Authoring in Neutral English (And other restricted-dictionary adventures)

19 Feb

Part I

Most of us work with content that will be consumed by people across the globe. So it makes sense that we should understand the basics of how to optimize content for international use.

In addition, many businesses are exploring how to move their globalization process from high touch /high human intervention, to a process that includes as much automated manipulation as possible. When editing and high-touch work on content comes at the end of the content development process, meaning close to the translation phase, there is a high cost in change management. This is expensive in terms of both time and budget, and requires heavy human-interaction with the content. In addition, working in this way does not provide the maximum opportunity for automated translation tools to “learn” from translated content, therefore eliminating opportunities to improve future translation work with those tools.

Sometimes this means translation or localization, but often it means being smart about how content is authored; writing in a way that makes that content as accessible as possible to as many readers as possible. Often this involves authoring content using one form or another of “restricted-dictionary” versions of English. Some of these include:

International   English Typically a UK-style English that most closely represents the standards learned by the majority of English speakers around the world.
Business   English A combination of International English and Business jargon, usually specific to a field or a technology.
Simplified   English A defined method of constructing written content so that it is most   easily understood by people who do not speak English as a primary language. Simplified English uses simple sentence construction, closely follows grammar rules, and is written for low-grade reading comprehension.
Neutral   English Neutral English is optimized for machine translation, not human consumption. Often a first version of text is created in standard or Simplified English, and then is modified into Neutral English before translation.

In addition to having a low barrier for comprehension and retention, content authored in this way is almost always less expensive to localize than standard US-based English or other English forms. This is because it is intentionally written using simple constructions and other conventions that help it achieve high accuracy with human and machine translation methods.

Using Optimized Content to Solve Translation Challenges

Some of the biggest challenges related to translation include the difficulties of correctly localizing idioms, metaphors, jargon, catch-phrases, and the like.

By using restricted-dictionary strategies that recommend specific grammars, re-usable content strategies (single-sourcing techniques), sentence construction guidelines, along with consistent use of boilerplate text and templates, can help authors and editors better standardize the original source material.

From such source material, it is much easier to create versions of English optimized for the correct end use – be that Business English or Neutral English.

For businesses that target only one or two languages for translation, the second level of optimization can be targeted even more specifically for that language to help for increased accuracy with translation tools.

Next Post, Part II: My story of authoring product content in Neutral English, and an interview with Scott Abel and Val Swisher

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  1. Authoring in Neutral English (And other restricted-dictionary adventures) | TechCommGeekMom - February 20, 2014

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