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2010, Q4 (December 29, 2010)

Meeting Recap: Internationalizing Your Content

Meeting Recap
  • What: Internationalizing Your Content: Authoring with Localization in Mind
  • When: October 21, 2010

Christina Eftekhar
Christina Eftekhar
by Christina Eftekhar, Carolina Chapter Volunteer

On October 21st, 2010 Lisa Pietrangeli, Global Client Solutions Director at languageintelligence, presented her five-step plan to optimizing content for translation. Lisa’s presentation contained many useful techniques for any technical writer with an international audience who is prepare for translation. Her steps are summarized below. Lisa's slides are available on the event page.

First, Lay a Simple and Clear Foundation

Start with simple sentences, avoiding open clauses (especially before bulleted lists), sentence fragments, and distant adjectives and adverbs. Also avoid many noun modifiers, idioms, and slang.

Next, keep everything consistent, especially for terminology. Every term should have one meaning only. For clarity, make sure images are “relatable” and symbols and colors are meaningful on a global level. If a word can be more than one part of speech, ensure the surrounding content clearly defines that word’s role.

Second, Create a Knowledge Base

Create a knowledge base contains all the information used to create the documentation (including procedures, drawings, and audience analyses). Make this information collaborative by involving as many linguistic reviewers during the writing process. Also get input about the style guide, including software references (text and buttons), notes and cautions, procedures, callouts, and images.

Third, Start Chunking

Chunking is the Goldilocks of technical communication: it involves the art and science of creating chunks of information that are “just right.” The first step of chunking is creating a topic map from the content’s outline. This is the basic structure of topic-based authoring, which is how translators work because they use different software to translate chunks of information (instead of the whole document at one time).

Fourth, Reuse and Repurpose Content

There are several organizational tasks that can make your translation project run smoother. First, create a high-level topic map (start with the TOC); it will help you discover requirements and crossovers among documents. Second, develop a transition map that shows which translations are complete and if they can be reused. After high-level analyses are conducted, you can create deeper levels of topic and translation maps.

Determine how much legacy content can and should be reused. Most importantly, though, is to not force reuse; but where you can reuse content, and where the same words are warranted and make sense for the audience, you should.

As with any large documentation project, version control is very important, which is why a content management system (CMS) will make a translation project easier for everyone.

Lastly, Manage Content through Technology

A structured environment, either through a content management system or structured authoring software, is very helpful for large documentation projects that include translation. A structure separates content from output along with management content. For those using Word or other unstructured content, tools like SmartDocs will help with content management and reuse.

About Lisa

Lisa Pietrangeli works with clients to develop internationalization strategies for all stages of the content development process, including authoring, terminology management, XML implementation, translation and output finalization

Christina is a technical writer in Research Triangle Park, NC and blogs about technical communication growing pains at writingforpurpose.wordpress.com. She can be reached at c dot s dot eftekhar at gmail dot com. End of article.

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