Dealing with Text Expansion/Contraction in translated documents

Dealing with Text Expansion/Contraction in translated documents

A well-known challenge anyone in multilingual desktop publishing is familiar with is text expansion/contraction in the translated documents. 

Depending on the language and type of content, the translated text can be significantly longer or shorter than the source text. In other words, a great looking layout of a document created in Italian could have a very different look once translated into Thai. 

Adjustments to the formatting and layout of the translated document are thus necessary to ensure readability and overall quality.

Let’s take a closer look at what some of these adjustments could be.

For starters, the font size and leading may need to change to adjust for overflowing or shorter text.


What is leading?

Simply put, it is the space between lines of text. Leading can differ according to the font(s) used and also depending on the language. 

Languages that have a lot of special characters or the Asian languages for example, require increased leading as they take up more vertical space than, say, English. 

Adjusting the font size may be the quickest solution when having to copy-fit or adjust text to fit the space allotted, but should be done carefully as it can have the biggest impact on the overall layout.

Another adjustment would be to graphics; tables, bulleted or numerical lists. All of which may need to be re-sized or adjusted to display the translated content correctly and be consistent with the source layout. 

In these cases, it is ideal if 1) the translated text, in graphics and tables especially, be as concise as possible and 2) the source documents are created/prepared with text expansion or contraction in the translated documents in mind. 

This would mean leaving white space in the page layout to allow for the different length and flow of the translated text. 

Another good suggestion is to not link text frames, unless there is a valid motive, to keep the translated text from moving around and appearing next to the wrong image or in the wrong position. 

Other ways to fix these can include expanding or condensing word spacing and/or character width; adding or removing hyphenation; adding or removing manual line/section/page breaks.

A further adjustment would be to what is called widow and orphan text. These are words or lines of text, either at the beginning of a paragraph or at the end that have been separated from the rest of the paragraph they belong to. 

Widow and orphan text usually occurs in text formatted in columns but they can also occur when paragraphs get split over two pages. 

Again, ways to fix these can include expanding or condensing word spacing and/or character width; adjusting the tracking; adding or removing manual line/page breaks; extending the text box or text frame slightly.

Interested in learning more about ways to deal with text expansion/contraction in your translated documents?

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