Why Are Style Guide and Terminology Dictionary Necessary?

March 26, 2024
8 minutes
Why Are Style Guide and Terminology Dictionary Necessary?
Table of Contents

If you are new to the localization industry or are not very familiar with it, you may not know that the "correct" translation is actually a much more subjective concept than you think. As such, five different professional translators can translate the same source text in five different ways. All five of these translations may actually be technically correct.

Addressing style, target audience, company-specific terminology, colloquialisms, slang expressions, culture, publication type, target language and personal preferences can dramatically affect the final translation product.

Style Guide

So think about it. How many different ways in its simplest form do you express that "you have no energy left" and which of them is correct? Tired, sleepy, exhausted, worn out, devastated, out of battery, exhausted, weary. Even though they all mean the same thing, each one has a slightly different vibe. In fact, significant inferences can be generalized from all of them. You need to check where and how it is used to place the "right" one.

Different source texts such ascasual conversation, website translation, brochure, in-house communicationse-maillegal documents, research article etc. are translated in different ways. Moreover, the situation becomes even more complicated because some words, expressions and ideas have no equivalent in some languages.

Customers who are knowledgeable about translation now know that the richer the context, the better quality (i.e. "correct") translation will be obtained. It is possible to focus on this very important but often overlooked aspect of translation with two extraordinary tools such as the style guide and the dictionary. No need to say that, it is substantial to work with an experienced and sworn translator who translates in your native language. What exactly are a style guide and a glossary? Why are translators' final products better when you add these to your translation instructions? Let's go over the details of this issue together.

What is a style guide?

What is a style guide?

A style guide is a comprehensive resource consisting of numerous rules and principles, ensuring that language, form and design elements of different types of communication are used in a consistent and uniform manner. Generally used by organizations, publishers or authors, the style guide ensures that written and visual content is in harmony and looks professional.

They cover the building blocks of language such as grammar, punctuation, spelling, style, typography, citation styles and branding elements. By adhering to a style guide, a certain standard can be achieved and harmonious content can be obtained in both individual and team work, which makes it easier to ensure consistency and improves the overall quality of communication.

Best practice examples to improve your Style Guide and increase translation quality

Best practice examples to improve your Style Guide and increase translation quality

Provide Comprehensive Background Information: Provide as much context about your organization or website as possible. Gathering in-depth insight into your originating point, goals, and strategies helps translators clearly understand your message. Instead of copy-pasting your “About Us” page, encourage the team to contribute to the storytelling.

Clearly Describe Your Activities: You may have in-debt knowledge the activities you carry out very well, but this may not be true for everyone. Simplify your explanations so that your translation team can convey your message into foreign languages in great detail.

Have an Understanding Of Your Target Audience: Identify and narrow down your target audience, whether it's busy executives or tech enthuses in their 20s. In general, explain your target audience to your translation team so that they can determine the appropriate tone in their translations.

Research The Target Market: Do your research before determining your language rules. Different countries may have very different language norms than yours.

Specify Your References: Inform your translation teams about reference materials such as glossaries, technical compilations or commonly used terminology in the industry, especially in certain languages.

Give Detailed Instructions: The more detailed instructions your translation instructions are provided with, the better the result will be. You can set rules on topics ranging from suggesting formats for dates, addresses and abbreviations to determining translation lengths.

Keep Your Style Guide Up to Date: Your Style Guide doesn't always have to stay the same. On the contrary, revisions should be made to the guide as your company's message changes.

Be patient: If your translation team does not get everything right the first time, don't make hasty judgements about the usefulness of the Style Guide or the team's competence. Try to find out what kind of content translators have difficulty with. In this way, you can reveal inconsistencies in your tone and message.

Why do I need a style guide and glossary?

Why do I need a style guide and glossary?

The style guide and glossary are indispensable tools to ensure consistency and quality in translated content. These tools are important resources for both internal and external translators.

The style guide outlines specific rules for style, style, formatting, and language preferences, ensuring your brand's voice and message be transferred consistently to different languages. The consistency is crucial to both maintaining your brand's voice and identity and delivering a consistent message to a global audience.

The glossary is a standard list of key terms and expressions specific to your industry and organization which avoids confusion and errors by using ground rules and providing clear translations for domain-specific terminology. Thus, it ensures that technical and industry-specific content is conveyed accurately.

A simple style guide (low-volume translation) or “translator's handbook” should include:

• What content is being translated? (brochure, legal document, Facebook post)

• Who is the target audience? (a formal or informal address)

• Are there any special instructions?  

• Is there source material? (URL, images, documents)

A detailed style guide (high volume translation) might include:

• Preferred format for time and units of measurement  

• Instructions on brand identity

• General information about the sector

What can be added to your translation style guide?

It is of high importance to include comprehensive instructions and rules in your translation style guide to ensure consistency and quality in all translated materials and content. What should be included in the guide:

Style/Tone and Address: Choose the tone you think will fit your brand's voice, whether it's formal, casual, professional or friendly.  Provide examples that will make the style understandable.

Differences in Language: Clearly explain language differences or preferences by region. For example, if you prefer both American English and British English as your target language, specify which one will be used where.

Brand Guide: Convey your brand's core values, mission and vision. Explain how these should be conveyed in the translated content.

Content Formatting: Set rules for formatting content, including headings, bullets, and fonts. Specify any custom formatting preferences for dates, numbers, and units of measurement.

Cultural Sensitivity: Provide guidance on culturally sensitive topics to ensure translators respect local traditions, beliefs and taboos.

Target Audience Definition: Describe your target audience, their demographics and preferences. So that the translators will adapt the content accordingly.

Main Messages: Identify key messages, brand phrases or slogans that should be consistent across languages.

Grammar and Style Rules: Specify preferred grammar rules and writing styles. Provide examples for clarity.

Approved Terminology: Provide a list of approved terminology, abbreviations, and industry-specific jargon to ensure accuracy.

Content Types: Marketing materialspoint out the difference between the contents and explain the specific requirements for each, technical documentation.

Review and Feedback Process: Outline the process for reviewing and providing feedback on translations. Also provide contact information for the contact person to ask questions or request clarification.

Version Control: Keep track of style guide revisions to ensure translators have access to the most up-to-date guides.

Examples: In order to be clearer about what you expect from translators, provide multiple examples to cover different scenarios and content types.

Using a well-prepared style guide, you can ensure that your company's brand strategy and message are consistent across languages, pay attention to cultural sensitivity, and are linguistically correct. Thus, you can add value to your global communication efforts.

What is a terminology glossary?

A terminology glossary is a list that defines the main terms used by your company and the translators who work with your company in all target languages.

A glossary for terminology ensures that major terms are translated consistently by all translators wherever they appear in the source text. It does not matter how often these texts are translated or who the translator is. The glossary is specially designed for terminology, slogans and brand phrases specific to the sector, company and target audience. Thanks to the glossary, translation consistency is improved in all markets and the brand message is ensured to be consistent in all target languages.

Essential Points:

• The dictionary should be prepared before initiating the translation.

• A Language Service Provider can assist with this, but the company must provide the terms and their certified translations.

• Copyrighted or trademarked terms that should not be translated should be stated.

What should be added to the terminology glossary?

A terminology glossary is an important tool to use to ensure accuracy and consistency in translated content. To create an effective terminology glossary, you can consider the following key elements:

Main Terms: List the most important terms and phrases related to your industry, product or service. These are words that have a special meaning or require a literal translation.

Definition: Define each term briefly and clearly. This way, translators will understand the context and usage of the term.

Word Type: To use the term correctly, indicate whether the word is a noun, verb, adjective, or other type.

Contextual Usage: Provide examples of how each term is used in sentences or expressions. This way, translators will understand the usage of the term.

Preferred Translations: Offer preferred translations in the target language for each term. Show the distinction between official and unofficial translations, if possible.

Terminology To be Avoided: Specially highlight terms that should be avoided due to ambiguity, error, or cultural sensitivity.

Acronyms and Abbreviations: Include widely used acronyms and abbreviations with explanations.

Notes and Comments: Add notes or comments that explain the usage, nuances, or possible hidden meanings of a term.

Cross Reference: Link related terms within the glossary to ensure consistency and cohesion in translated content.

Version Control: Ensure translators always have access to the latest terminology guide by tracking dictionary revisions and updates.

Language Variables: If your organization targets multiple regions with different language preferences, specify terminology variants for each target region.

Sources for the Terminology: Cite the source or references used in compiling the dictionary. These may include industry-specific standards, internal terminology databases or reliable dictionaries.


Style guides and terminology dictionaries are indispensable assets in the world of localization and global communications. Thanks to these tools, which bridge linguistic gaps, the possibility of communication problems with translation service providers is minimized. Organizations can significantly improve the quality of their translations by adhering to accepted corporate style guides and citing comprehensive dictionaries.

Besides, when these resources are used strategically, both the linguistically correct result is achieved and the localization process is ensured to be cost-effective.. Businesses can use resources more effectively by reducing the need for extensive revisions and clarifications.

Most importantly, translation style guides and dictionaries play a major role in creating a harmonious and consistent brand voice and ensuring consistency in images and messages in different target languages where it also supports brand integrity. The bottom line is that these guides and dictionaries are a significant part of successful international communication strategies, contributing to the smooth progress of intercultural interaction and ensuring long-term relationships with global target audiences.