We Translate Words into Business
Planning for Translation – Are Your Documents Ready?
by Terralíngua      Posted in  November 1, 2019

Planning for Translation – Are Your Documents Ready?Often when companies create content they are so focused on the current need, they fail to think about future use. Right now, the document may just be used domestically – but what if you decide to offer the product or service to other markets?

If you do and require translation, you will run into the age-old dilemma of text expansion or contraction. When you’re translating from one language to another, the word count or text of the original will usually become larger or smaller in the target or translated version. Sometimes the word count will be smaller, but the text will expand for example in English you may have 2 words wire gauge but in German it is one-word Leitungsquerschnitt.

Whether the text will expand, or contract depends on the source and target languages, as well as the type of content (for example legal, technical or literary). A completed translation from English into German may have an increased word count between 10 and 35 percent while the same document into Japanese could end up with between 10 and 55 percent fewer words.

Why is this important?

There are several considerations to take into account. First, there’s the cost. Most translation companies evaluate the original document and charge per source word. What if you’re working with an agency who charges by the amount of target words? Then it’s important to know whether you’ll be paying for the expanded text or the contracted version.

Desktop Publishing Considerations – Also known as the Layout and Design

Second, text expansion or contraction can cause problems with the layout and design of your document. Say you have an English brochure. The design, colors and font sizes are perfect. It is easy to read and the content is engaging.

Now you decide to have that same brochure printed for your German and Japanese customers. The same formatting for your English brochure most likely is not going to work for these languages without modifications.

The German brochure may not have enough room for the text, meaning you may have to reduce the font size. The result could be a brochure crammed with small text that’s difficult to read. The Japanese brochure could end up with less text and too much white space. The brochure may look incomplete.

When you design your document keep the target languages in mind. Also consider if the images and colors you are using will work for other markets. Working with an experienced provider that provides multilingual desktop publishing can assist if translation and localization considerations were not a part of the planning process to assist with making the layout look the same as the original.


Your German and Japanese customers will appreciate a document that looks appropriate with localized images and relevant, readable text. Your customers will feel valued and will be more likely to be loyal customers. Consider your global audience when designing your layout’s design, colors and images.

Web design

First of all, ensure your site will support other fonts and languages. For example, if your site is built on WordPress, you will probably require a plugin prior to translation. Your translation provider can assist with evaluating the best solutions. (See the option we provide at the WPML website).
Once you ensure your site will support the target language, use the same design principles on your website. Imagine having to zoom in and out to read information on a web page. If a small font was used to squeeze in text, would you have the patience to stay on the page? Or would you click away and find another brand?

Planning prior to translation will save time, money and frustration both for you and your customers. Partnering with a translation agency who understands multilingual desktop publishing will alleviate many of the problems that arise with contraction, expansion and different fonts. Selecting a partner who can assist with any language you may need in the future instead of just the immediate needs will keep you prepared and ready to take on the world!


Terralingua is an ISO 9001 and 17100 certified translation agency with extensive expertise in multilingual desktop publishing and localization. We offer over 40 different languages in a variety of industries. Please visit our website for more information as well as to obtain a no obligation proposal.

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