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Localization Guidelines for Language and Terminology

This content is no longer actively maintained. It is provided as is, for anyone who may still be using these technologies, with no warranties or claims of accuracy with regard to the most recent product version or service release.

How does your writing style affect localization? The following list of suggestions provides some language and terminology guidelines that should ease localizing your application.

  • Use clear, concise, and grammatically correct language   Ambiguous words, obtuse or highly technical sentences, and grammatical mistakes increase translation time and costs. Consider how a non-native speaker might interpret and translate a phrase before writing it.
  • Be consistent   Automated translation tools can significantly cut down on localization vendor's costs. But automatic translation tools only work if standard phrases are being used. Many localization vendors are paid per word. Consider the amount of money that can be saved if one standard phrase can be easily, or automatically translated into multiple languages. For example, the following messages could be standardized into one consistent message:
    MessageStandardized version of message
    Not enough memoryThere is not enough memory available.
    There is not enough memory availableThere is not enough memory available.
    Insufficient Memory!There is not enough memory available.
  • Use descriptors   Inserting a descriptor before a term can clarify the meaning of the sentence and, more importantly, helps the localizer to decide whether the term should be localized. For example, "Must specify InfID when detect is set to No" could be better stated as "When the option Detect is set to No, you must specify the parameter InfID."
  • Avoid colloquial words and phrases   Colloquial words and phrases are very hard to translate and might be offensive in certain cultures. A product might be friendlier to other cultures if colloquial terms and scenarios are avoided.
  • Avoid compound nouns   In the English language, it is possible to compound several nouns without adding a preposition or a sub clause. This is usually not possible in other languages, which presents the translator with the dilemma of figuring out which nouns belong together. Inserting prepositions when writing in English would clarify the meaning immediately. For example, "Site Server LDAP Service directory server" should be changed to "Directory server for the LDAP Service of the Site Server."
  • Abbreviations and acronyms   When using abbreviations and acronyms, ensure that the abbreviations and acronyms have meanings that are understood by most users. You should always define abbreviations and acronyms that might not be obvious in all languages.
  • Punctuation and spacing   Different languages often have different punctuation and spacing rules. Consider these differences when writing strings in code. For example, "17.5 MB" in English is localized to "17,5 MB" in German. Thus, if this string is constructed at run time, the localizer cannot change the point to a comma. For similar reasons, apply these considerations to numbers, dates, or any other information that might have different formats in other languages.

See Also

Localizing Your Application | Localization Guidelines for Your User Interface | Localization Guidelines for Your Code | Localizing Your Access Runtime Application