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People, Processes, and Change

Helping authors to adopt translation best practices

Ann Rockley
The Rockley Group Inc.

Moving towards the design, creation, and delivery of translated content can be yet another change for authors. Potentially coming on the heels of a movement to structured content, content reuse, and content management, it can be overwhelming. This article talks about how you can help to mitigate the concerns associated with the change.

Integrate translation requirements

One of the best way to introduce the changes for translation is to tie them in with the changes you are already introducing. Structured reusable content requires a new way of writing and writing for translation does too. Fortunately many of the guidelines are equally effective for both (e.g., consistency in structure and content, appropriate labeling, self-contained content object). Integrating best practices for translation into your structured writing guidelines eases the perceived additional workload required to write content for translation.

Demonstrate the issues

Nothing is more effective than a demonstration to help authors understand the benefits of changing the way they create content.

Identify the problem areas in your current translation process and gather examples to demonstrate problems (e.g., inconsistent wording, long sentences, minor changes from revision to revision that are more subjective than actually necessary, etc.). Demonstrate the instances of the problem and show them the costs.

One example we use is to show inconsistencies. In one situation we found 12 different versions of essentially the same information in 5 different outputs. Each of the instances of the content would be translated individually at a cost of approximately $100 for the first language. Then the cost of the translation for one language is multiplied by the number of languages (in this case 25) for a total of $2500. When an author considers that it is potentially just one example among many, it helps to reinforce their understanding of the potential costs.

Explain the translation process

Have your in-house translators or Language Service Provider demonstrate how they translate the content they receive. Help your authors understand the complete process and the potential pitfalls. A clear understanding of the process assists them in realizing the impact of their actions.

Encourage dialog

Encourage a dialog between your authors and the translators to promote the exchange of information. Have the translators identify areas of change which can help in the translation process. Have both teams work together to develop a clear set of guidelines that enhance the quality of the content and improve the translation process.

Share successes

As you begin to see reduced costs of translation (based on the changes you have adopted) share the successes with your authoring team. Knowing their actions have resulted in improved processes and reduced costs is very motivating. Share your successes with management too.


Successful implementation of an effective translation strategy rests with educated authors that clearly understand the processes and ramifications of their actions. And it rests with authors participating in the development of guidelines that work for everyone.

Copyright 2005, The Rockley Group, Inc.