Top view of laptop, alphabet pillow, remote control, and slippers on a brown couch

Is a Freelance Translator or Translation Agency Right for You?

When you’re ready to grow your business in new markets, you’ll need to hire a professional translation service to prepare your content for the language(s) spoken in those new markets.

Here’s the good news: You have options.

Translation Agencies

Translation agencies come in many varieties, all with the same general business model of serving as a middleman between translation buyers (like you) and translators (like me).

Agencies typically consist of an owner, one or more salespeople, one or more project managers, an administrative/finance team, and possibly a team of in-house translators/editors. Most of the translators an agency works with, however, are freelancers with which the agency has an agreement. An agency could potentially have hundreds of translators in its database, thereby broadening its capacity of available language pairs and specializations.

The advantages of working with a good translation agency include:

  • Availability: Some agencies offer 24/7 availability. Also, with a larger pool of translators, agencies are better equipped to deal with tighter deadlines and can accommodate your schedule even when a translator gets sick or goes on vacation.
  • Multiple languages: If you need your content translated into many languages, an agency can manage the project for you. This is convenient for you as the translation buyer. Also, it allows for greater coordination during the translation process because, as questions arise during the translation project, the project manager can easily share answers with all of the translators working on your text.
  • Word of mouth: If a trusted colleague had a good experience with a particular translation agency, you may feel more confident about using the same agency, even if your content requires a different language pair or area of expertise.

Unfortunately, translation agencies have drawbacks, too. Disadvantages of translation agencies include:

  • Less control: You have no direct interaction with the translator. You could provide a style guide or glossary as guidance (please do!), and you can answer questions passed through the project manager. But when you work with a translation agency, you’ll lose the valuable opportunity to truly collaborate the translator working on your text.
  • No guarantees: Although agencies have many translators to choose from in their database, their best translator for your job might be backlogged or otherwise unavailable. This means that the agency will reach out to more and more translators until someone is available who feels comfortable with the text. Ultimately, there is no real guarantee that the translator working on your project is a great fit.
  • Still no guarantees: Even if you loved the first translation an agency did for you and you request the same translator the next time, there is no guarantee that you’ll work with the same translator and editor in the future.
  • Costly: As a company with employees, agencies have lots of overhead, which is reflected in the price they charge you.

Freelance Translators

Freelance translators are highly-trained translation professionals who offer their services on a freelance basis to agencies and/or directly to translation buyers. Most freelance translators have a professional website and are members of one or more translation associations.

Translators work in one or more language pairs, always translating into their native language. We also specialize in specific areas of expertise. Specializations may be stated in a broad sense, such as medical, legal, or technical, and within these areas, translators may specialize even further. Often, a translator’s specialization may even reflect a past career, as in my situation, where I have a degree in computer information systems and spent over 10 years in software before becoming a translator. I know other translators who similarly had other careers before ultimately becoming a translator.

It is important to choose a translator whose specialization aligns with your business area. The quality of your final translation will be better as a result.

You can find freelance translators by searching Google (try searching for “translator”, plus the language pair and business sector) or by searching in the directory of a respected translation association, such as the American Translators Association. Many freelance translators are also active on LinkedIn and Twitter. You might even meet one at a trade show within your industry, as we often attend events within our specializations to network and stay current on the latest developments and terminology.

The advantages of working with a freelance translator include:

  • Consistency: Once you find a translator whose background is a good fit for your needs, you can continue working with that same translator for years. Over time, the translator will become extremely familiar with your style and preferences.
  • Confidentiality: When working with a freelance translator, your file is passed only between you, your translator, and the translator’s editor. This streamlined process protects the confidentiality of your text. By contrast, agencies may pass your text among several translators until they find someone who is available to do the work.
  • Affordability: Unlike agencies, freelance translators have less overhead, so the price may be lower. That said, translation rates vary considerably. Good translators are in high demand and typically set their rates accordingly.

The disadvantages of freelance translators include:

  • Availability: When you choose to work with an individual instead of an agency, you may need to plan more time for your translations. For example, your translator may be busy with other work when you need him or her, or your translator may be feeling under the weather or on vacation.
  • Capacity: One freelance translator can usually only help you with one language you need translated. If your content needs to be translated into five languages, for example, you’ll need to find and coordinate with five freelance translators, which may divert too much time and attention from your own duties.

Final Word

Ultimately, the decision comes down to your needs.

If you need translations into several languages and don’t feel the need to control the process, a translation agency may be the better solution for you.

If your content only needs to be translated into one or a few languages and you want to be closely involved in choosing and working with the translator(s), consider working directly with freelance translators.

Good luck!

Confident pigeon strutting on asphalt

Common Mistakes on English-Language Websites of French Companies

In my work, I often end up viewing the websites of French companies. Sometimes, it’s to translate the website into English for the first time or to update a previous translation. Other times, I’m simply researching the company or its products to help translate some other text.

Regardless, I’ve found that many of these websites make the same telltale mistakes stemming from their original French versions.

Quality translation is often not a mere word-for-word translation of the source text, but rather a faithful adaptation tailored to the target market. Professional translators first convert the meaning of a piece of text into the target language and then consider how that meaning would be expressed by a native speaker of the target language.

This “What would a native speaker say?” step is precisely what seems to be missing in these common mistakes found on English-language websites of French companies. Let’s look at some examples…


In French, the verb “découvrir” is used to describe the action of gaining more information about a product or service. The English cognate “discover“, however, is not meant be used in this way, but I see this a LOT on the websites of French companies. It’s weird. Or rather, it’s a huge indicator that the website was not translated by a professional. On a subconscious level, this may signal to your potential customers that a) you’re an outsider and/or b) customer service might not be your highest priority as there may be other (more serious) translation missteps down the road.

Depending on the context (mid-sentence, button text, etc.), a better word choice might be “Learn more about…“, “Tell me more about…“, “Learn about…“, or “More info“.

“Who Are We?”

This is another example of a word-for-word translation that simply doesn’t work in a web context. Although French websites feature a “Qui sommes nous?” page with background information about the company, English-language websites routinely use the terms “About“, “About Us“, or “About [Company Name]“.


Another cognate that leads to confusing English text! The French word “intéressant” is often used to describe prices or a company’s goods or services. Since English has a cognate in “interesting“, it often ends up translated that way, but be careful! The word “interesting” in English can sometimes have a not-so-good connotation. We say something is “interesting” when we can’t really come up with something good to say about it. A much better translation in this context is “attractive” or “appealing“. Trust me, you’re much more likely to get a positive response to “attractive prices” than to “interesting prices“!


I confess… I feel guilty about this one because I admittedly use “offering” a lot when I translate the French word “offre“. Sure, we use this term in English, but we’re much more likely to talk about a “deal“, “plan“, “special“, or “package“. We also tend to simply say “products” or “services“, too, where the French would use “offre“.

Step-by-Step Procedures Involving “I”

I placed this toward the bottom of the list because it is so distinctively French and really doesn’t show up often on English-language websites. That said, I’ve definitely seen it. And seriously, it’s craaaaaazy when read from the perspective of a native US English speaker.

I’m talking about step-by-step instructions written in the first person, using the word “I”. For example, “I receive the file by email“, “I tighten the screws, without overtightening.

Always, always, always, English-language procedures use second-person commands in active voice. For example, “Click the button to continue” or “Remove the protective panel“. Stick with that formula. Always.

We certainly do use the first person in some contexts on websites. In fact, it’s very common to see this in FAQs or Troubleshooting areas, as if the user were describing a problem or asking a question. The first person is also common on buttons (ex. “Sign me up!“, “Subscribe me“, “I want to know more“, etc.).

Points of Ellipses in Lists

Not just on websites, these are commonly carried over from French texts into English. Where lists in French end with ““, lists in English end with “etc.

Don’t get me wrong… We love ellipses, just not for lists.

Italicized Quotes

Take a second to glance back up through this article. You’ll notice that I’ve italicized all the quoted phrases. This is normal in French. Not so much in English.

I actually like the practice, which is why I’ve done it here. I also wanted to illustrate my point. Still, it’s totally weird in English, so please avoid it. Text within quotation marks should be formatted just like the surrounding text… nothing special.


Finally, please remember that there is more to multilingual SEO than simply translating your French keywords into English. I offer an SEO service to my clients that involves a few hours of SEO research and keyword compiling based on their English-language website. It’s worth the investment to take this extra step when doing business in international markets. (Email me for more information if you’re interested in this service for the English-language version of your website.)

Final Thoughts

I get it… Developing a multilingual website is an expensive investment. Your goal, of course, is to attract and retain customers in foreign markets by speaking to them in their language. So get it right!

Don’t cut corners when it comes to professional translation. If you need to keep costs down, maybe you can start by having only a summary page professionally translated. But please, skip the bad translation altogether because it reflects poorly on your company and its products and services. (Or should I say “offering“?) 😉

Swag from Arizona Translators & Interpreters Annual Conference 2016

Review of the ATI 2016 Conference

As a professional practice, I aim to attend at least one translation conference per year. Obviously, there are many benefits in attending conferences. I personally love conferences for networking, learning opportunities, and keeping a pulse on key topics and trends.

Conferences are also a great way to explore other parts of the world. Earlier this year, I visit Prague for the wonderful BP16 Translation Conference, and in a few weeks, I’ll be in San Francisco for the widely attended American Translators Association’s Annual Conference.

While attending these conferences in distant locations, people sometimes ask me about the networking I do with fellow language professionals on a local level where I live in Arizona. Sadly, I’ve had nothing to report… until now.

ATI 2016

On Saturday, October 1, 2016, I was one of over 100 attendees at the Arizona Translators & Interpreters Annual Conference in Phoenix.

The keynote speaker was Tony Rosado, who has interpreted at the highest levels and is a thoroughly entertaining presenter. In his talk, Rosado provided a brief history of interpreting and translation to demonstrate the importance of our profession and the value we provide. He stressed that we must recognize our worth and educate our clients so that they too see our value (and pay us accordingly).

He pointed out that translation and interpreting is a “profession”, not an “industry”. After all, we are professionals, not cogs in a system. He also suggested that we stop using the term “rates” and instead refer to our prices as “fees” as other professionals do.

The one-day conference was organized into three concurrent tracks of sessions. Much of the content focused on interpreting, which is fitting since many ATI members and conference attendees are interpreters. One track, however, focused on translation, which is where I spent my time.

All of the presenters were highly qualified and knowledgeable.

Dr. Gloria Rivera gave a scientific talk on forensic science, explaining how fingerprinting, blood, and DNA is used in forensics. Although this is not my area of specialization, I found her presentation very interesting.

Aimee Benavides spoke on the use of parallel texts in researching specialized terminology. She demonstrated methods for finding native-language texts and avoiding translated texts that may contain mistranslated terminology.

Lucy Matticoli-Mason provided an enthusiastic demonstration of Trados Studio and MultiTerm. As a regular user of Studio, I didn’t expect to learn much from this session, but she covered some tricks I didn’t know before. I also feel much more confident about using MultiTerm.

Felipe Lopez gave a tech talk on Passolo, a not-so-user-friendly tool designed more for software engineers than for translators. Still, it was useful to see how this tool works from the standpoint of someone who actually understands it.

Final Thoughts

All in all, the ATI Annual Conference was a well-organized event that truly honored our profession and left me feeling motivated.

While I will continue travelling thousands of miles to distant conferences, I look forward to many more opportunities to be part of and help foster the local translation community here in Arizona.

Portrait of Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace: Computing Pioneer and Technical Translator

Today is Ada Lovelace Day! Observed on the second Tuesday of every October, Ada Lovelace day celebrates the achievements of women in science and technology.

Who was Ada Lovelace?

Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) was the daughter of poet Lord Byron. Raised solely by her mother, Ada was given a strong education with a heavy emphasis on logic, science, and mathematics.

Lovelace pursued a number of scientific interests, including phrenology and bird flight. In 1833, when Lovelace was just 18 years old, she was introduced to Charles Babbage, a mathematician and inventor, who was impressed by Lovelace’s analytical skills. By that time, Babbage, who was 23 years older than her, had already spent 10 years developing his difference engine, a machine that uses finite differences to perform a series of calculations.

Over the next several years, Lovelace and Babbage corresponded over Babbage’s subsequent invention, the analytical engine, which could perform general computations using instructions fed into the machine via punched cards.

In 1840, Babbage presented his invention during a seminar at the University of Turin, in Italy. In attendance was young Luigi Menabrea, who would become Prime Minister of Italy decades later. Menabrea took detailed notes on Babbage’s presentation, and in 1842, he published Notions sur la machine analytique de M. Charles Babbage, in French, describing the machine.

Umm… But this is in French. Translation please?

This is my favorite part of the story…. Ada Lovelace was a technical translator.

At least, that was her springboard for leaving a lasting contribution in the history of computing.

Lovelace spent nearly a year translating Menabrea’s publication from French into English. In addition to the translation itself, she added extensive annotations to further explain Babbage’s machine, based on her direct expertise. These annotations include an algorithm that is often credited as being the first computer program.

For this reason, Ada Lovelace is often credited with being the first computer programmer.

But I relate to her MUCH more when I think of her as an early French to English translator, specializing in technology. 🙂

Book open to Hans Tausen's Danish translation of the Bible

Cheers to Centuries of Hardworking Translators

Clear your calendars… September 30 is International Translation Day!

The holiday is celebrated each year on the feast day of St. Jerome, the patron saint of translators, librarians, and encyclopedists.

Now, I don’t know what kind of parties those crazy librarians and encyclopedists throw, but translators and interpreters around the world will certainly raise a glass to the many hardworking men and women who have contributed to our centuries-old craft.

Bible Translators

Some of the earliest, most prominent translators were Bible translators. This makes sense, of course, because the Bible was the first book to be widely printed.

St. Jerome himself was a Bible translator, responsible for translating most of the Bible into Latin.

Likewise, translating the Bible made its teachings accessible to a wider audience. This is our role as translators: to bridge communication gaps across languages, so that texts written in one language can be shared with readers of other languages.

Good Ol’ Hans

I must confess… I have a favorite Bible translator, and it’s not St. Jerome.

His name is Hans Tausen (1494-1561). He studied under Martin Luther in Wittenberg and went on to lead the Danish Reformation. He was also a well-educated language scholar, fluent in both Greek and Hebrew.

In 1535, Tausen translated the first five books of the Old Testament (known as the Pentateuch) from Hebrew to Danish. According to The Nordic Languages: An International Handbook of the History of the North Germanic Languages, Volume 2, his translation “has been praised for its vigorous, bold and popular, strikingly vivid style, with rich, often genuinely Danish vocabulary; it has been judged as the most distinctively Danish Bible translation before modern times.” (Note: The image above comes from my copy of a 1932 reprint of Tausen’s translation, titled Hans Tausens Oversættelse af De fem Mosebøger.)

Hans Tausen is also my 13th great-grandfather. And while simple mathematics show that each of us has thousands of ancestors that far back, it feels pretty cool to have genealogical proof of direct lineage to a badass religious reformer and translator. Or as we lovingly call him in our family… Good Ol’ Hans.


Photo: me (far left) with family in front of a statue of Hans Tausen in Ribe, Denmark, in May 1998

I like to think that some strand of his DNA that predisposes linguistic talent has been passed down over the years. As if translation is our 500-year-old family business. 🙂

In any case, this Friday, on International Translation Day, I’ll be celebrating my great-great-great-….-grandfather, as well as the countless other translators and interpreters who have devoted hours of study to languages and other fields in order to bridge cultures and expand our understanding of others.


Golden Gate Bridge shrouded in fog

Man vs. Machine: Word-Sense Disambiguation

Before finding my calling as a translator, I studied computational linguistics at Georgetown University. (Hoya Saxa!)

Computational linguistics is a branch of computer science focusing on natural language data, as opposed to numeric or structured data. Its applications can be found in technologies like speech recognition, information retrieval, and machine translation. I was most interested in information retrieval and extraction, the kind of software that could sift through megabytes of unstructured text and pull out important information (such as intelligence data) or respond to natural language questions (like a chatbot capable of competing in Turing test challenges). I wrote my Master’s thesis on a machine learning system for the temporal annotation of news text.

Yeah, pretty nerdy fun stuff. 🙂

Although I ultimately chose a different career path, I still have a lot of respect for the technology behind natural language processing. Language technology has a clear place, even in translation.

That said, there are some tasks that qualified humans will always do better. One such task is word-sense disambiguation.

What is word-sense disambiguation?

Word-sense disambiguation is the process by which the meaning of a word or phrase is clarified (or disambiguated) when multiple meanings are possible.

This is something that we, as humans, do all the time with great proficiency. We consider the context in which a word is used and then select the most suitable meaning. In translation, word-sense disambiguation is made easier with the help of reference documents and glossaries, if available. We also have our real-world domain-specific expertise to help us identify which words are true possibilities and which can simply be ruled out.

Simply put… Within the neural networks of the human brain, we’ve really got word-sense disambiguation figured out.

For computers, however, word-sense disambiguation is a colossal challenge.

Software follows an algorithm to perform word-sense disambiguation. These algorithms must explicitly consider various factors about the word or phrase to be disambiguated, including its part of speech, the domain of the text as a whole, the immediate context surrounding the word or phrase (which may or may not relate to the surrounding text), language, dialect, statistical probabilities of collocations, and so on.

Even in a best-case scenario, this is a lot of processing for a computer. What if the word is spelled incorrectly? What if the sentence contains a grammatical error that throws off the part-of-speech tagger? What if the word or phrase is used within a cultural reference, easily recognizable by a human but just another string of words to a computer?

In translation (or machine translation), subtleties of the source text, such as wordplay or running metaphors, may be lost when word-sense disambiguation is not performed properly.

So, what does this mean?

Computational linguists have made impressive advancements in tackling the challenges of natural language applications, all of which involve word-sense disambiguation on some level. Yes, even machine translation is getting better. It can be quite useful in informal situations or in providing the gist of a text when no proper translation is available.

But if you are doing business in foreign markets, trust your translations to expert translators who can preserve the richness of your company voice in your written documentation and marketing materials. Make a good impression on your potential customers, because how you communicate is a direct reflection of your company’s professionalism and brand image.


Gray cup holding six freshly sharpened pencils

Is Your Business Ready for “La Rentrée”?

This week marks the end of summer, as the new school year begins.

It reminds me of the smell of freshly sharpened pencils and the appearance of school buses, filled with eager(ish) kids with their clean haircuts and crisp new clothing. This is a time for renewed focus and new beginnings.

(Actually, my kids went back to school a few weeks ago, as many districts here in the United States start their academic year in August. Yet the “back to school” feeling is still fresh.)

The French approach this transition with particular gusto, enthusiastically announcing C’est la rentrée! There is a contagious excitement in the air, as la rentrée applies not just to school children, but to the country as a whole. This marks the end of les vacances of July and August. Businesses reopen. The government is in session. Cultural events are back in full swing.

With restored energy and renewed motivation, now is the time to get back to work. Time to focus. Time to regain clarity.

Now is the time to deliver on this year’s goals and plan ahead for next year. Are you ready?

With just four months remaining in the calendar year, is your business on track to meet its goals for the current year?

What can be done to position your business for what you aim to accomplish in the next year? Plan now, and start taking action.

If your business goals involve an updated website, marketing materials, or technical documentation, remember to include enough time in your schedule to have your texts translated into the languages of your target markets by professional translators.

The summer has been restful, but now it’s time to concentrate on our goals. Make the most of this optimism and opportunity. Bonne rentrée!


Vintage blue alarm clock and its mirror image

The High Price of Bad Translation

It can be fun to laugh at examples of bad translations on the Internet. A poorly translated menu in China. A nonsensical sign in Russia. Indeed, if you have ever traveled abroad, you yourself may have encountered some poorly translated texts in brochures, menus, or other texts.

Harmless, right? Not always….

In 2009, HSBC Bank spent a hefty $10 million to correct a mistranslation of its “Assume Nothing” tagline, which had been wrongly translated into other languages as “Do Nothing”.  The company opted to change its tagline to the more translation-friendly “The world’s private bank”.

The Swedish company Electrolux famously blundered when introducing its “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux” marketing campaign in the United States, where “sucks” is slang for “bad” or “unreliable”.

In 1980, an 18-year-old man was admitted to a Florida hospital in a coma. His family and friends, who could only speak Spanish, described him as being “intoxicado”. A bilingual hospital staff member understood this as meaning that the man was intoxicated, and doctors then proceeded to treat him as if he had a drug overdose. However, he was actually experiencing food poisoning (another meaning of “intoxicado”). The misdiagnosis and improper treatment left him quadriplegic and landed the hospital with a $71 million malpractice settlement.

Of course, these three situations could have been avoided with the help of a professional translator or interpreter. Paying a professional upfront saves big money in the long term.

Translation mistakes in advertising are highly visible. But what about mistakes in crucial financial reporting by international banks or in the drug development process by pharmaceutical companies? The wrong terminology can add up to huge losses for the company.

Doing translation right the first time can also protect a company against damage to its brand reputation. Potential customers may be turned away from a poorly translated brochure or website and choose instead to spend their money with companies whose brands appear more professional.

How do you put a price on that?

It’s understandable to want to keep costs low in your business, especially if you’re a startup operating with limited funds. But when you’re doing business internationally, there are simply no good shortcuts for professional translation services. A good-quality translation can have a ripple effect on your international growth, leading to a stronger brand reputation in your foreign markets and higher profits for your company.

Wait! Before you go….

Can you spot the mistake in the image above?? Let me know in the comments below!

Intricate cables of the Brooklyn Bridge

Preparing Your Texts and Team for Translation Success

Whether you’re launching a brand new product or simply reaching out to an existing customer base, it is important to get your communications right the first time in all the languages of your markets.

There are certain steps you can follow to help your translation project go more smoothly:

Proofread your source text.

Take time to carefully proofread your original text. Correct any spelling and punctuation errors you find, and clear up anything that might be confusing or misleading to your readers or to your translators. These ambiguities can easily become amplified when translated into other languages, so it is best to clear them up now, rather than deal with misunderstandings down the road.

Plan ahead in your scheduling.

Quality translation takes time, so plan for it! As a rule of thumb, translators can translate about 2,500 words per day. However, we’re very busy and not always available to start working on your project right away. Also, plan a little extra time for any questions and context-based corrections that may arise after the initial translation is complete.

Provide editable file formats.

Translators can work with many different file formats. Generally speaking, it is best to provide texts in an editable file format, such as Word, PowerPoint, InDesign, HTML, etc. Non-editable formats, such as PDF, are troublesome and require considerably more effort, which means a slower and more costly translation for you.

Provide reference documents.

Professional translators are extremely resourceful, and we’re experts in our native language. That said, your company may have an established standard for how you communicate to your customers. This standard may take the form of a style guide, a glossary, or even simply a collection of similar texts you’ve produced in the past. The more you share with us, the easier it is for us to maintain consistency with your company voice.

Don’t be a stranger.

Be available to answer questions that arise during the translation process. Common questions involve clarifying an oddly worded sentence or explaining how a product or service works. This way, we can be sure to choose the best word or phrase for your text.

Read the finished translation.

This can be a tricky one. If possible, have someone review the translated texts. Of course, you yourself might not speak the target language, but if your company has an office in the target market, a monolingual employee at that office can read the text and confirm whether it is an accurate representation of your company’s message.

With these simple — yet important — steps, your translators will love working with you, and you can keep focusing on what you do best: innovation!

Busy New York crosswalk at dusk

Voice! What Is It Good For? (Absolutely Everything)

The way you communicate to your customers is a direct extension of your brand. Think of it as your brand’s personality. Or rather, its voice.

Ideally, your company’s style guide should define how to express voice, in all your company’s languages, so that your message is consistent. This encompasses product marketing webpages, error messages, email correspondence, terms and conditions, and more. EVERY piece of written text produced by your company.

Brand = Voice x Words

Let’s start with your branding. Some companies have a highly formalized definition of their brand strategy, while others have more of a list of adjectives associated with their brand. What can customers expect from your products or services? What makes your company different from your competitors? Your brand identifies who you are, and it is reflected in your logo, your graphics, and how you conduct your business in general. Likewise, your voice reflects the characteristics of your brand.

To use my own business as an example, I have a clear, yet informal definition of my brand strategy. I describe my brand as “expressing confidence, innovation, energy, professionalism, a technical-focus, clear and effective work, reliability, expertise, and approachability, without being stuffy or overly formal”. This brand strategy affects the words and phrases I use on my website and in my interactions with clients. My voice reflects my brand.

The Audience Is Listening

Voice should also be tailored to the audience. People naturally develop trust toward others who are similar to them. Gain the trust of your audience by speaking to them in a voice they can relate to. What do they value? What shows them that your product or service is right for them? If you play your cards right, the voice you use to communicate with your customers can become a competitive advantage. When your voice is a good fit for your audience, they are more likely to continue coming back to you.

Are you using the right tone in the voice of your content? For example, software error messages and online help content often use an upbeat tone to lighten the mood. This is great, but be careful about using terms like “Simply…” and “…. is easy!”, which may inadvertently make your user feel stupid for not understanding something that is supposedly “simple” or “easy”.

Make It Official

Once you have a clear concept of your voice, document it in your company’s style guide. Here are some suggestions:

  • Will you use the 1st (we, our) and 2nd person (you, your) or stick with the more formal 3rd person (ABC Company)?
  • List certain words and phrases to be your go-to descriptors for your products and services.
  • Are there any words or phrases to avoid? Think about cultural taboos or even any words that may be closely associated with a competitor’s brand?
  • What kind of attitude do you want to convey?
  • How does your voice vary across different types of texts (ex. tone, formality, reading level, etc.)?

Defining your business’s voice is an important factor in maintaining the consistency of your brand message. By documenting your voice in your style guide, it’s easy to maintain that consistency as you bring on new writers and translators to grow your business.