3. Writing for an International Audience

Definitions and Use of Terms

Follow these guidelines to avoid common pitfalls that make translators and readers uncertain of your intended meaning.

    If a word does not appear in a standard dictionary or a technical source book, or if a term is specific to your company, but is not defined in the text or in your glossary, do not use it. If translators cannot look up an unfamiliar word, they may have to guess at its meaning.

    Many languages do not have abbreviations and cannot accommodate them. Define abbreviations and acronyms the first time you use them in text, and provide a list of them at the end of the book as part of the glossary, in an appendix, or in a separate list of abbreviations. When you define the term, give the spelled-out version first, followed by the acronym or abbreviation in parentheses.

    See "Abbreviations and Acronyms in Text" in Chapter 6, "Technical Abbreviations, Acronyms, and Units of Measurement," for more information about using abbreviations and acronyms.

    Synonymous words in a document can be troublesome for a translator. Although to you "show," "display," and "appear" may seem similar enough to use interchangeably, a translator may think you used different words deliberately for different meanings and may interpret the text incorrectly.

    For example, there is no Japanese equivalent for the word "nice." The Japanese translator has to choose which Japanese word gives the closest meaning to the word "nice." The choices include "smart," "pretty," "cute," "good," and "useful." If you wrote "the nice display" (meaning "the useful display"), it could be translated as "the cute display," changing the intent of the sentence.