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How to translate technical manuals

How to translate technical manuals

How to translate technical manuals is a problem for most industrial organizations. Technical manuals or instruction guides are documents which provide guidance to either product end-users or employees of an organization on processes and how to perform various tasks. Usually, such documents are intended to inform users how a product or machinery works, what to expect, and how to use it.

So, it becomes vitally important for organizations to have up-to-date accurate manuals. Having an accurate technical manual becomes even more crucial when offering a product in a foreign market as they will need to translate such document to the target language.

User guides play an essential role in shaping user experience; plus, an inaccurate technical manual could make the company offering such manuals liable for damages if people follow an error-laden guide.

In this article, we will be highlighting some of the best practices you should take note of when translating a technical manual.

Translate technical manuals – new versions

The first place to start is to take a look at what your company has done in the past. You will uncover a trough of data and information that may be helpful in the current project. Take for example, if you’ve translated into the target language before, you probably have a glossary of terminologies in place, reusing this will save you both time and cost.

Translating technical content for the first time

You may want to start by agreeing with the translation agency on a glossary. A glossary is a compilation and translation of all the technical terms you often use in your document. It is important to have these terms compiled and translated, as they may come in handy for future projects.

Pay attention to word count

Granted, you want the translated document as short and concise as possible. But it is not often the case. The thing is, technical manuals tend to be quite long since you are explaining in a layman’s words complex processes. Keep in mind too, that translators usually charge per word or in some cases, per page. Hence, the longer the manual, the higher the cost of translation.

Plus, if you’re translating from English as a source language to any of the Romance languages – Italian, Spanish, French and so on – the text tends to be longer so you may want to make allowance for extra character when formatting the document.

Ask for feedback from users

Remember, the whole point of translating the technical manual is to walk users through how to use your product. So, you may want to find out from real customers how useful the manual is. With the suggestions and feedback, you can improve the translated manual.


The hallmark of a quality technical manual translation is that there is no ambiguity, the text is short and concise, there is consistency in terminologies used across the document, in addition to a consistent spelling, grammar and semantic structure and above all, the translated technical manual is super-helpful to users.

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