Translating in Style: How a translation style guide can expand audience reach

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Behind every successful multilingual organisation is a well-defined translation style guide. Globally successful organisations work closely with language service providers to inspire a uniform audience reaction regardless of locale or linguistic background. This boils down to two things - consistent messaging and spot on localisation.  

Style guides are vital to creating localised content that speaks to a target audience and echoes company personality. After all, how can you achieve ongoing success without proving to multilingual audiences that your organisation has merit? The point is to give them something to believe in so that they want to engage with your organisation in the desired manner or purchase (and repurchase) your products or services.

To help create your own, we've designed a translation style guide template that you can download at the end of this article.

What is a style guide?

translation style guide is a stylistic guide for translating content into another language. 

It’s a valuable tool to ensure an organisation’s image, voice and tone stay consistent among varied audiences. If your language service provider (LSP) understands how to portray your company's messaging across multiple documents, your content has the power to create genuine connections with the target audience. Communicating a translation style guide sets the expectations for a translator and determines the preferred style for translation that the translator can then replicate.  

A translation style guide goes hand in hand with a glossary or also called a termbase. A glossary defines company-specific terms, industry-specific terms and audience-specific terms that your LSP should keep in mind when localising your content.  

Why create a style guide?

Style guides are imperative to high-quality content creation. They ensure that an organisation’s voice and intent is appropriately translated and adapted for specific locales or audiences. Translation style guides similarly assist the translator to translate more efficiently, saving you time and money in the long run.  

Content consistency generates an organisational identity that influences how an audience reacts and engages with an organisation. A study conducted by Forrester Consulting found that: 

Engagement infographic 1 1

Emotion i.e., how an individual feels about an organisation and its mission, drives an audience's desire to engage with an organisation. This proves why nailing organisation image in each market/language is so important to developing trust, loyalty and advocacy among a target audience. 

What does a style guide contain?

  • Buyer persona

    Clearly describe who your intended buyer or audience is. Identify their objectives, pain points, ideal age and lifestyle to help your LSP truly understand who you are targeting.

  • Writing style and tone

    The style and tone you set for your organisation's messaging underpins how a target audience will react to your organisation. Think about the type of message you want to send, who you are writing for and whether it should be written using plain language, a formal/informal tone or technical/academic language etcetera. Defining this ensures a common understanding among project managers and linguists about the vision for your company's messaging, hence leaving no room for individual interpretation.

  • Grammatical and typography conventions

    Defining the grammatical and typography conventions you wish an LSP to use depends on personal preference and the conventions of the target market. Explain how conventions, such as capitalisation, spelling, grammar, front, acronyms etcetera are to be used in your messaging.

  • Pronunciation of organisation name and products

    This relates more to audio translations, but if you are particular about how your company name or products are pronounced in different locales, then it's important you inform your LSP before any assumptions can be made. Remember what I said about saving your time and money?

  • Visual indicators

    Communicate the look and feel you want your website or other marketing collaterals to reverberate. Advise on the use of company imaging, colours, placements and any other rules that your LSP should be aware of before beginning the project. 

  • Reference materials

    Ensure you have thoroughly researched the market/target audience for the localisation project. Explain what the purpose of the project is, how strictly to adhere to the source text and provide any background information that may assist in writing for target audiences. References, such as past projects or stylistic inspiration can be extremely valuable in defining the context and ensuring the end project is what you envisioned. 

A boost for translation quality

A translation style guide is powerful when used in conjunction with language technologies. By uplifting the overall quality of translated contents, translation style guides can improve translation memory suggestions, therefore, leading to greater consistency across your organisation's translated materials.

The benefits flow over to quality assurance, namely for the third-party reviewer or Subject Matter Expert (SME) to maintain consistency in editing. Even more so, a linguist’s work can be cross-checked against the translation style guide to judge adherence to pre-set guidelines. 

Using translation memories, glossaries and quality assurance tools with a style guide can improve translator productivity and streamline reviewing processes of your content.


A well-maintained translation style guide can help achieve a consistent organisation image within multilingual messaging, while simultaneously giving you an edge to stay ahead of your competitors in international markets. 

Consider that as your company shifts and evolves over time, so will (and should) your translation style guide. For this reason, it’s important to maintain an open dialogue with your LSP to ensure that your organisation continues to resonate with all target audiences. 


Download style guide template

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