How to Translate Word Files?

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We are one hundred percent certain that most of you will look at the title of this article with suspicion. After all, we all use and know Word for everyday tasks like preparing reports, articles, and other types of documents. What value could we possibly add with an article about Word files? And what can we say about translating Word files? If you want to find out, then keep reading!

The unknown complexity of ‘how to translate Word file’ question

Let’s start by saying that the DOCX file format is one of the most used – and at the same time, least understood – formats around. Most people drive a car on a daily basis, but they rarely look under the hood. It doesn’t change the fact that the car significantly changes their lives!

People usually start to understand the complexity of Word when they are working on image content, and they want to move something slightly within the file. Usually, this triggers changes of epic proportions, breaking the text which comes before into undecipherable paragraphs and moving it onto the next page.

Why does this happen? Well, the answer is quite simple. Word is not a what-you-see-is-what-you-get solution. Often, on the surface, the documents look great, but in the background, the whole structure is built on weak foundations and held together by duct tape. How can you recognize the signs? And how to avoid this mess when you translate Word files?

The hidden formatting

One of the most important tools in Word, used by people who check and format Word files on a daily basis, is the Show/Hide function in the Paragraph toolbar. In case you’re wondering, the ¶ symbol for the tool. Once you enable it, you will be able to see all the problems within your Word file.

You will start seeing the multiple spaces you entered to move something, the manual line breaks (SHIFT+Return) that you used to keep blocks of text together, the non-breaking spaces from content you copied from a website. All of these formatting issues can cause huge problems when you want to localize your Word file.

The problem with hidden formatting

Word files should not be formatted with the above-mentioned formatting errors. Believe us, they cause a lot of headaches, especially if you are also using a well-prepared TMX (translation memory).

Let’s say that the content you want to translate is the following sentences:

The big gray dog walked down the road. All the birds were already asleep and the night was pitch black.

Properly formatted, this will be broken up into two separate sentences in our translation editor.

However, let us say you formatted it like this:

The big gray dog walked down the road.[manual line break]

All the birds were already asleep and the night was pitch black.

These two sentences will be in one translation segment. This means that you will have to translate chunks and blocks of text, instead of individual sentences. The sentences you have in your TMX file (translation memory) will also not be of much use, as your source segment is now completely different how it should be. Now, imagine all of the time wasted on cleaning this mess up.

Word formatting that’s great for translation

The best thing is to keep to best practices when formatting your Word files:

#1. Do not use manual line breaks unless really necessary.

#2. Do not break lines of text by hitting Return on your keyboard, just because you did not define the margins of a paragraph correctly.

#3. Do not keep hitting Space on your keyboard to move text to the right, but define the indent of the row you want to move to the right.

This list can be expanded to dozens of rules, which are especially visible in Word files converted from PDF files.

PDF to Word Issue

Sometimes people believe that PDF to Word converters are doing a good job because the converted file document looks correct. The problem is, these converters will use any cheat and shortcut possible to make the file look like the original, but they will not use proper formatting. So, when you upload the file to our system, you will get a mess which you need to resolve before localizing your content.

In these cases, there are two things to keep in mind:

#1. Reach out to us (especially to your PM, if this is not your first project with Text United), and we will help you format the Word file correctly

#2. Remember that any old translations cannot be re-used if your current Word file is formatted incorrectly. This means more work done and more money spent in order to achieve the same results as if your file was properly prepared for localization.

The solution

What you also need to remember is that by uploading your old translations to our system, you will be able to save a lot of time and money in localizing your content. In fact, you don’t need any special software to upload your TMX file.

Just open our portal, select the TMX file, upload it, and start translating your well-prepared Word file. The simplest solutions are always the best!

Gosia
Written By:

Gosia loves copywriting and product translation. Additionally, she's a content marketing and lolcats junkie.

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