In our new book, “The Personalization Paradox,” we show you how to standardize your enterprise content in order to deliver personalized experiences at scale. To keep the story really (really) short:

  1. In order to scale, you must reuse content 
  2. To reuse content, you must standardize content
  3. To create standardized content, you must develop standards that all content creators adhere to

That sounds daunting. It’s hard enough getting three writers to agree about the usage of the Oxford comma. How do you develop standards that everyone in the company will follow?

You start with best practices for writing for reuse. 

Why Start with Best Practices for Writing for Reuse?

Because without reuse, you cannot deliver content at scale, personalized or not. 

And if you want to reach people across your country and around the world, you also start with best practices for writing global-ready content.

What’s cool is that there is a lot of overlap between reuse-ready content and global-ready content. Here are six best practices that we recommend for any content standardization effort, along with the reasons why your customers will appreciate your efforts.

1. Standardize terminology

Customers can understand your content quicker and better when you don’t keep switching words on them.

Reuse: Standardized terminology enables small chunks of content to fit together and flow seamlessly. It reduces ambiguity.

 

Global: Translation costs are per word. Using consistent words lowers cost. 

2. Use consistent grammar and style

Customers can resonate with who you are as a company when all content is written by “the company” and not dozens of individual writers.

Reuse: Consistent grammar and style enable small chunks of content to fit together and flow seamlessly.

 

Global: Sentences must be grammatically correct for successful translation. Consistent grammar and style allow translators to work faster and produce more accurate results.

3. Avoid idioms and jargon

Customers respond more positively when they understand your content. Idioms and jargon have the potential to not be understood or, even worse, to be misunderstood.

Reuse: Simple, straightforward content has much more potential for reuse in multiple contexts. The more idioms or jargon you include, the less reusable that piece of content becomes. 

 

Global: Idioms and jargon usually do not translate. Even when it’s possible to convey the intended meaning, it takes more time to localize content that includes cultural references such as “inside baseball,” terms of art such as “argot,” and neologisms such as “slanguage.” 

4. Say the same thing, the same way, everywhere you say it

Customers develop trust in your company when your content is consistent. 

Reuse: Eliminate duplicated content and duplicated effort by adopting a reuse mindset. Write it once, review it once, approve it once, update it once, and then use it everywhere it is needed.

 

Global: Minimal amount of translation and maximum amount of exact or fuzzy matches significantly reduces translation cost. And, global customers also benefit from eliminating ambiguity from your content.

5. Reduce sentence length and complexity

Customers appreciate brevity and simplicity. No one ever complained about a short, easy to read sentence.

Reuse: Short, clear sentences help create focused components. You can easily assemble short components into a longer work. Shorter, simple sentences are easier to understand. 

 

Global: Short, clear sentences have more successful translation. They are also easier to understand for non-native speakers.

6. Remove embedded text from illustrations

Customers increasingly want visuals to give them a quick, at-a-glance understanding. Too much text undermines the purpose of having an image in the first place.

Reuse: Illustrations without text can be reused in more contexts than illustrations with embedded text.

 

Global: Embedded text requires a unique illustration for each language. Separating the text from the illustration makes it easier and faster to translate. If you don’t translate the text, customers in other languages might not understand what the image is communicating. 

Personalizing content in any language can be an arduous and expensive task. By following these six best practices, you can solve reuse problems and make your translations better, cheaper, and faster.

Val Swisher
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