The way we write impacts how the message is received and understood. If a piece of writing is unclear, the intended message will not be understood by the reader. In Australia, we operate in a multilingual environment where public information is usually created first in English, then translated into different languages. This means that the way the original information is written will influence how the information is translated into the other languages.
In the world of translation, we use the terms source text or source content to mean the original text or content that will be translated into another language. The quality of the source text can have a big impact on the quality of the translation. If the source text is unclear, a translator, like any reader, can misinterpret the meaning and the intended message may not be translated correctly. This is why we place a lot of importance on how the source text should be written.
“In our work with communications teams, we always stress the importance of using plain language when creating content that is intended for translation,” says Claire Mullins, LanguageLoop’s National Translation Manager.
“Plain language is not a way of dumbing down content or excluding important information; it is simply a clear and concise way of writing for a specific reader.”
Why plain language is positive for translation
- Meaningful communication
Providing information in plain language will increase the chance of meaningful communication. This in turn improves how accurately information flows from one language to another. In this way, you build trust and can make sure your audience understands what you want them to know.
- Faster time to market
It also has positive business outcomes. Plain language reduces ambiguity so it reduces the time to understand the information. This promotes faster translation and ensures accuracy.
- Cost benefits
Writing in a clear and consistent way can also have a positive impact on Translation Memories. Using a consistent style, with consistent terminology increases the number of matches with previously translated content. This leads to more consistency across translations and can have great cost and time benefits.
Tips for writing in plain language
Plain language is writing that is clear, concise, well organised and written with the intended audience in mind.
- Understand your audience and what they need to know
- Have just one main idea in each sentence
- Keep your average sentence length to 15 to 20 words
- Avoid jargon and acronyms – use everyday words instead
- Use the active voice with active verbs
- Use the present tense where possible