Re: Using Contractions in Software Manuals

Subject: Re: Using Contractions in Software Manuals
From: Bill Burns <BillDB -at- ILE -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 11 May 1999 11:57:06 -0600

Howard writes:

> > Contractions cause problems with internationalization and translations.
> Not so. We provide localized documents in about 8 languages, included
> Chinese,
> Japanese, and Korean. Contractions are used consistently throughout.
> Extensive
> research and contact with our translators went into this decision, and
> without
> exception the translators for both Western and Asian languages prefer to
> see
> contractions. They seemed a bit insulted that we thought they might have
> trouble with it.
My understanding (and it's certainly subject to scrutiny) is that
contractions cause problems only when they could be interpreted in more than
one way. Typically what this means (in my experience) is that the developer
gets a call from the translator or the localization project manager for
clarification. It doesn't cause insurmountable problems, but it can cause
needless delays.

The issue is really more about clarity. If the meaning is clear in the
English source, the translator shouldn't have an issue. If the contraction
is used unclearly (say, for example, using a contraction where it might be
interpreted as possessive), then it could be a minor problem. Having a lot
of these minor problems can cause delays and scheduling problems.

With novice writers whose work will be localized, such a restriction might
not be out of order.

Bill Burns - Eccentric Technology Consultant
International Communications Design & Development
billdb -at- ile -dot- com
Call me fishmeal.

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