Common Sense Advice about Machine Translation and Content

You’d need to be living on the moon if you still don’t get it about how data quality impacts machine translation quality (actually, every kind of translation). But, what does this fact really mean when communicating with content creators?

Writers, and information developers generally, have to contend with all sorts of “guidance” about how they must create content to make it easily “translatable”. I am against that sort of positioning.

Content creators need and want guidance on how to make their content usable, not translatable. There is no conflict between making content readable in English and making it easily translatable, and vice-versa. There is a conflict between telling content creators to make their content translatable and not accounting for content style, source user experience, and especially the motivations and goals of the content creators themselves.

Well, I have been reading the Microsoft Manual of Style (4th Edition), recently published, and I am delighted to see there is a section called “Machine Translation Syntax”.

Microsoft Manual of Style 4th Edition. Sensible stuff about machine translation.
Microsoft Manual of Style 4th Edition. Sensible stuff about machine translation. Did I mention that I got a new bag from Acrolinx?

Here is what that section says:

“The style of the source language has significant impact on the quality of the translation and how well the translated content can be understood.”

The style of the source language. Brilliant appeal to the audience! What follows is a baloney-free set of 10 guidelines for content creators. Each guideline appears to be an eminently sensible content creation principle worth respecting, regardless of the type of translation technology being used, or even if the content is not explicitly destined for translation at the time of creation.

You can read the 10 guidelines on the Microsoft Press blog.

Well done Microsoft, again (no, I am not looking for a job). Let’s see more of this kind of thing from everyone!

I’ll do a review of my new Acrolinx bag when time allows.

Ultan Ó Broin
Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally. Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.


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