We Translate Words into Business
Desktop Publishing Considerations When Translating Content
by Terralíngua      Posted in  February 28, 2020

Desktop Publishing Considerations When Translating ContentWhen creating documents for print or web consumption, ensuring text and images are correctly formatted is vital to your company’s image and brand. Every marketing expert will confirm document design based on the target audience’s suitability and legibility are planning essentials. Even the smallest details such as font size, colors and white space between the text can affect the end user’s impression.

Creating a document’s layout involves desktop publishing (often called DTP), and is implemented when designing:

  • Brochures
  • Instruction manuals
  • Business cards
  • Reports
  • Web pages
  • Invoices
  • Blogs and articles
  • Posters

Great care is taken when designing these layouts. Internal feedback and revisions are required before final acceptance. That same level of care is required when taking content into another language or target market. Accurate desktop publishing is important because a document’s layout can drastically change when translated.

Expansion and Contraction Considerations

For example, an English newsletter is created to have images and text fit perfectly on each page. However, if this newsletter is translated for a Spanish speaking audience, the text is likely to grow and will no longer fit on the page.

This is called expansion. During the translation process text can contract or expand, depending on the source and target languages. Spanish usually expands English text by 20-25%.
The German language also can expand up to 35%, often because of the many compound words. If you are translating from English to German you might have fewer words, but you could use up more space on the page because of the compound combinations.

On the other hand, there are languages that contract or take fewer words or space to express the same idea. Finnish, Korean, Japanese, Swedish and Chinese are some of the languages that may contract. This may create more open page space, which will require formatting skills to match the layout to the source documentation.

Adapting a Document

Proper adaptation of a document for a target market is key when you work with a translation partner or language service provider (LSP). Not all providers have the same skill set when returning a translated document. Though they may have the industry or technical expertise needed to accurately translate content, they may lack the layout skills or programs required to format the translated text.

As previously discussed, some providers may not know how to properly handle text expansion or contraction. You may see a font size too small to read or improper spacing between paragraphs attempting to fit translated text into a layout. It is important to ensure your partner knows the nuances of multilingual desktop publishing as well as the content expertise.

Some languages may require a different pagination (such as right to left) or have special font considerations during layout. Some target audiences may require cultural considerations which would mean alternate images or colors in the layout.

The most important consideration is the ability to easily skim the pages. It is human nature to quickly read over content. If it is not legible or easy to “digest” – then you have lost before you even started. A Nelson Norman Group survey found 95% of readers skimmed web pages, including newsletters. With more information demanding our attention, skimming is how most readers consume content.

Therefore, to engage effectively content must not only be legible but enable quick skimming. Expert multilingual desktop publishing ensures the translated copy fits the source layout perfectly; making your message attractive to your target audience and easy to read.


Terralingua is an ISO certified translation provider with over 20 years of experience in multilingual desktop publishing in all formats. Visit us at www.terralinguatranslations.com for more information about our services.

Blog Topics