One of the best ways to save time and money and to improve the quality of your medical translation project is by preparing each piece of text for translation.
When you use words and images that are easy to understand, and a presentation that is simple and inviting to read, your patients and their families will better understand the document. When readers understand the material, they are more likely to respond favorably.
Here are some guidelines to help you write accessible, easy-to-translate text for your healthcare translation.
1. Have a logical sequence of ideas.
If the ideas have a logical arrangement such as a chronological order or cause-effect, the text will be easier to understand.
2. Include graphical elements and short-form text.
Don’t only rely on sentences and paragraphs to communicate your message. Using images and lists, charts and diagrams (also known as short-form) can help your patients understand the translated medical document better. Here are some examples you can use:
- Organized Lists: A list helps readers see a pattern that is easy to follow and will help explain concepts.
- Helpful Images: Images help clarify concepts or present several ideas together.
- Simple Diagrams: Diagrams illustrate relationships among ideas.
3. Write in active voice.
The passive voice is less concise and can be confusing and ambiguous. A simple way to identify passive voice is to look for the verb or action of a sentence. If the sentence doesn’t tell the reader who is responsible for the action, it is probably written in active voice.
4. Write short sentences.
Long sentences lead to misunderstandings and confusion. To avoid long sentences use short, plain words and phrases.
5. Use common, everyday language.
Use simple phrases and words to explain your ideas, which will be easier to translate. Try to write as conversationally as possible. For example:
6. Use pronouns.
Pronouns can replace proper nouns in a sentence. They make your sentences less cumbersome and repetitive.
7. Avoid Idiomatic Language
Often times documents that contain idioms and expressions that are natural to a native speaker don’t translate well. For example, the phrase “don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater!” invokes cultural and historical meanings. Avoid phrases like these and use clear language whenever possible.
8. Keep formatting simple.
Uncomplicated text formatting on the original document means less formatting in the translation—resulting in lower costs. Some basic formatting guidelines include:
- Use a large serif font for body text and sans-serif for headlines.
- Avoid ALL CAPS.
- Avoid underlining.
- Use bold sparingly.
- Use italic even less.
- Use white space generously: Languages such as Spanish expand the original English text by about 30%.
- Use headings to separate blocks of information.
- Use columns. Narrower widths of text are easier to read.
- Choose images and colors that reflect the general preferences of the targeted group.
9. Know the reading level of your audience.
Often your document needs to be written at a reading level that’s appropriate for a broad audience. This is easier to translate if the original document is also composed at that reading level. Before you submit your source document for translation, run it through an online Flesch-Kincaid readability to ensure that it fits your readership. Keep in mind that most of the content for your patients or members usually needs to be written at a lower reading level. However, document purpose and function can influence the desired reading level.
By preparing each document with these elements in mind, you can continue to ensure the success of your medical translation project.