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



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.