The 10 Commandments of Professional Translation

A recipe for a professional translation does not exist, yet its essentials can be outlined. Here are ten vital rules that make a translation a professional one.


Short sentences as much as possible, clarity, fluency, not too many clauses. A long sentence should be divided into two shorter ones. On the other hand, adding together two very short sentences into one sentence may improve fluency. Sometimes, a sentence contains an unnecessary repetition of an idea already mentioned in the previous sentence. If it is clearly redundant, consider not to use it again. In short, keep it simple as much as possible. Succinctness is an important characteristic of a professional translation.

Clear text written in a style which really talks to the target audience

Professional translation use a correct language. A technical translation is expected to be formal and to the point. Idioms, sayings and humor are not adequate in a technical context in Hebrew, though one may see them sometimes in an English source text. They should be used sparingly, only if they help to focus the message and the target audience is likely to understand them in the specific context.


Do you remember the dreadful unseen passages from high school? A particular annoying question was: To what “it” refers to. There is an old Jewish saying which means, one should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated. The idea is to avoid he using of pronouns when they may create confusion, such as in those unseen passages. The source text being written this way doesn’t serve as a justification, especially in a professional translation.

If a word of a sentence are ambiguous, consider the use of another word or rephrase the sentence.


Well, this should hardly be an issue. Word processors and most professional translation tools come with spell checkers. One should use them, and indeed, they are handy during the process of translation. However, the Hebrew language is a bit different from other languages in the sense that it is written without vocalization, and built-in spell checkers are not in line with the rules. In this case, consider the use of other third party tools. These incur extra cost, but they are indispensable. Translation with spelling errors looks sloppy and is not professional.

Punctuation and Formatting

The source text highlights some words or parts using bold, italic or other types of formatting? Is it divided into paragraphs? Are there numbered or bullet lists? All these are part of the message, and therefore they should reflect in the translation.

Sentences usually end with a period. However small, the period has meaning – and so are other punctuation marks such as comma, question mark and so on. The punctuation rules are similar in different languages, but there are some differences that should be noticed. It makes the target text more readable and professional looking and if done incorrectly, could even change the whole meaning of the text.


Most translation style guides recommend not to use acronyms and short forms of words. Acronyms and short forms lengthen the processing time in the brain, and sometimes they don’t really save much. . Tip: Many word processing and translation tools have an Auto-text feature. This allows to enter an predefined acronyms or short form and have the application retrieve the full word or even several words. This would really save typing when we have repeating terms. In short – Be brief, but be clear. Avoid acronyms.


The source text is vague? Misunderstood a word? This is YOUR problem, to start with. Look it up in a dictionary, use Google to search the Web, consult a peer-translator, or consult your client. 99% of the problems can be solved this way. When doing a localization project, you may have access to that same text already translated into other foreign target languages. Google Translate could be of great help in this case, use it! Got the idea? Now put it clearly in your own words, as YOU expect it to be in your language.

Friendly translation in the target language

Getting a professional translation requires overcoming one of the biggest obstacles – literal, word by word translation. Such translation makes it difficult on the reader, and doesn’t achieve the goal. Sentence structure, images and even individual words can’t be directly translated without understanding and getting the picture in the relevant context. Some texts are sloppy or may have been translated from another language. At the bottom line, an English to Hebrew translation should be nice and fluent as if it has been written in Hebrew from the first place.

To translate or not to translate?

You received a text for translation and realized that it’s like Greek to you? (and you don’t speak Greek…) Sometimes it’s better to waive a job, and not harm your reputation. Try to focus on your fields of expertise, gain more knowledge and even explore new horizons, but be careful not to take uncalculated risks. It’s a good idea to work with a peer translator who can assist you, correct your mistakes and put you on the right track. A professional translator can adapt to various fields, yet can recognize a situation where an assistance is required.

The professional translator’s toolbox.

You can’t talk about professional technical translation without mentioning useful software tools such as: Search & Replace, data backup, text extraction and so on. The very nature of the technical material as well as the technological innovations promoted the development of computer-aided translation, or CAT tools, making them standard in the translation community. These as well as online translation resources make the translator’s work easier, letting him focus on the main task: translation. Additionally, the client gets an optimized solution: translated text right in THEIR target platform. Get the right tools for the job.
To sum this up: Professional translation requires mastering the target language and a good understanding of the subject matter. Speaking two languages doesn’t make a professional translator.

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