English Language Guidelines
Unless instructions for a specific job or client state otherwise the following rules must be applied consistently throughout translation jobs into English. Unless we are asked to use US spelling by a client, we always use UK spelling.
With all jobs please bear in mind 100% matches and context matches which may come from previous translations for the same client, as in some cases consistency may take priority over these guidelines, cf. above, as the client may have specified a particular format for numbers, dates, times, abbreviations, etc.
Always write with full stop(s), unless the last letter of the abbreviation is the last letter of the full term or phrase.
Write without full stops, even when in lowercase or when capitalised.
The apostrophe is used to indicate the possessive and to mark the plural of single letters. The plural of abbreviations or figures does not take an apostrophe. Please use the shortcut Alt + 0146 if the software you are using does not provide you automatically with a “curly” apostrophe, e.g. TagEditor, Lionbridge Translation Workspace
Round brackets (also referred to as parentheses) can often be used to expand on or explain the preceding item in the text. You can also use En dashes if you wish. Insert a space before the opening bracket. A space is not required immediately after or before either bracket. Be consistent: do not combine with square brackets.
Square brackets are used to make insertions in quotes and to indicate where deletions or options can be made etc. This is why they should not be replaced with round brackets. You can also use square brackets to insert translations or comment after names or titles left in the original language.
Bracketed sentences. The final full stop of a complete sentence in brackets must be inside the closing bracket. Make sure you put a full stop at the end of the preceding sentence too.
Follow the bullet points in the source text where possible. Begin the list with a colon. Each item should start with lower case and end with a semicolon, unless the list contains only short terms or items. If you use uppercase and full stops instead, be consistent. End the list with a full stop. In some cases you can also insert “and” after the last semicolon.
- provide a declaration detailing their current state of health;
- submit a copy of their birth certificate;
- consent to an interview to discuss their state of health;
- undertake to inform the insurer without delay of any changes.
Follow the source text. If the source text is inconsistent, ask the client for clarification or use the following format: 2. – 2.1 – 18.104.22.168 (i.e. no point after the last subdivision).
Colons should be closed up to the preceding word. Do not use colons at the end of headings, even when they are in the source text. Colons do not generally require the next word to start with a capital letter, but it may be necessary.
This is used to punctuate sentences and separate items in a series. When used for punctuation, a comma is always followed by a space. Use a comma before “etc.” in a series, but a comma is not necessary if there is no series.
Tenants are expected to use dustbins etc. to store waste.
Use the official abbreviation for financial texts and amounts. In flowing text you can use the word if necessary. The currency abbreviation precedes the amount and is followed by a (hard) space. Do not leave a space after currency symbols. Like any currency name in English, the word “euro” is written in lower case with no initial capital.
Revenue was EUR 30 million, while at the American parent company it was USD 5 billion.
(Not: US$, € 50, 5 million Euro.)
This should have a space either side and is used to punctuate a sentence instead of commas or round brackets; please use an En dash (–), not a hyphen (-) or Em dash (—) as these are too short and long respectively. Be consistent.
the London – Brighton line
a height – weight graph
Appendix – List of Shareholdings
(A hyphen for graph names etc. is also acceptable, so it is up to individual translators as long as they are consistent within a job and with any legacy TM content, references, etc.)
The aim of the proceedings is that the child shall not – under any circumstances – be subjected to the influence of a parent with addiction problems.
This contract is between the following two parties, Alkenan Ltd. –hereinafter referred to as “the Supplier” – and Consort – hereinafter referred to as “the Client”.
Where possible, write dates in full. Do not shorten the year to two digits. Avoid redundant zeros unless you are following legacy content etc. Otherwise use UK format (full stops or forward slashes), i.e. dd.mm.yyyy or dd.mm.yy. Note that 1990-91 is two years. Single marketing years, financial years, etc. that do not coincide with calendar years are denoted by a forward slash: e.g. 1990/91, which is 12 months or less.
In US English: March 7, 2008
Full stops indicating an omission such as in quotes or to indicate that something is to follow (aka ellipsis points). Always use three dots rather than the special character that is sometimes generated, preceded by a (hard) space. If a sentence ends with an ellipsis, there is no need for a fourth full stop, cf. sentences ending with an abbreviation. If it is followed by any other punctuation mark, there is no space before it.
And what did he think about this …?
Exclamation marks should be closed up to the preceding word. Do not use more than one at a time.
(Not: How fantastic!!!!)
A full stop (or point) at the end of a sentence immediately follows the last character and is followed by a single space. Make sure you check for redundant spaces at the end of segments. No further full stop is required if a sentence ends with an abbreviation that takes a full stop (e.g. etc.) or with a complete quotation that ends in a full stop, a question mark or an exclamation mark before the closing quotation marks. There is no full stop after a title or in acronyms.
We need to buy a new carpet, washing machine, cooker, etc. Thankfully the insurance will cover most of it.
Hyphens (-) are used to link words and to hyphenate (where required). They should not be used to punctuate embedded sentences; that is what dashes are for. There is no space before/after a hyphen.
Section 8 – Servicing and after-sales support
Use a full stop as a decimal point and a comma as a thousand/million separator. Be consistent! Do not use a hard space to group thousands unless you have been instructed to do so, typically for EU texts. As a general rule, write low numbers (up to nine inclusive) in words and larger numbers (10 and above) in figures. On the other hand, try not to start a sentence with a figure or a symbol followed by a figure. Either write out in full or, if this does not work, make use of devices such as inversion: Altogether 92 cases were found …, Of the total, €55 million was spent on …
As stated, we generally use UK English in all our jobs. There are also a few words with alternative UK English spellings or which people tend to confuse with US spelling and we would prefer, unless the specific job instructions, TM, glossary, etc. stipulate otherwise, for translators to use the spellings and capitalisation shown below for these words. If in doubt about spelling, please send a query to the lead translator.
enquiry (not: inquiry, unless the context is an official investigation)
optimise, prioritise, realise, etc.
per cent (not: percent)
Question marks should be closed up to the preceding word. Do not use more than one at a time.
(Not: Is there something wrong???)
Use smart (“curly”) double or single quotation marks. Single quotes only inside double quotes, or vice versa. Do not use chevrons (‹‹…››), Nordic quotes (”…”) or German quotes („…“) in English. Xplanation prefers straight quotes. Make sure the use of quotation marks is consistent throughout the text. Please use the shortcuts Alt + 0145 and Alt + 0146 for single quotes and Alt + 0147 and Alt + 0148 for double quotes if the software you are using does not automatically provide you with “curly” quotation marks, e.g. TagEditor, Lionbridge Translation Workspace. For EU documents use single quotes, cf. the EU style guide.
You can also use this style guide as a general reference for English usage.
When writing out ranges, please repeat the symbols and multiples. For the abbreviated form, please use an En dash but do not repeat the symbol or multiple if they are the same. There should not be a space on either side of the dash. If the symbol or multiple does change, leave a space on either side of the dash.
Between DKK 3 million and DKK 10 million
10 MW – 5 GW
Use a semicolon to join two sentences together where the content is closely related and a linking conjunction is not necessary. Semicolons should be closed up to the preceding word.
Avoid all unnecessary spaces, although in some documents they may have to do instead of tabs. It may be necessary to use hard spaces to keep specific parts of a word, number, name, sentence, etc., together, but this is generally a DTP issue.
Court, Southampton, or by telephone on 02380 558 912.
The electricity network runs on 220 V.
No double spacing after full stop. You may find that American translators still do this. Punctuation at the end of a sentence (. ? ! : ;) is always followed by a single space.
Punctuation marks in English – apart from dashes and ellipsis points – are always closed up to the preceding word.
Symbols are always written without full stops. As a general rule, mathematical symbols are separated from the preceding figure using a (hard) space. Exceptions: %, °, °C, °F … which are usually written closed up to the figure. Use only standardised units of measurements, either written in full or as symbols (e.g. kHz, kWh, dB, ha, g, etc.); in computer terminology: Kbps, MB, GB.
900 Ω, 75 mm, 340 kg, 9.5 t (Not: 100 gr, 50 KHz.)
Avoid redundant tabs.
For international and national numbers use the standard shown below. Use hard spaces if necessary. Try to put numbers in units of two; if this is not possible, start from the end and take as many units of two as possible, then use a unit of three, or in the case of an 0800 number, a unit of four. Alternatively, follow the standard for the country of origin.
+46 (0)8 585 800 00
020 28 57 99
0800 817 69 00
Use the 12-hour system unless told not to or the context dictates otherwise.
(Xplanation exception for ING: 10.30 a.m and 9 p.m.)
As a general rule, titles are written in title case. No unnecessary punctuation (full stop, colon, etc.) after the title. If there is a table of contents, make sure this is consistent with the titles in the rest of the text. Only the first word of subheadings should have title case, but it may depend on the job and text concerned.
Safety Data Sheet
2.2.1 Requirements for suppliers
Microsoft Language Portal
IATE (InterActive Terminology for Europe)
You may also find the book “Practical English Usage” by Michael Swan published by OUP to be helpful. It was designed for learners of English and their teachers, but it is very useful for translators as well.
For US English, you may find the Chicago Manual of Style useful.