How to build a strong brand voice? The style guide series (Part 2)

In our previous article, we shed some light on the importance of having a style guide. We touched upon the differences between a grammar book and a style guide. Now, let’s get down to business. Your business.

What should you include in your style guide?

Your style guide should not contain error corrections and common mistakes. Your writers have grammar books for those. It should do what the name suggests: guide your writers through the maze of choices when it comes to creating content. Here are some must-haves.

Voice and Tone

Defining your brand voice helps your writers get a sense of how official or relaxed you want to be. It defines the rules on humor and colloquialism. In short, it defines your brand’s personality

Your Voice & Tone section can be a simple bullet list. Let’s look at Mail Chimp’s example:

“Mail Chimp is:

  • Straight-faced, subtle, and a touch eccentric
  • Smart but not snobbish
  • Weird but not inappropriate


Describing your voice and tone with the “this, but not that” approach is a good idea. It will help your writers understand just how far you’re willing to push some of the traits.

Sentences, syntax, and spelling

Grammar rules are stone-strong, but that doesn’t mean they don’t allow you to express your brand image. There is plenty of room for you to define a unique voice while staying safe before the Grammar Police. For instance, you can play with:

  • Sentence length. Do you want to go for crisp? Or do you prefer longer and syntactically more intricate sentences? Sentence length dictates your pace. Shorter sentences will be brisk and feel more conversational. Longer, syntax-complex sentences will be slower and more formal.
  • Active vs Passive. Do you want the subject of the verb’s action to be clearly defined? Put a stop sign on the use of passive voice in your style guide.
  • Narrative voice. Do you address your readers directly (second person) or indirectly (third person).

To each (channel) its own

Do you manage several social media accounts, have a blog section on your website, and an emailing list? You probably want to differentiate your content and the tone a bit between your platforms.

For instance, you could define that product news goes to Facebook, while your Instagram followers get to see some behind-the-scenes, or your life at the office. You might allow a few emojis there, but not in your LinkedIn posts. Be clear about the content type and these variations in your style guide.

Examples, examples, examples

Don’t limit yourself to dos and don’ts. Examples are the best teacher.

Telling your writers they shouldn’t use long, complicated words is one thing. Showing them is another. 

For instance:

When possible, replace a longer word that stems from Latin with a shorter, Anglo-Saxon synonym.

Sounds complicated? Detangle it with an example:

Our style: We can only guess.

Not our style: We can hypothesize

Wrapping up the Style Guide Part 2

Essentially, your style guide isn’t about your company as much as it is about your audience. It allows you to define how you want to address your customers and how to make sure they have a seamless experience with your brand across all your channels and platforms.

With your audience in mind, what happens to your style guide when you have to transfer it to another market? Is it ok to just translate it? If you’re curious, come back next week, where we’ll wrap up the series by discussing what happens when you have to localize your style guide.

 

 

 

 

 

How to build a strong brand voice? The style guide series (Part 1)

In one internet minute, we send over 450,000 tweets. We post more than 45,000 Instagram photos and perform more than 3.5 million searches on Google. In one internet minute, in the US alone, we gorb over 2,5 million gigabytes of data. 

The e-buzz keeps on growing, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get one’s message through. Having a consistent voice across channels and platforms is vital to grab attention and evoke trust. 

Today, content production is scattered across many writers—outside freelancers most of the time. How do you ensure your unique voice remains consistent? Enter style guides.

What is a style guide?

Your style guide is your number one tool for content creation. It’s your source of truth when it comes to editorial disputes. It tells your writers what tone you want to use with your customers and how this tone translates into words.

What’s the difference between a style guide and a grammar book?

Grammar books set out rules on writing, most of which are unambiguous. But there are many cases where grammar books themselves differ in opinion. 

Is ending a sentence with a preposition wrong? Some grammarians say it is; others are more lenient. 

What about starting a sentence with a conjunction? Our 5th-grade teacher would be furious, but the honest answer is: it depends.

Grammar books talk about rules, while style guides talk about options or choices. You need to define which ones to adopt and have your content team stick to them. It’s the only way to make sure a plethora of writers will produce pieces that convey the same brand voice.

Can’t I stick to established style guides like the AP Stylebook or the Chicago Manual of Style?

We swear by them and keep them on our work desks, too. These reference style guides are a great way to start. They will help you set the foundation: Things like the punctuation style, capitalization, and dates and numbers. 

But to get your unique brand voice through in your writing, you need to add your own guidelines on top of them. Will you allow the use of emojis? What will your humor be like: tongue-in-cheek or deadpan? These are things no reference style guide can decide on your behalf.

What else should I include in my company style guide?

We’ll help you with that. You have a few days to fetch that dusted Chicago Manual off your shelves and have a go at it. Come over next week, when we’ll show you how to compile your brand’s style guide.

 

If you want to know more about localization, check out our recent posts HERE.

The recipe for superb localization? It’s in your source content (Part 2)

Welcome back to cracking the code to great localization. Last week, we shared with you our tips for your writers. But content isn’t just words. In localization, imagery, layouts, and navigation bear an equal role to penmanship.

Let’s look at some things your design team should consider when crafting the source content.

Use images. But do it with localization in mind

You probably think this one goes to our detriment. Fewer words means fewer things to translate. But we are the first ones to agree that a picture is worth a thousand words. And our job is to make your localization project a success, not a hefty expense.

One point of attention, though. 

An image doesn’t say the same thing across all cultures. Symbolism changes from culture to culture. 

Imagine a picture showing a bunch of friends in a pub, laughing over a pint. To some, it might evoke feelings of and familiarity or friendliness. Post it on next to your Arabic localization, and you’re up to trouble.

Either go for neutral images or ask your creatives to prepare localized versions for all your website versions.

Allow space in your designs

Remember Mary from our previous post? Let’s say she’s indeed a person and not a baby chicken. Let’s say Mary went to the mall to buy a pen.

In German, the above sentence would be:

Mary ging ins Einkaufszentrum, um einen Kugelschreiber zu kaufen.

Mary bought a pen in English with 34 characters and 10 syllables. In German, it took her 64 characters and 18 syllables to get it. That’s almost double the length.

It’s not just German. Many other languages expand up to 30% when translated from English.

Another thing your designers should keep in mind is script direction. The layout and navigation have to work for both left-to-right languages and vice versa. Like Hebrew or Arabic, for instance.

Make sure your designers allow enough space to accommodate these specifics.

A final note: does localization kill your creative flair?

Keeping things easy and simple doesn’t mean being redundant. It means sticking to what’s essential. In fact, most authors will tell you that it’s one of the hardest things to do.

There’s more to creativity than idioms and synonyms. Rhythm, syntax, punctuation — all these elements project personality and a distinctive voice. 

If you really feel that your English lacks that oomph by sticking to these few simple rules, try doing one thing. Write your content in simplified, localization-friendly English first. Then, “translate” it into a spicier, edgier version for your English-speaking market.

Tweaking a localization-ready English into a nuanced version will cost you much less than having to correct dozens of versions localized in other languages.

All the best with your next content assignment.

 

 

The recipe for superb localization? It’s in your source content (Part 1)

Mary is a sound chick. 

Is she a sound engineer? A damsel with healthy values and good judgment, perhaps? Or did it just hatch out of an egg?

It’s a blown-up example, for sure. But it serves to show you one thing. With localization issues, nine times out of ten, you have to look upstream to find the problem’s root. Your source content. 

Writing with localization in mind means you shouldn’t look at content creation and localization as two separate streams. The way you write will have a direct impact on the localized version. The clearer the source content, the fewer issues and back-and-forths you’ll have.

Ask your content team to stick to these few easy postulates, and you’ll see your localization quality skyrocket and your costs decrease.

In this first part, let’s look at localization tips for your writers.

Minimize localization pitfalls: avoid slang, jargon, or anything too culture-specific

The example above, where Mary ranged from being a sound engineer to a bird might. Here’s another one:

“Look at Jack. He’s full of beans this morning!”

A British person wouldn’t think for a second that Jack had a sizable portion of legumes the night before. In the UK, full of beans means being lively, energetic. But would it be so evident for linguists working on localizing your content?

We know what you’re thinking: “Well, a good linguist can surely get the meaning from the context.”

And you’re right. But consider this. Localization projects are often handed to linguists in the form of excel spreadsheets or other formats that don’t provide any context. 

Shortening the leash on the use of idioms and double-entendres will save you from having to correct the localized content, not from one source document, but from seven, ten, or twenty localized versions.

At the very least, it will save you the hassle of countless back-and-forths with diligent translators asking for details and explanations.

Save on your localization budget: reuse your content

In other words: (slightly) suppress your creative juices and park that thesaurus for a while. Especially in repetitive content like product specs or interface widgets.

Localization is charged by the number of new strings to translate. Writing “a great fit,” “an amazing fit,” and “a perfect fit” might seem the right thing to do to give verve and color. But it will turn in a lot of fuzzy matches in your word count. Fuzzy matches have to be translated, while a 100% match has to be revised. Guess which one is cheaper.

Reduce back-and-forths with your localization partner: give context

We can’t stress this one enough. In localization, context isn’t king. It’s the Emperor.

Add info whether that Start sitting alone is a verb on a button or a noun in a label.

Share reference material. Give linguists access to UI wireframes so they can see where that CTA will be sitting.

If you’re using Excel for your localization projects, add a column with context info. For content done in text-based code files, use the handy ‘code comment’ function.

Content is more than words. Stay tuned for more tips

In localization projects, issues can arise from more than just wordsmithing. Pop by to read the second part of this article, where we’ll give you some tips on how to design in a localization-friendly way.

 

 

 

How to get more bang for your localization buck?

We recently wrote about why localization is important. But let’s say you have a ton of web content and a limited budget. You can’t localize the lot, at least not in the first round. Which parts should you localize first? Which sections will benefit your business when adapted to the cultural differences of your new audience? Follow these tips to improve your localization ROI.

1. Define your website’s content categories

Website categories are sections that talk about specific aspects of your business. They can be divided int distinct subdomains or scattered across various pages. What is important is the function they serve. Grouping your content into these five sections will help you define where to start with website localization:

  • Legal content: terms and conditions, disclaimers, etc.
  • Technical content: manuals, how-to guides, product specs
  • Branding: about us, mission & vision 
  • Marketing: all pages that help sell your product or service: product descriptions, reviews, blog posts, etc.
  • Functional/system content: addresses, contact details, time & date, measurements

2. The categories you should localize first

Yes, your hunch is right. The first category you should localize is your marketing section. But there are two more categories that you should include: 

  • functional content and 
  • FAQs

With functional content, it’s a no-brainer. Localizing measurements, addresses, and currencies will mean the world to your customers. You’ll spare them the headache of having to do the math on their own. But FAQs? Isn’t that an after-sales section?  Not really. Research shows that customers visiting your FAQs are actually very eager to buy. But they have some concerns or objections that prevent them from hitting the checkout button. Think of it this way: FAQs on your e-commerce are doing what a salesperson is doing in a physical store. They both handle customer objections.  That’s why minding the specific cultural rather than linguistic aspects in your FAQs is vital for your sales conversion.

3. And the rest?

Legal disclaimers, manuals, and technical specs are things you can include in a future round of localization. Translating them into Universal Spanish as a first step should not harm your sales performance. And branding content? This one is tricky. The best thing is to draft your source branding to ease its internationalization. Using neutral images and versatile taglines will save you tons of time and money when you’ll need to adapt them to your new market.

4. Last but not least: website localization for SEO

A category that gets often ignored is your language-local keyword strategy. Website localization isn’t just about finding the most accurate words for the target cultural context. It’s about: 

  • digging out the words people use for a specific search intent
  • finding keyword alternatives that will be easier to rank for

Two seemingly equal keywords might hide completely different search intents. If you’re into e-commerce, you don’t want to rank for keywords people use when looking for how-to blog articles. Another important point is keyword alternatives. Using the plural or a semantic equivalent might make it much easier to rank better.  

That’s why building a well-researched keyword strategy is fundamental for your business success. At the end of the day, you can adapt your images and your tone to suit the local culture. But if you fail to rank among your audience’s search results—your localization efforts will be in vain.  

Reach out to us to find out more about our SEO-optimized localization expertise.

Website localization: why you can’t afford to ignore it anymore

Say you liked Indian food and decided to try making a dish at home, on your own. You search for a paratha recipe on the internet and find it on an Indian blog. Perfect, it’s in English, so you don’t have to google translate it. A scroll and a swipe later, you stumble upon the ingredients list. Wait, what? Two hundred ounces of flour? No, that’s grams. You keep on scrolling through the list, your despair growing with every line. At the sight of two deciliters of milk, you shut the laptop lid and grab the phone. That’s it: you’re ordering in from your favorite Indian takeaway. 

Now you know how your customers feel when they land on your unlocalized website. Still think website localization is useless?

Website localization: how does it affect your revenue stream?

We’ve recently covered the topic of mistranslations and how they hurt your business. Not localizing is no less harmful. Granted, it won’t lead you to massive lawsuits, but it does erode your revenue stream slowly and steadily— with every missed click of the checkout button.

A study by Common Sense Advisory in 2014 found that over 75% of respondents prefer buying from a website if the product or service is in their native language. Fast-forward six years, and we bet this figure has grown even higher. With an increasing amount of content out there, customers have become even pickier about who they buy from.

You’re targeting Latin America. Should you save money by localizing into Universal Spanish?

Localizing your website means more than just translating the text. It’s about adapting the visuals, the layout, the currency, and the tone of voice. All these items work together to resonate with the cultural context of the market. When looking at the localized content, it should feel as though it was created from scratch in the target language. 

The nuances of each Latin American Spanish variant start at grammar level, but they touch vocabulary choices, too. You’d use banano if you were targeting  Colombia, but you’d be bananas if you used the same word when targeting denizens of Mexico, Cuba, or Peru (where they call it plátano). 

That’s why skirting localization by translating your website into Universal Spanish won’t do the trick. While this variant is understood by all Spanish-speaking Latin America, it won’t convey the specific tone and style you desire. Nobody uses Universal Spanish in everyday communication.

Does your localization partner know your website CMS?

This is a fundamental point. Translation is usually done in a translation management tool. Which one–it’s really not your concern. You send the text to your language agency, and they send you the translated text back. Whether they’re using Trados, Memsource, or any other tool doesn’t affect you in the least bit. Website localization works differently. It has to be done directly in your CMS, or else you risk ending up with distorted layouts and unrecognized special characters. So apart from language and market knowledge, your localization partner must have a great technical know-how of your website’s CMS.

Wrapping it up: website localization is a key success factor

You’ve spent time and bucks perfecting your marketing campaign and your product specs. It would be a pity to throw all that hard work away because you failed to convey the power of your message in the local culture. The good news is that with LingPerfect, you can localize your website for any LatAm country, and we can do it in any CMS software: Drupal, WordPress—you name it. Give us a call to find out more.

Now is the time to get ready for your new global market

These are unprecedented times for all of us. With the economy giving no signs of a quick and steady recovery, business is becoming increasingly hard to predict. At least that’s what the experts say.

In reality, what they mean is that business-as-usual is becoming increasingly challenging to predict. Because your customers are still out there, and so are their needs. What is changing is how they make their buying decisions and how (or where) they enjoy your service or product.

The current situation has produced an unseen peak in online content consumption across the globe, driving an increasing number of interactions from offline into the online realm. The Internet has become a significant business delivery channel even for industries traditionally bound to physical presence – think yoga studios or museums, for instance. We wager that this trend will continue long after the movement restrictions have been lifted.

So what does this mean for your business? 

Well, it can mean good news. With more and more of life’s activities consumed remotely, your business is less bound to be physically present in the local market. Therefore, it’s a perfect opportunity to reconsider your customer geography – who will your business be targeting after the slowdown. Now more than ever, it’s time to plug into that The World is My Market mindset.

In this new reality, there are some new ground rules you should consider, however. A more global audience means having to deal with a variety of new cultures. The key success factor will be your ability to address customer needs and create value around your brand locally. Having your corporate or e-commerce website in English will not be enough. Pitching your prospects with marketing collaterals that don’t resonate with the local culture will result in fewer leads and fewer sales.

In other words, you need to walk the walk in the local culture, or else your message will get lost amidst the plethora of content out there.

If you want to be ready for this new reality arising after the slowdown, you need to start investing in creating localized content now. Translating and culturally adapting your marketing and sales materials should become an integral part of your business strategy, not a nice-to-have marketing perk.

Luckily, you won’t need to set up regional teams or offices to help you create your content locally – we’ve got your covered there. With our global team of expert linguists and content strategists, we take your message and recreate it so that it gets heard and acknowledged in the local culture. Drop us a line or give us a call, and we’ll be happy to walk you through the details.

Global Technical Skills: Keeping the Secure, Secure in Localized Government

Security is important for everyone, but for those working in government organizations, it can literally mean the difference between life and death. Intelligence agencies, military intelligence, and government agencies deal with highly secure information on a daily basis and each person with access to this data constitutes an additional risk to the safety and security of the information they are accessing, and to the lives of the people they need to protect. In an international environment, where content is translated to and from English with language pairs all over the world, there is an even greater risk of leaks unless those in charge of security take measures to protect the information. This blog will give recommendations on protecting your data security, especially when you are working with outside resources to manage your content translation.

One of the first questions you need to ask when you are working with a translation project is what level of security does it require? For the most secure documents, many organizations will source translations internally, which means if there is a staff translator who is a native speaker of the target language and can translate the document accurately and on secure internal networks, this work will be done at the office. In most cases, these individuals will need to have security clearances, so make sure you know who is touching your content and what clearances they have. When the security needs are not so extensive as to require an internal resource or security clearance, you will want the assurance that the translation service provider you choose takes appropriate precautions to keep your data safe.

There are a number of ways to investigate the security of your supplier. One is to ask who, both among the employees of their company and the contractors, will have access to your data and where this access will take place. You can request that the translators and the project manager work in specific offices with network security, even onsite at your location, and that there is no way for data to fall into the wrong hands. Another tip for people concerned about security is to request that all contractors or employees who work with your content sign NDAs or umbrella NDAs which specifically reference your project and any extra security requirements. Lastly, you will want to make sure that the translation service provider has taken quality management precautions as certified by the ISO 9001 family of certifications:

“This standard is based on a number of quality management principles including a strong customer focus, the motivation and implication of top management, the process approach and continual improvement. These principles are explained in more detail in the pdf Quality Management Principles. Using ISO 9001:2015 helps ensure that customers get consistent, good quality products and services, which in turn brings many business benefits.”

Source (https://www.iso.org/iso-9001-quality-management.html)

LingPerfect Translations has been ISO 9001:2015 certified since 2013. We would be happy to discuss the details of the certification with you as well as any security issues you may have with your content translation services.

Localization in our World: Language Interpreting in the US and Globally

As the volume of global content grows in private and public sector, the volume of written translation naturally increases. This is measurable and is undeniable. Translation refers to written words that are transformed from one language to another. Spoken language, when transformed into another language, is referred to as interpretation. Language interpretation takes place all around us, all the time, when you have someone who helps 2 or more people communicate more effectively by being an intermediary. In less formal environments, this might happen in public, at events or in private spaces. In more formal environments, like business, government or conference settings, you typically hire professional interpreters. 

When asked if LingPerfect Translation does interpreting as one of our services, we respond with a definitive “YES”. However, there are often many questions that follow when our client wants to engage with us. The initial questions of which language and what dates and times are typically easy. We also delve into content as well as preferred interpreting structure of flow. 

The 4 main types of interpreting are consecutive, simultaneous, whispered and Over-the-Phone Interpreting (OPI). 

Consecutive interpreting is when the interpreter speaks after the speaker has conveyed a message, either in the gaps of pauses in speech or at the end of a longer statement, using notes. Consecutive interpreting typically takes place in a live environment. Simultaneous interpreting is where the interpreter speaks while the original speaker is still speaking. Typically, this will be done in larger events or conferences where there is access to interpreting equipment, like headsets, for the interpreter and the audience. This isolates the languages so that the original language can be spoken in its natural flow and the interpreted language can come across in the headphones. Whispered interpreting is a form used in person, without headsets, where the interpreter whispers or interprets in a very low voice as to not disturb the speaker. Typical venues for interpreters are legal, medical, conference, broadcast media and for business escorts or 1-on-1 meetings. We are seeing much more interpreting work in the public sector all over the world to support individuals who have immigrated and need support to access schools, public services and jobs. Over-the-Phone interpreting is one of our most popular interpreting services. OPI is exactly what it sounds like, interpreting that occurs over the phone. It is a cost-effective and flexible way to access interpreting services regardless of your location, time-zone or urgency. OPI can be set up for immediate needs as well as projected, future needs and many times, the typical minimum charges that apply to in-person interpretation do not apply. Of course, there are also no travel fees for OPI interpretation so costs are definitely more affordable. 

As we can see, interpreting is happening all around us at all times. If you are interested in a career in interpreting, there are interpreting certificate and degree programs offered in many universities as well as professional certification through local associations and larger ones like the International Association of Conference Interpreters, or AIIC or the China Accreditation Test for Translation and Interpretation, short for CATTI. If you are interested in learning more about interpreting services provided by LingPerfect Translations, contact us here

Localization in our World: Managing the Language of International Business Mergers and Acquisitions

Another day, another merger, another acquisition. Whether it is your company, your client’s company or your supplier’s company, it feels like international business is always shifting in some way or another. If you’ve been through a merger or acquisition in your own company, you know first hand how this can affect your business, your employees, and your bottom line. Let’s take a look at these areas in more detail and take a look at how language is a key factor in all of this.

We can start with the basics of what it means to merge or to acquire a business. It is not always transparent to the outside or inside world what is actually happening. A merger is a consolidation of 2 or more companies into a new entity. In mergers, generally a new company name is created as well as a new organizational structure. With an acquisition, there is a lead company that takes over another company and typically retains the same name of that company. Regardless of whether it is a merger or an acquisition, you are taking 2 or more companies, and with them all the cultural considerations, both company culture and the country culture of the enterprise.

What kinds of considerations should be made for mergers and acquisitions that cross international lines? You need to think about how the company culture is defined by the country culture of the companies that are being combined. How is your HR department organized? What has been the official HR language until this point in each of the entities?

There are many levels of employee engagement that need to be considered. We will start with the basics, the content for contracting and HR documents.You may have 2 companies, each with HR in the native language of their home HQ. It’s possible that they have already translated major contracts and documents into English as a common language, especially if they are doing any international recruiting. As you combine the HR function, you will want to take a look at redundancies in contracts and aligning language between the 2. It may make sense to adopt English as a common source language for these documents and then extend out to different languages, or to keep the source content in the native HQ language.

After the basics are taken care of as far as internal communications, you will want to consider what the approach will be for ongoing training and communication. Internal communication includes training and learning as well as memos about the merger/acquisition itself. The clearer you can be with your staff, the more settled they will feel. This includes giving them the details about future plans and changes in their preferred language to avoid misunderstandings.

Once you have determined your internal communication strategy, you can begin to think about your customers as well as your suppliers. Like internal employees, they are going to want clear communication in their language if possible. They will need to know if and how any of their working relationships might change as a result of the merger/acquisition and whether new contracts will be needed. Consider whether, due to your new organizational structure, you are able to service your clients or support your own suppliers more effectively and make sure to include this in your communication plan. Of course, if you are expanding the sales of your products internationally, you will need to localize the product, marketing and training as well. If you need help planning for an international merger or acquisition, contact LingPerfect Translations for a free quote.