Style guide translation and adaptation

One linguistic service available to clients is the translation of style guides content, also called style manuals, which are normally written in the main working language of a company or project. This text may need to be adapted to their other working languages and utilized as a guide for future translations. 

On the other hand, a translator might be presented a style guide that has not been adapted to their project’s target language prior to the translation project. In that case, the translator or team of translators should adapt this style guide specifically to the project given to them.

When translating texts for a company that has its own style guide, it is very important to remember that the guide must be adapted to the target language before the desired translations can be completed.

Knowing whether a style guide exists

Any corporation or project could have its own style guide. It is very advisable to consult the client about theirs before starting on a translation or proofreading project.

The types of companies that are most likely to have their own manual are news media outlets, publishing houses, marketing project providers, linguistic service providers, and large firms, especially those working on an international scale.

What is a style guide?

Knowing what style guides, also called style manuals, are and what is expected from them is very important knowledge to be able to translate one.

Ideally, those entrusted with translating a style manual should know what is required to create one and would be able to create or update one if tasked with such a project, beyond possessing a full understanding of their purpose.

It is also important to be extremely familiar with the company to whom a style guide belongs in order to translate their guide.


What you need to know to create and maintain a style guide

  • The philosophy or message that the company wants to communicate
  • The target audience
  • The required style and desired tone of the text
  • The applicable vocabulary and appropriate language to use
  • Formatting and paragraph stipulations
  • Desired use of capital and lowercase letters
  • The SEO and key word analysis
  • Other aspects such as desired use of quotation marks and other punctuation
  • Any important characteristics of the company or project that should be highlighted or taken into consideration for any special reason

The purpose of a style guide

  • To maintain consistency throughout all written and communicative content for a company or project
  • To answer the questions of both current and future writers as they join the team
  • To set content quality standards

Ongoing updates

Lastly, it is essential that style guides be constantly updated and revised for each new project and text, including translations, as new considerations come to the fore.

The same goes for correct use of translation memories. These files are saved so that translations for a single company or texts concerning a specific project are consistent:

  • Their patterns and rules must be followed so that the appropriate language is used consistently.
  • The style chosen should not be allowed to become archaic, however. It should evolve with the company, be corrected, and adapt to new situations that were not anticipated in the old version.

Style guides should not be baffling, rigid lists of permanently unyielding rules. Modifications, updates, edits and adaptations must be part of their life cycles, accompanying the company’s development and its activities.

This factor should also be taken into account when embarking on a style guide translation:

  • be it the translation of a style guide itself
  • or of a text involving a style guide to which the translated text must adhere, which has not, however, been translated ahead of time.