As writers involved in localization know, it is common practice for technical translation services vendors to generate project estimates based on the amount of words, pages and graphics found in the to-be-localized manuals and online help. Professional writers in the industry use the following practices to reduce localization costs for their companies and clients.
- Verbosity is the enemy. It pays to be concise and straight to the point, eliminating unnecessary text when localization is imminent. When writing technical documents, remember that simplicity is very much desired by the end-user.
- Reuse strings and sentences whenever context permits it. Many product localization vendors give credit for repeated text, since re-translation is easily eliminated when translation memory and search engines are used. If your localization vendor is not crediting you for repeated text or 100% matches, you should insist on it.
- Reuse text between online help and manuals as much as possible. Single-sourcing documentation and online help is an excellent way to save on localization costs.
- Thoroughly edit documents before sending them out for localization. Once localization has begun, changes made to English files will need to be folded into all languages. Change orders can become very costly when multiple languages are involved.
- When updating documentation versions, resist the urge to make non-technical or cosmetic changes. Changes often prevent the translation memory’s search engine from making exact matches, resulting in increased costs and time due to translation updates.
- If possible, use US letter or A4 page formats as opposed to smaller page formats for online manuals. This may reduce the overall cost of desktop publishing, which is a large percentage of the total localization cost.
- Eliminate unneeded graphics-based text in the docs and help. Remember that if the user is reading online help topics, he or she has the software running in parallel. As such, there is no need to include all pertinent dialog boxes in the help, since they are already being displayed by the software. In addition, when authoring with a desktop publishing tool, place all graphics-related text in callouts, instead of embedding that text in the graphics. This eliminates text editing for localization purposes. We have a lot more info on how to deal with localizing art files.
- If you are shipping hard copy English documentation, consider reallocating dollars from printing and shipping to localization. PDF, HTML and other online documentation formats are becoming a more common and feasible alternative to printed documents. International users would much rather print and use a manual in their native language than receive one that is already printed, but in English.
- Optimizing English files will result in savings multiplied by the number of languages you localize into, which in turn increases savings geometrically when multiple languages are involved.
- Your primary goal is to help the end-user better understand and use your product. The above practices should not deter focus on the fact that it is the end-user who must benefit the most from the released documentation.
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