SimulTrans Localization Blog: SimulTips

Tips for Reducing Translation Costs

[fa icon="calendar"] July 21, 2017 / by Adam Jones


Translation costs can be reduced by planning ahead early in the writing process and by keeping the cost of translation services in mind during authoring and editing phases.

Investing in translation services is extremely important for the growth of your company. Translation breaks through language barriers and delivers your brand message on a global scale. Approximately only 20% of people in the world speak English. Without translation services, your target audience is significantly reduced and your brand becomes negatively exclusive. 

Here are some key tips that will help keep your translation costs down.

Limit the Volume of Text – Write Less!

Because accurate translation takes dedication and skill, investing in the best translation services is highly recommended. Since document translation is charged on a per-word basis, the easiest way to reduce translation cost is to limit or reduce the number of words within each document. 

Translation cost per page

Assuming an average translation cost of $0.20/word and density of 200 words per page, and reducing a user guide from 250 pages to 200 pages, will reduce translation costs by a total of $10,000 for five languages. Always consider translation cost per page for maximum savings. This technique is simple and efficient. The following strategies can also help reduce the number of words in documents and the cost of translation services as a result:

  • Convert narrative explanations to bulleted lists
  • Avoid repetitive warnings and steps
  • Use direct language (avoid floral descriptions that could be easily simplified)

Restrict Editing

If you have already had content translated by the best translation services out there, avoid changing it as much as possible. It can be difficult to relinquish control of something you care about hugely, but you need to trust that your documentation is in safe hands. Every modification you make to the source text will make a segment no longer match the translation memory. That means your previous translations will all need to be edited, slowing down the process and therefore increasing the cost of translation services.

For example, if you have a sentence that contains 14 words and has been translated into 20 languages, just adding or removing a comma will cost $36. Probably nothing will need to be done to the translations themselves since grammar differs in each language, but that segment will be flagged for editing, incurring an immediate charge.

Edit only content that must absolutely be changed, where true errors that cannot be ignored exist. It may even be helpful to establish a policy that identifies what types of mistakes should be corrected (for example, perhaps only those related to safety or functionality, but not stylistic or minor grammatical issues). This will create an efficient working process with you and your translator, reducing translation cost as a result.

Reuse, Reuse, Reuse

Copying source text between components or from one product to another can be extremely beneficial in reducing the cost of translation services. Since translations exist in translation memory, they can be reused even when appearing in another place. Instead of writing a new paragraph explaining how to install your new software, copy the one from your previous application and make some minor modifications.

Some companies buy tools to facilitate the reuse of text from a repository. Others just search through old documents for keywords and copy relevant sections in order to reduce translation costs. If a new product or document is highly similar to one produced previously, it may be helpful to start with the old version and edit it for the new purpose.

White Paper with More Tips

For more tips about optimizing documents for translation, you may be interested in our White Paper on Writing for a Global Audience.

Download White Paper:  Writing for a Global Audience

Note: This blog has been updated to reflect the latest stats on English speaking population and other information.

Topics: Documentation Translation

Adam Jones

Written by Adam Jones

As President and COO of SimulTrans, Adam manages and supports SimulTrans worldwide, having spent over 25 years directing the company's customer outreach efforts, internal production groups, and other operations. He previously worked in Strategic Accounts at Oracle Corporation. Adam graduated from Stanford University, where he studied Public Policy with an emphasis on Education. He has remained connected to educational policy through involvement in local school governance and related non-profit organizations.