ULG’s Language Solutions Blog

One Tip to Improve Your Translations Right Now: Create a Style Guide

Posted by Kenzie Shofner on October 4, 2016

< Back to ULG Blog

One Tip to Improve Your Translations Right Now: Create a Style Guide

By United Language Group

One of the biggest challenges we hear from our customers is that they are struggling to maintain consistent brand messaging across their translated materials. Often they are working with several translators from different locations who speak different languages. Sound familiar?

One way to help ensure consistent messaging in these situations is to create a translation style guide. A style guide provides the critical information your localization team needs to produce on-message, relevant content across all of your target languages, markets, and locales. Coupled with translation glossaries, style guides help to streamline the translation process by educating your linguists about your company’s writing style and requirements developed for your products and audiences.


What is it?

A translation style guide is a handbook that sets the standards for content development in any language, defining the ideal translation for your company. This critical reference document helps your translators understand brand elements like voice and tone, writing style, sentence structure, look and feel, graphic conventions, formatting, text treatments, media use, and more.

Typical elements include capitalization, target audience, modes of measurement when metrics are involved, tone and style of language—and even common errors and wording to avoid when translating into certain target languages.


How to do it

You may have a style guide that your teams use for writing English content, which is a great place to start! But, your translation style guide should contain slightly different information.

Start by answering a few questions:

  • Who’s your audience?
  • What do you want them to see in the documents?
  • What don’t you want them to see?
  • How should the tone of the materials come across (Quirky, formal, conversational)?
  • Do you prefer active or passive voice?
  • What reading level do you want to aim for?
  • Which words or phrases should be included in the do-not-translate list (acronyms, product names, trademarks or something else that is unique to the company)?
  • How do you want the translators to handle formatting, punctuation, capitalization, units of measurement, currencies, addresses or phone numbers?

Certain styles work better in some countries than in others. For example, in the Japanese culture they prefer a more formal tone. So, you may want to modify your style guide for each country you’re translating materials for.

Work with your translation provider and in-country reviewers to make sure you’ve captured everything correctly. These stakeholders can provide invaluable input on what messaging will best resonate with your target audiences since they are immersed in the language, culture and industry. This will also get their buy-in early in the project and streamline the review process.

We’ve put together a style guide template to help you get started. Also, here are some additional examples:


Still have questions? We’d love to help. Contact us today.



ULG's insights delivered straight to your inbox.

Thoughtful editorials from industry experts delivered weekly in bite-sized pieces.

Google+ Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Instagram


United Language Group

Andrew is a staff writer at United Language Group. He is especially interested in digital marketing, translation technology, as well as cultural and linguistic studies.

Ready to learn more?

Topics: Compliance