5 tips for better software translation and localisation

Software stringsSoftware localisation and translation can be a tricky task and one slight omission may have nasty consequences. You’ll need extra attention to details and a mix of IT and creativity skills supported by knowledge of appropriate terminology to deliver functional and user-friendly localisation. The following tips will help you avoid the most common pitfalls in software translation and localisation

1. Don’t delete leading or trailing spaces

Spaces do matter, even if placed at the beginning or at the end of a text string. There is a huge difference between “Edit” and “Edit “. The former may be a menu item, whereas the latter may be followed by a file name or another string. If you delete the trailing space in “Edit “, the translation followed by a file name will be displayed as “EditName.php”, which is not user-friendly at all.

2. Avoid quotation marks, if possible

Translatable strings are usually placed in quotation marks, so the best practice is to avoid additional quotation marks within the strings. In some languages the use of quotation marks may be required for certain phrases, for example, if you refer to button or option names in a command. In this case you should enter a double quotation mark (e.g. “Click on “”Application update”” to proceed”).  

3. Ensure consistency with previous products

If you’re translating strings for a new software version, always assure consistency with previous releases. Refer to beta or running versions of the application and use the same terminology, unless advised otherwise. Remember to ensure consistency within the product as well.

4. Use terminology of the target operating system

Before you begin to localise an application, make sure you know for which operating system it has been developed. Some terms may vary depending on the system and you shouldn’t confuse phrases typical for Microsoft Windows with phrases used in Apple Mac OS. The good news is that some publishers make their terminology available online, so if you don’t receive any terminology lists in your localisation kit, you can refer to online resources.

5. Review your capitalisation

Capitalisation is an often overlooked element, especially when it comes to menu items or options. In English item, button or option names are usually written in title case, e.g. “Save As”, “New Comment”, but in many languages you’ll have to use lower case (e.g. in Polish the items would be translated as “Zapisz jako” and “Nowy komentarz”). So, make sure to review your capitalisation in the final text.


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Dorota helps digital brands infuse their content with a local touch. She is a localization consultant, translator specialized in IT, prompt engineer, and a book author. Dorota teaches online courses on localization, writes for her blog and a Medium publication. She also runs a Small Biz AI, a Substack newsletter for freelancers and small business owners ready to discover handy AI tools.

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