Digital Services Style Guide

Make translation easier

Writing with service-oriented language makes it easier to translate content into other languages, and therefore easier to access by all residents.

Why should it matter if it’s easy to translate content into another language? Isn’t that why we have Google Translate? Not exactly. Google Translate is better than nothing, but can misinterpret important phrases or instructions. Let’s revisit the first image comparing department-oriented language, and service-oriented language:

There are two columns of text. The title of the first column is: Department-Oriented Language. The first bullet point reads Boards and Commissions. The second bullet point reads, Certification for MBE/WBE. The title of the second column is: Service-Oriented Language. The first bullet point reads Join a board and give feedback to council. The second bullet point reads Get certification for your Minority or Women-Owned Business.

Both Google Translate and a translation service would have a tough time creating a clear translation for MBE/WBE. An MBE/WBE is a Minority Business Enterprise or a Woman Business Enterprise, which is unclear to many residents as an acronym, and therefore makes it difficult to translate.

Department jargon is also difficult to translate, and because many departments opt for a lengthy description of what they do. It can be expensive to translate all of that content. By using service-oriented language, several things are made possible:

  • Content will be easier for residents to understand
  • You start thinking service-first when creating content, decreasing the length of pages.
  • It is easier to manage webpages and the content on them- reducing the number of pages on the website.
  • Because there are fewer pages of content to translate, less money is spent and more people are able to access information about City services.