How to Write an Effective Copy for International Clients
Marketing document translations require an extensive cultural knowledge. When is a sports pun not effective? When you use it in every other country outside of the United States. Creating copy for international clients means special care must be taken with every word. Acronyms, plays on words and national contexts sound stellar in an American-based brochure—but lose all impact when translated.
Your company can avoid cultural confusion by following certain guidelines during your copy creation process. After your text is created, your translation company will then confidently translate your carefully constructed prose for your target audience. Your result will be persuasive, concise and accurate documents that communicate your every nuance—clearly.
Implement these language translation guidelines during your writing process:
Move away from metaphors:
Think your overseas brochure is a “home run?” Think again. Metaphors—especially sports-based metaphors, can cause confusion in other cultures. The term “play ball” or “strike out” may sound powerful and compelling in U.S.-based copy—but it will surely “strike out” overseas. Additionally, your overseas readers will notice that the text is not targeted for their cultural sensitivities—and your carefully planned brochure will seem extremely exclusionary and frustrating.
Puns aren’t “punny” overseas:
Sure, your puns are funny in your U.S.-based brochure, but take note: Plays on words become unfathomable when translated. Remember that appreciating a pun requires a certain mastery of the language. If a non-native speaker is faced with a play on words, the nuance will be lost—and the result will be confusing. If you find puns, delete them from your text.
Remember that not everyone in the world lives in the United States:
Why spend valuable white space printing your 800 numbers in your French-language brochure when an 800 number only works within the US? Or mentioning that you’re on Pacific Standard Time in a brochure targeted for an Australian audience? Target your text to reflect your audience’s local time and list phone numbers that your audience can actually access.
Make sure you measure up:
Exporting to Europe? The European Union is requiring all businesses to use the metric system for their European products by 2010. Companies exporting to Asia already face labeling guidelines. For guaranteed accuracy, all conversions should be made before you present your text to your translation company. According to an article in Export America, “Many non-metric U.S. products are not readily exportable to certain markets. More importantly, customers in other nations have lifelong experience with the metric system and expect products made to metric measures.” Converting to country-standard measurements helps allay any confusion—and makes the packaging more attractive to consumers.
Beware the alphabet soup caused by acronyms:
Is your brochure TTYM (targeted towards your market)? Or, is it TAC (totally American-centric)? Depending on its context and the industry it’s used in, an acronym could mean many different things. For instance, think about the acronym WCD. Does it mean Work Center Description? Working Construction Drawings? Weapons of Catastrophic Destruction? Don’t expect your international readers to “guess” the meaning based on the context. Instead, spell out and clearly define all industry- and product-specific acronyms within your copy.
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