Writing Effective UX Copy for Localisation: Part 2

Five practical tips to write better UX copy for localisation

Monty Majeed
Sep 19 · 3 min read
Photo by Conor Luddy on Unsplash

This post is based on a talk I gave at the Write The Docs meetup in Munich in March 2019. Read Part 1 of this two-part series to know more about what UX Writers need to keep in mind when writing for localisation.

As a UX Writer writing in the source language, you have a huge impact on how users interact with your product, irrespective of the language they use to do so. The content you write and the strategic decisions you make form the backbone of the user’s content experience.

So here are 5 practical tips on writing better UX copy for localisation.

1. Write shorter sentences

As explained in my previous post, English is shorter than most other languages.

To help your content localise effectively, use shorter words and write shorter sentences. Do not try to stuff too much information into a sentence. Break down sentences that have more than one idea or action in them.

It’s much easier to localise clear, straightforward and simple sentences.

2. Be consistent in your word choice

Consistency in UX copy is two-fold.

First, do not use different words to refer to the same thing. For instance, when auditing our content at tado°, we found that we used the words purchase, buy, book and order interchangeably. In such situations, pick a word and stick to it.

Second, try to avoid using words that have multiple meanings. Like the word ‘once’. It could mean some time ago, after or when. Or ‘since’, which could mean a certain time or because. Eliminate such confusing words for your copy.

3. Avoid jargons and slang

Some words and usages don’t localise well.

To ensure that your content is clear of these, avoid:

  • hyperlocal cultural references,
  • jargon,
  • unnecessary or uncommon abbreviations,
  • idioms and metaphors,
  • slang,
  • uncommon foreign words,
  • double negatives.

4. Push for a style guide and glossary

A style guide and glossary are really helpful in ensuring consistency in your content. They provide a foundation based on which you can make better content decisions. They can also help document the decisions you made and the words you use to help avoid ambiguity.

In our glossary at tado°, we have a list of terms we commonly use and the approved translations for each word in all the 5 languages we localise into. This way, every time a writer uses an English word, the localiser has no doubts about the context it is being used in and can then decide faster which word they should use in their language.

A style guide and glossary may not solve all your localisation problems, but it is a good first step in this direction.

5. Finally, be flexible

As a UX Writer, you have no choice but to be a good collaborator. You must be able to let go of your content (and ego) and be open to rethinking and rephrasing content over and over till it works.

If someone points out to you that your content could lead to misinterpretation or errors in a certain locale, do not dismiss it. As much as you’re an expert in words and the English language, your knowledge of the cultural implications of your content or word choice in other languages may be limited. So be ready to accommodate changes and keep in mind that your content should serve the user.

Always remember,

content creation and governance is a team sport.

Over to you

What are your tips to make sure that your UX copy localises well? I’m sure a lot of us here would be interested to know. Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.

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Monty Majeed

Written by

Writer. Editor. UX Writer @tado . Editor & Publisher @inaclaypot. Film. Food. Feminism.

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