How To Write A Translation Brief?

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Written by: pTranslate Contributors


Generated even before the translation process begins, a translation brief provides invaluable insights into the client’s objectives and expectations. It serves as a guide and a reference point for the project ahead.

Translation briefs are generally short and straight-to-the-point, which may make people underestimate their importance. In fact, not many clients even bother with creating a detailed brief, but rather leave everything to the translator’s judgement. Yet, it is these briefs that facilitate understanding and communication as the project unfolds. They lay concrete foundation for all phases of the project and orient the translator in the exact direction that the client wishes to.

In the brief, clients should include proper procedures, preferred protocols, and definitely some important information regarding the linguistic issues of the text that is to be translated.

In this article, we will explore the topics that you, as a client, should include in your brief. If you are a translator, you should also expect to receive all of these information. Should any of them is not adequately provided, you should ask your clients for clarification.

how to write a translation brief

1) Supportive Material or Background Information

Sometimes there won’t be sufficient information for the translator if you only throw them your document without any additional papers that give them more context. If possible, give the translator access to relevant background information regarding your project. Let them know specific what your project is about. Provide them with any documents that they need to read to fully understand the contents of the text you want them to translate.

If you have any previous translations of similar texts available, you might also want to provide them to the translator. In case the supportive materials are relatively complex and require a little bit of reading and research to fully understand, you can even schedule for a quick meeting or a call with the translator to clarify everything. Make sure that there is no misunderstanding later down the road.

2) Contact Information

Normally, at pTranslate, once you place an order, you have to provide us with your Name, Email Address, and other relevant information so that we can easily deliver the translation to you.

However, you can provide the translator additional contact information. For example, if there is someone in your company or organization that can help the translator in case they need to clarify something, you can add their email to the translation brief.

3) Linguistic Issues

Linguistic Issue is not a simple thing to address in a translation brief. Most of the time, clients don’t have enough linguistic expertise to acknowledge the linguistic challenges in their translation projects, but if they do, the translator will really appreciate a few extra notes on the linguistic problems that they might encounter in the process.

It is possible to work with translator and figure out the issues prevalent in the text. The translator can guide the client and explain the issues in layman’s term. Decide together how words and terms that have no equivalence in the target language will be handled. These difficult words will sometimes be translated roughly with a clear explanation right after that, or left as they are, but explanatory footnotes are added for clarification.

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4) Pre-editing Collaboration with Experts

Pre-editing is necessary when the Target Audience of the translation is divided into several groups with different expectations. This editing process will accommodate for these varying readership, hence enhancing the reading experience.

5) Safety Measures

Safety Measures sound like something that only exists in the Engineering world, where heavy machinery operations may cause serious injury if handled without caution. Yet, in Translation, safety measures are also necessary, especially when working with sensitive, confidential documents. These documents may contain information that affects the life, safety, and reputation of many people. If not kept in confidentiality, the consequences can be disastrous.

Specify all of the safety requirements as to how the information can be kept secured. A Non-disclosure Agreement may be even required. Let the translator know if they have to store the file on a personal computer, or if they are allowed to distribute the file to any other storing system. If more heightened security measures are available, you can provide the translator with information about them, too.

6) How Translations Are To Be Submitted

When working with pTranslate, you will receive the file through email as a .pdf file, .doc file, or any format that you specified. If you have any additional requirements as to how the final translation is to be delivered, feel free to tell us in the Order form.

You can also give us a deadline to deliver the translation. Our streamlined process ensures smooth translation and delivery process of final versions, but it definitely takes some time to produce a high-quality translation.

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7) How To Handle Discrepancies

Translation is more of an art than concrete “science”.

Typically, there are more than one “correct” way to translate or word. This happens quite infrequently in Technical Translation project, but in Literary Translation projects, it is a completely different story. Expressions or phrases might not fully retain the “soul” of the original version. Editors and proofreaders will usually be the one to challenge the translators about these problems.

At pTranslate, editors, proofreaders and translators work together to handle these discrepancies. However, if you’re hiring an independent translator/editor, it is important to establish a procedure for the individual to discuss and resolve any differences that may arise so as to reach a mutual understanding. Only through these “hard talk” can a high-quality-end-product be produced.

8) Styling and Formatting

Styling and Formatting is yet another extremely important aspect of translation that many clients ignore. In pure text document (word-only), there is usually limited need for styling and formatting. Most of the time, all the translator have to do is keep the original format, which is not particularly hard to achieve.

However, in more complex documents, with images, watermarks, colored documents, and various visual elements, it is crucial to establish clear rules as to what they should and should not do.

This is when a Style Guide comes in handy.

Style Guide is commonly used in Marketing briefs, as Marketing work involves a lot of design and formatting. However, you can totally take the Style Guide from the Marketing team and send it to the translator if you believe that maintaining a consistent style in your translation is important.

Translators aren’t just language experts. They are also designers with a nice sense of style. They can make your document visually appealing and aesthetically pleasing AND understandable to any foreign readers.

9) Preparing the Terminology Resource

Having a terminology database ensures that all of the translation projects of your company have a consistent voice. It eliminates all uncertainty for the translator. They know exactly what to translate when they encounter a particular word. When pieced together, these “word-for-word” rules can create a consistent “personality” for your translation.

For example, if your brand is “serious, bold, and fearless”, you would want your communication documents to reflect that personality through a cherry-picked vocabulary. That personality should not be changed too much even when you expand internationally, and this “preservation of brand voice” can be easily achieved through a well-prepared Terminology Database.


A good brief provides so much value to both parties. It might take a while to create a good brief. However, if properly written, a brief can potentially save a lot of time and effort that may occur due to a lack of mutual understanding. It also ensures that the project goes in exactly the direction you – the client – want it to go. Isn’t it wonderful?

Feel free to share in the comment section your experience in creating a wonderful translation brief. Opinions and thoughts are welcomed!

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