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Tips on Writing Content that Make the Most Out of Language I/O (LIO)

Language I/O’s mission is to help monolingual customer support teams to seamlessly communicate with their customers in more than 150 languages over all e-channels including chat, email, article, and social. We provide unique machine translation technology to get you and your teams up and running with accurate, secure translations for your company.

One of the key elements that contributes to the quality of the machine translation is the quality of source content. The aim of this guide is to walk you through some basic points to take into account in your communications to make the most out of LIO. The main thing to consider when you are part of a customer support team using a multilingual platform is that you are writing for an end customer that does not speak your same language.

 

Tip No. 1 – Avoid Ambiguity

Avoid using words that can have multiple meanings in different contexts:

  • This may be tricky at first, but this approach can go a long way in making the message more unequivocal.
  • Example:
    • Opening has very different meanings depending on the context.
    • Within an HR domain, it is clearer to use the phrase job opening.

Ensure sentences are complete:

  • It is always better to write full sentences to avoid mistakes.
  • Example:
    • A year free can be understood by the machine translation engines for several languages as an available year , instead of a year for free.Complete_Sentences.png

Repeat nouns instead of using pronouns when possible to avoid ambiguity:

  • Any pronoun (I, me, he, she, it, they, us, we, our, etc.) can be ambiguous depending on how the sentence is constructed.
  • To clear up the ambiguity, just replace the pronoun with a noun.
  • Example:
    • The pronoun he is ambiguous as it is not known who is getting back. It could refer to either Mark or Andrew. Replacing he with the name of the person who is carrying out the action removes the ambiguity.pronoun_replced_by_noun.png Note:
      • Pronouns can certainly be used without being replaced, as long as it is clear to what or to whom the pronoun is referring.

Use articles (a, an, the) to help machine translation engines differentiate between verbs and nouns:

  • Example:
    • Skip is mistranslated as to jump while the skip is translated correctly as a container with usage of the definite article the.article_use.png

Use consistent terminology:

  • Example:
    • Do not refer to file types and file formats in the same communication.

Avoid slang as much as possible:

  • Example:
    • Avoid using words such as: dude, mate, buddy, yeah.

Avoid unnecessary usage of abbreviations or acronyms:

  • It is recommended to avoid abbreviations or acronyms, unless a list of these have already been added to the glossaries.
  • Example:abbreviations.png

Ensure key elements remain untranslated:

  • In some cases, there are key elements of a message that need to be left untranslated. If needed, LIO can configure this option.
  • Some commonly protected elements:

    •  People's names and surnames/last names.

      • Note: This may be more relevant in situations where the name could also be a common noun, i.e., Heather, Rose, Willow.
    • Names of companies, products, features or services.
      • Note:  If not already handled by the list of terms in the glossary.
    • Emails
    • URLs
    • Postal addresses
  • Example:
    • When the email address is not protected, the word recruit from the email recruit@globalhr.com gets automatically translated into Spanish.protected_elements.png

Avoid idiomatic sentences:

  • Most idioms do not translate well into other languages and cultures.
  • It is best to avoid them and replace them with easy-to-understand sentences.
  • Some common idiomatic sentences:
    • be under the weather
    • ring a bell
    • compare apples to apples
    • compare apples to oranges
    • call a spade a spade
    • call it a day
  • Example:idiomatic_phrases.png

Tip No. 2 – Recycle Whenever Possible

Use templated content:

  • Whenever possible use templated content.
  • Ensure it is written out taking into account the multilingual support environment and the guidelines within this document.

Tip No. 3 – Keep it Simple

One sentence per concept or idea:

  • It is recommended to always try to keep a simple sentence structure.

  • Avoid long sentences.

    • If possible, split a sentence rather than using complex subordinate clauses.

Use active voice over passive voice:

  • Active voice is easier for the end user and also for machine translation engines to understand.
  • Example:active_voice.png

Do not mix different languages in communications:

  • Mixing languages can result in unexpected output from the machine translation.
  • Example:
    • The word Ciao in Italian was used in a Spanish chat, unfortunately it was translated as Cow in English.mixed_languages_version_2.png

Tip No. 4 – Be Culturally Aware

Be aware of the appropriate greeting for the culture:

  • In some cultures, it is more appropriate to greet the customer using their surname rather than the first name.
    • Examples:
      • In Japan, customers are usually greeted using the surname followed by the suffix -san (meaning dear or honorable), Yamamoto-san instead of Hi Etsuko.
      • In Hungary, customers usually prefer to be greeted by using a more formal approach, using the surname rather than the first name.

Avoid cultural or local references that may be alien to the end user:

  • Example:
    • Wishing an Egyptian customer: Happy Thanksgiving! isn't appropriate.

Tip No. 5 – Watch out for Spelling, Grammar, Punctuation, and Capitalization Mistakes

Do a quick automated spell/grammar check and a read through before sending the message:

  • Machine translation engines occasionally struggle with spelling mistakes, typos, grammatical and punctuation mistakes. 

  • This can make the rest of the interaction smoother and can also prevent unexpected embarrassing outcomes.

Capitalization:

  • Machine translation engines can be very sensitive to capitalization.
  • Be aware of using the right capitalization especially if dealing with the names of services or packages that can be regular words.
  • Example:
    • If there is a package called Now or NOW it would be tricky for the machine translation engines to distinguish between Now the subscription package and now the adverb.
    • In this case, it's recommended to always make sure the package name is capitalized correctly.
      • Notes:
        • If this package name was found in the glossary, it would always be left untranslated.
        • If now was used within a sentence, it would be translated as an adverb which is expected.
        • In this situation, there would still be some problems when Now is used at the beginning of a sentence.
        • In cases where the terms Now or NOW (as in the package) were not included in the glossary, the recommendation is to mark these instances with custom delimiters to ensure they remain untranslated.

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