Nightmare on PowerPoint Street: four tips to avoid a translation horror show

Formatting from hell, jargon galore, cryptic abbreviations… the list goes on. Find out how to make those slide presentations more translation-friendly – or just generally better.

Back in 2004, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos enacted a company-wide PowerPoint ban. Unfortunately, not many other companies have followed suit, and it doesn’t appear that Microsoft has plans to retire the software from its Office suite any time soon. And so, until that day comes, Supertext will no doubt continue to translate thousands of those pesky slides.

A slide presentation might seem like a quick and easy translation job. After all, it’s mostly just clip art, tables, figures, pie charts and other fluffy content, right? And most of the audience will probably just be fiddling with their smartphones and catching up on their emails for the entirety of the presentation anyway, right? Hardly.

After accepting the job, things quickly begin to look different for the translator. In reality, 20 slides quickly unravel into a Sisyphean ordeal: after scouring the web in a vain attempt to find obscure abbreviations and terminology, you open the target file only to discover that the formatting and text has been scrambled beyond recognition all over the slides. Add another several hours of tedious re-formatting.

15 extra minutes can save hours

We know. You lied about your PowerPoint proficiency on your job application, and now you have 50 slides due by the end of the week? How hard can it be? You may be able to hack your way through it without your colleagues noticing, but you certainly won’t fool the Supertext translators!

You don’t need to take a class or learn every single feature. Even just running through a quick start tutorial will save a lot of time and trouble in the long run. Before you place your translation order with Supertext, simply follow these tips to ensure the translation process runs smoothly and you get your polished translated slides back in plenty of time for your meeting:

  1. Formatting: Do not use tabs, spaces or hard line breaks (returns) to format text on slides! This slows down the translator and generates rubbish in our translation memories. Instead, use resizable text boxes, tables and the Increase Indent button. Bottom line: make sure that full sentences and phrases always remain intact.
  2. Layout & volume: Remember, it’s a slide, not an epic novel. No one cares to read a slide with 900 words in 9-point font. Also, translations in certain languages tend to be longer than others, meaning that if the original slide is too full, it may be hard to fit the translation on the slide. Don’t try to cram too much content on one slide, and leave as much extra space on the slide as possible.
  3. Abbreviations and acronyms: Slide presentations notoriously lack adequate context and offer up generous portions of alphabet soup. Even the most resourceful translator may have trouble decrypting your many in-house abbreviations and acronyms. The solution: include a legend of abbreviations and acronyms at the beginning of your presentation. This can generally be filed under ‘best practices’.
  4. Language: Keep things simple and to the point. Avoid jargon and clichés, as these may alienate your audience (and frustrate translators) – not to mention detract from what you actually want to say.

In short, if you must use PowerPoint, nothing beats simplicity and elegance. Your audience – not to mention our translators – will thank you.

Foto via: Wired – Pentagon’s Craziest PowerPoint Slide Revealed

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