarify any potential double meanings or ambiguous phrases.
  3. Consistent Terminology:
    • Use consistent terminology throughout your text.
    • Ensure that the same terms are translated consistently across the document.
  4. Sentence Length:
    • Keep sentences concise and avoid overly long sentences.
    • Break down complex ideas into smaller, digestible units.
  5. Cultural Neutrality:
    • Minimize cultural references that may not be easily translatable.
    • Use universal examples and context where possible.
  6. Limit Idioms and Colloquialisms:
    • Idiomatic expressions and colloquialisms may not translate well.
    • Choose more literal expressions to enhance clarity.
  7. Avoid Wordplay and Puns:
    • Wordplay and puns often rely on language-specific nuances.
    • Opt for straightforward language to prevent confusion.
  8. Provide Context:
    • Include sufficient context to aid understanding.
    • Consider the possibility of a lack of cultural or situational knowledge on the part of the machine translation system.
  9. Punctuation:
    • Use standard punctuation to enhance readability.
    • Avoid excessive use of ellipses, exclamation marks, or other punctuation that may be misinterpreted.
  10. Review and Edit:
    • Review your content with machine translation in mind.
    • Edit for clarity, consistency, and language simplicity.
  11. Avoid Untranslatable Content:
    • Be cautious with content that may be challenging to translate, such as highly specialized or culturally specific references.
  12. Formatting and Structure:
    • Maintain a clear document structure with headings, subheadings, and bullet points.
    • Ensure that the formatting is simple and well-preserved in the translated version.
  13. Test with Machine Translation:
    • Test your content with machine translation tools to identify potential issues.
    • Make adjustments based on the results of the translation.

Remember that while these guidelines can enhance the performance of machine translation, they do not replace the need for professional human translators, especially for critical or nuanced content. Machine translation is a valuable tool, but it is most effective when used in conjunction with human expertise.

Tom Castor

Thomas Castor, founder of Clear and Simple Media Group, is a seasoned writer and communicator who has been delivering content with clarity and simplicity for 30 years.