FAQ

Please find below the most frequently asked questions that I receive. To learn more about me, the author of Helen Fawcett – Technical Communication, please read About the Author.
If you cannot find the question or the answer that you are looking for, please feel free to submit a question by sending a mail to info[at]helenfawcett[dot]com or by filling out the contact form.

Q. Do you write in American English or British English?

To read more about my opinions on American English vs. British English, see When Your English Throws a “Spanner” or a “Wrench” in the Works.

A. It depends. The companies that I work for usually request American English; however, I do write documentation for companies that only sell their products within Europe and specify British English. I am a big fan of the serial comma (which tends to be more common in American English) for reducing ambiguity in technical documentation.

Q. What type of documentation do you work on?

A. I currently spend a lot of time creating online documentation for business software programs used in different organizational areas, such as banking, financial accounting, and human resources – in both the private and public sectors. The content itself takes the form of user interface texts, user guides, implementation guides, configuration guides, training material, marketing brochures, and the list goes on…

Q. What software do you work with?

A. It depends. I can rarely choose what I work with because the documentation projects that I work on usually have an authoring and a development environment in place. On the authoring side, I typically work with tools that support XML. The content is either stored in a database or the editor is connected to a document management system.

Q. Why do you cover translation on a site about technical communication?

A. Many companies do business internationally and need to meet internal (employees and partners) and external (customers) language needs. Based on the ideology behind Garbage In, Garbage Out, information development and translation are inextricably intertwined.

For an example, of how translators and writers can work together, see Shape Up to Ship Out – How to Clean Up Your Source Documentation for Effective Localization.

… it is difficult to convert a source text that is confused, illogical or missing pertinent information into a quality translation. A translator may use the phrase “Garbage in, garbage out” to explain the importance of good source text to a client.

Furthermore, content that is poorly prepared for translation typically ends up costing more time and money.

Q. What is an information developer?

For more information about the tasks performed by information developers, read Information Development.

A. An information developer is a possible job title for a person who creates technical documentation. Similar job titles include Technical Writer, Documentation Specialist, and Technical Communicator.

Q. What is the difference between translation and localization?

A. Localization goes beyond the tasks typically associated with classical translation. The term localization generally refers to software or Web site localization. Although localization involves the translation of documentation, user interface, help texts, error messages, it places more emphasis on the use of tools, automation processes, and the processes that ensure that a product can be easily localized.

Here are some definitions from reputable sources:

Translation

Source: MultiLingual Computing

The process of converting all of the text or words from a source language to a target language. An understanding of the context or meaning of the source language must be established in order to convey the same message in the target language.

Localization

Source: LISA Glossary
  1. The process of modifying products or services to account for differences in distinct markets.
  2. The process of adapting software for a particular geographical region (locale). Translation of the user interface, system messages, and documentation is a large part (but not all) of the localization process. Localization is often abbreviated as L10N. This abbreviation is formed using the first and last letters of the word (L, N) and the number 10, which specifies the number of letters between the L and the N.
  3. The process of modifying products or services to account for differences in distinct markets.

Localization (L10N)

Source: MultiLingual Computing

In this context, the process of adapting a product or software to a specific international language or culture so that it seems natural to that particular region. True localization considers language, culture, customs and the characteristics of the target locale. It frequently involves changes to the software‘s writing system and may change keyboard use and fonts as well as date, time and monetary formats.

About Helen Fawcett:

In a nutshell, I optimize user interface text such as control labels and create on-screen instructions and help documentation for developers & customers. | Helen works as a user assistance lead at SAP SE.
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