Here are some simple tips to help you save time and possibly even money on translation. It’s not just about translation though, these top tips can be could considered best practice whenever you’re writing in Word.

When it comes to preparing a document for your company – be it an important contract or an exciting marketing piece – you could be forgiven for thinking that the words are all that matter. For a translator, however, there are other factors that come into play – most importantly, the layout.

For a translator, it can make quite a difference to the translation if that set of words is a title or a command; if words are dotted around the page, is the translator to understand them as a ‘unit’ or as individual words which could yield an entirely different result if they are translated literally?

For customers, too, the benefits of well-formatted documentation are clear. The use of translation memory (TM) software relies on finding similar or identical matches. If the document is laid out in an inconsistent manner, the TM yield may be less than expected, meaning that customers cannot benefit fully from all that TM can offer.

Here are my top tips for improving your document:

Spellcheck, spellcheck, spellcheck

This may seem like a really simplistic first point to make, but it’s amazing how many people entirely forget to do this, even though they may have spent hours working very hard on producing an otherwise exceptional text.

By simply pressing F7 on your keyboard, you can check for any silly oversights that could potentially cause confusion for the translator, and potentially require reprinting costs for the original text, if the errors are caught too late.

Switch on the “Show/Hide” button

This little button may have entirely escaped your notice, but it can be a life-saver for well-formatted documentation. You will find it on the Home ribbon in Word, in the Paragraph group:

It will show little markers for each of the formatting characters in the document – so spaces will appear as a little dot, so you can see at a glance if you’ve put a double space in between words. It will also show you if you have inadvertently broken a line in two which should actually be one sentence.

It can make the page look rather “busy” when you’re not used to it, but you will soon appreciate the benefits.

Make use of automatic tables of contents

Using the formatting styles on the Home ribbon can be a life-saver. For translators, there isn’t much that fills them with dread quite like fixing a manually created table of contents – languages normally vary in length, sometimes quite dramatically. So chapter 4 in the original document may have been on page 6, but after translation it could be all the way down on page 8 because the translated language is so much longer!

It then will take an age to correct this at the end. But using the different Styles options on the Home ribbon will make this very simple.

Simply apply a Heading style to your chapter title. Word will recognise this and will pick it up automatically when you create a table of contents using the Table of Contents function on the References ribbon.

The Update feature for the table of contents will kill two birds with one stone: firstly, if you ever update your document and add extra chapters, you only have to press Update to rearrange the list and have a perfect table of contents; secondly, for the translation, it will take care of any changes to page numbers, without having to laboriously check to see which page each and every chapter now appears on.

OK, so three very simple things that will make a big difference to your Word document, and will make life much easier for your translation agency (I know, it’s all about us us us!).

If you have any questions about formatting a Word document for translation, let us know at email hidden; JavaScript is required



When you say you’re a translator, the next question you almost always get is “Ohhh, which language?”. It’s what springs to mind when most people think of translation (apart from booths and microphones and thinking on your feet, but that’s for another post). And of course, languages are an obvious core aptitude for a translator.

However, a less evident though equally crucial skill is the ability to research effectively. A significant slice of your time (unless you’re an absolute expert in the field in question) is spent browsing specialist websites, glossaries, dictionaries and terminology databases (in addition to a healthy dose of general Googling) to locate either the meaning of a term, a date, a name or the contextual or historical information necessary to produce an accurate translation. It’s one of the lovely aspects of the job and it can be really quite illuminating – sometimes inadvertently. With experience, a translator becomes adept at quickly pinpointing the needle of necessary information in the haystack of available data and, as a bonus, such research often leads to the acquisition of much weird and wonderful knowledge that can add a real element of fun and fascination to the translator’s job (or at least make them go “ooh, well I never!”).

To find out more, I conducted a quick “Top 10” survey to find out what gems or surprising nuggets of information some of our in-house translators had unearthed in the last week, and they provided some great examples. For instance, did you know…?

  • An 18th century Italian glass blower created a new material called aventurine when he accidentally dropped a sliver of copper into some melted glass
  • There’s something called Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) which is caused by excessive use of power tools and can make your fingers turn white
  • Astronomers believe that all meteorites originate from a single celestial body that exploded hundreds of millions of years ago
  • There’s a musical light show in the park grounds of the Museum of Watchmaking in Switzerland that bursts into colour and sound every quarter of an hour
  • There’s an on-board vehicle system that automatically contacts the emergency services in the event of an accident
  • Over the course of the English football season, 380 Premiership matches are watched in 185 countries, in more than 730 million homes
  • In 1967, Muhammad Ali refused to be drafted into the US Army in protest at the Vietnam war
  • There’s a cooking appliance that alerts you when it’s the perfect moment to flip your steak
  • There’s a charity event called the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride in which men in around 90 countries dress up in dapper clothing and ride classic motorcycles to raise awareness of prostate cancer and men’s health

plus a very long (some might say “heated”) office discussion recently about what to call the things that come out of a volcano…

Naturally, not all jobs are packed with fascinating facts, which makes it all the more lovely when you happen upon them during your work. And there’s a certain satisfaction, when you switch off your computer at the end of a long day’s translation, in knowing that you’ve expanded your general knowledge in the process.

Just try and resist the urge to run home and shout “Guess what I found out today…!”.

It’s a translator thing.


I’ve worked in Translation Project Management for just over five years now, and I have learnt a lot in that time. Some of it is random; just trivia knowledge about languages. Some of it is the kind of specialist terminology that you’ll need if you have to perform emergency maintenance on a concrete pump while in Germany, but most of it relates to the main part of my job – managing and scheduling translation projects.

As I write this, it’s a beautiful May day when it’s just warm enough, but not too hot, and I can see late-afternoon sunshine through my office window. It feels like the perfect time to share with you my top tip for ensuring that your translation requests can be carried out with a minimum of delay. You see, if you’ve ever had dealings with western European countries in May, you know that it can be harder than you’d think to arrange a translation. Every few years, the planets align in their favour (or to your disadvantage, depending on your viewpoint) and our European counterparts have at least 4 national holidays in the same month. For our Project Management team in the UK, this results in a rollercoaster workload – peaks that coincide with deliveries needed before the next national holiday, followed by a lull while everyone eases gradually back into work after a long weekend. This can be frustrating when trying to organise translations for our customers, so my top tip would be to always plan ahead when it comes to translation. There are multiple factors that affect our ability to deliver a translation, but they can often be countered with some forward-planning.

National holidays

I touched on this one already. In May, the UK has two bank holidays, both on a Monday. This year, my colleagues in Germany had a holiday on the 1st, 10th, 21st, and 31st May. Where these fall on a Tuesday or Thursday, many staff take advantage of the potential for a four-day weekend. And who can blame them?! It does have a negative effect on translation deadlines however, as it reduces the amount of working days available in which we can work on the texts.

Busy periods

Busy periods and holidays seem to go hand in hand in the translation industry – partly for supply and demand reasons. Christmas, Easter and the summer months are all busy periods when there are more requests and fewer available translators. When we hear that customers are planning a large website or catalogue translation project, we try to advise that this is carried out away from these times to avoid this lack of availability having an impact on quality.

Shorter turnaround times

I’ll admit it, this is not a factor that affects our ability to deliver, but it is always a consideration for us and it does relate to planning ahead. When a translation is planned in advance, we can offer far shorter turnaround times. It will never be possible for 10,000 words to be translated in a day, but we can avoid the additional days that need to be factored in while we wait for resources to be available to start work on the text.

Availability of key resources

Wherever possible, we build a team of translators who always work on requests for a certain customer. For urgent translation projects, it is not always possible to arrange for this team to work on the text, and our customers must choose between their urgent deadline and the risk of using resources who are less familiar with their texts.

In summary, with a bit of advance warning, the STAR UK PM team can pull off some incredible feats. We’re used to factoring this in to our schedules and are also able to keep you updated as to any upcoming dates that may affect timings.



As observant visitors to our website will have noticed, we have an in-house team of translators of which we are very proud.


So why do we keep adding to our team of human translators while the rest of the industry is shedding them and moving towards greater automation and increased use of subcontractors? Simple: we’re convinced that it is the best way to provide our customers with the quality translations they want and deserve.

We believe close collaboration among a team of translators is the best way to do our job. A single translator can be experienced and knowledgeable, but how about ten translators?

For a customer, it’s great to have a translator who really knows their product and the style they want. But what if that translator is sick or takes a holiday right when they’re needed? With an in-house team, knowledge is pooled and resources shared, so there is no downtime. And when you have a really urgent translation, or a very large one, it’s comforting to know that there’s a dedicated team ready to pitch in.

Two pairs of eyes

At STAR we work to the Vier-Augen-Prinzip – the four-eye principle – which basically means our translations are reviewed by a second translator. This is so much easier to do when the reviewer is sitting right next to the translator, and they both know the customer equally well. It leads to some lively, not to say heated, discussions, but also to excellent translations.

By increasing the number of people in our team, we can also increase the number of languages we can handle in-house. German and French are the languages we get most call for, but these days we’re as comfortable working with Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish.

Using freelance translators

Naturally, we can’t cover everything in-house. Sometimes there’s too much work to do in-house, the text is of a specialist nature or it’s a language we don’t cover. We train our translators well and trust them, but we also know their limits. If your translation requires specialist knowledge that we don’t have, then we’ll place it with one of our carefully selected freelance translators.

Finally, we love having an in-house team because it makes for a vibrant, energetic workplace. Our translators are passionate about what they do and highly qualified, and it shows in their attitude to work. Professional pride makes them dedicated to getting translations right and back on time, and working in a team means there’s always someone there to help in a crisis.