What to include in your localization style guide
Copywriter and translator
Alessandra Martelli is a copywriter and translator based in Turin, Italy. She helps companies present their ideas and products with personality and flair, to cut through the noise of a crowded marketplace – online and offline.
You worked hard to perfect your product. You hired a skilled copywriter to create awe-inspiring marketing messages that would cut through the noise. Now you’re ready to have your materials translated and conquer the world!
Before you sit back and relax, there’s something else you need to do. It takes little time — and it will help you get the most out of your investment.
Create a style guide, and hand it over to your translator.
Why bother with style guides for translation and transcreation?
Short answer: because it’s about you.
Hiring a specialist to adapt your message will help you steer away from cultural blunders and other common marketing communication flaws. But transcreation and translation experts are not telepaths, and they won’t know about your preferences and requirements unless you mention them.
Do you need your text in American or British English? Italian or Swiss Italian? What about tone of voice nuances? Any industry terms that require extra care? Any length restrictions for your headlines and calls-to-action?
Indeed, a professional would ask questions to clarify any details, but with a style guide you can keep “ongoing clarification” to a minimum and save precious time. Also, the translator can work more efficiently on your project from Day 1, with extra benefits in terms of turnaround times and end results.
Also, a style guide will help ensure consistency when working with transcreation or translation teams, since everyone involved in the adaptation of your content will follow the same guiding principles. And a consistent voice enhances the perception of your brand across markets.
What information should your style guide include?
A brand style guide is a roadmap designed to help writers and translators decide the best way to convey your messages based on your brand identity and signature style. It doesn’t have to be long or overly complicated, but it needs to summarize a few key points to make it worthwhile.
1. Company information
Start with a brief overview of your brand:
- Your value proposition, vision, and mission
- Your background
- Your products and services.
2. Target market and audience(s)
Then, outline your target market and the audience(s) your marketing materials are aimed at. You can easily pull such information from the reports and data you used to develop your product.
This is important, because your specific audiences might differ across countries (in terms of demographics, values, pain points, language variants). Your transcreation expert will combine this information with their knowledge of the local market to craft a message that hits the spot.
3. Tone of voice guidelines
Tone of voice has measurable impacts on how people perceive your brand. To make sure that your translations reflect the emotional appeal of the original copy as well as factual information, details on tone of voice are a must.
To keep it actionable, consider including examples. Check out the tone of voice guidelines by the University of Leeds for inspiration.
4. Formatting instructions
A style guide is not a grammar or typography book. But there are a few things to consider to ensure consistency across your documents:
- Rules for trademarks and brand names (capitalization, typeface)
- Conversion rules for currency and measures
- Length limitations that apply to all projects (e.g. headlines, localized URLs)
- Preferences for bulleted and numbered lists
5. Terminology notes
Are there any specific words/concepts you want to tap into that reinforce your overall message? Should the translator avoid certain terms (or synonyms) which are a staple in your competitor’s communications? How do you want abbreviations and industry jargon to be handled?
Indeed, terminology isn’t the only aspect that matters in communication, but it does play an important role. Defining a few basic rules and standards in your style guide will give you a head start on your projects.
Ready to roll in style?
Consistency, efficiency, value. Investing 2 to 3 hours in designing a brand style guide will save you time and hassle in the long run. And it doesn’t take much more than that, because you already have all the information at hand!
Just put it down in writing – and roll in style.