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% and high fuzzy/context matches 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. Please also note that raw machine translated output will not incorporate such hits, so make sure you change the default STP TM settings in memoQ to 50% before you start and this will bring up more relevant matches in the translation pane for you to choose from. All translators now have lookup access to all our domain terminology (DT) term bases in memoQ, so please make use of these where appropriate as quite often the subject matter of a job will cover more than one domain.
Always write with full stops, 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, unless you have been instructed to follow US English conventions.
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 automatically provide you with a curly apostrophe.
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 comments 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.
Follow the source text. If the source text is inconsistent, ask the client for clarification or use the following format: 2. – 2.1 – 2.2.1 (i.e. no point after the last subdivision).
Colons should be closed up to the preceding word. Only use colons at the end of headings if they are in the source text and used appropriately, e.g. in discharge summaries. 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.
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.
This should have a space on 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.
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 (forward slashes or full stops), 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.
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, unless the client instructs otherwise. 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.
Exclamation marks should be closed up to the preceding word. Do not use more than one at a time, unless replicating textspeak etc. in informal communications.
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 person’s title or in acronyms.
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.
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. Occasionally it will be necessary to write measurements without a separator, e.g. 1200 mm. Be consistent, whichever approach you take. As a general rule, write low numbers (zero 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, EUR 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.
Question marks should be closed up to the preceding word. Do not use more than one at a time, unless replicating textspeak etc. in informal communications.
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. Some clients prefer 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. 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.
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. If one sentence or two such sentences are split across more than one segment in memoQ, see if you can join the segments together. This is not always possible but if it is, it does improve the usability of the TM for you and other translators.
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.
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.
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.
Use the 12-hour system in this format: 8.00 am and 2.00 pm, unless told not to or the context dictates otherwise. Some clients may want us to use the 12-hour clock without a space, i.e. 7.30am and 3.00pm. Whichever format you use, be consistent. Although it is quite common in US English to use the format 08:00 am, we do not want this used in UK English jobs. In other words, do not mix the 24-hour clock and am/pm.
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.
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. In-house translators have online access to Oxford Dictionaries, which includes Fowlers Modern English Usage.
For US English, you may find the Chicago Manual of Style useful.