Wednesday, May 5, 2010

translatability

One of the things we can do to improve translations for social change is to educate our movements on how to write (and edit) documents so that they are more easily and clearly translatable. To this end I want to share here some great suggestions for this from technical writer Fiona Hannington:

"Writing for ESL and writing for translatability makes for good technical writing, regardless of whether we have ESL readers (we do) or expect the docs to be translated (maybe one day).
In particular:
  • Use simple sentence constructions of subject-verb-object.
  • Use the active voice. The passive voice, although appropriate sometimes, can introduce ambiguity (who or what is the actor?).
  • Use pronouns clearly so that the antecedent is obvious.
  • Avoid turning verbs into nouns (nominalization).
  • Avoid phrasal and modal verbs. Phrasal verbs have two or more words. Choose a one-word verb that says the same thing. Modal verbs express the mood of the main verb ("should," "could," "can," "would," "might," and "may"). Use these when there is no other way to make these subtle distinctions. Certainly avoid using both phrasal and modal verbs together.
  • Avoid noun strings (more than one adjective).
  • Use positive language: avoid negative constructions.
  • Choose one term for a concept and use it consistently.
  • Do not omit articles and prepositions when they help to clarify the meaning.
  • Avoid wordiness: keep sentence length under 20 words.
Example:
Before:
To maintain synchronization [nominalization] between the two controller cards, the operating system occasionally performs an automatic reload of [nominalization] the standby controller card. To facilitate the automatic reload [repetitive; nominalization] of an controller card, the auto-boot? variable must be set [passive] to true.
After:
To synchronize the two controller cards, the operating system occasionally reloads the standby controller card automatically. To enable this process, set the auto-boot? variable to true."

Fantastic. Thanks Fiona!

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