Life Science organizations know and appreciate the critical importance of distributing error-free documentation. Of course, this includes the accuracy of their medical document translations. But formatting issues can also have ripple effects leading to serious headaches down the line.

As a project manager in charge of translations, it’s important to establish a strong working relationship with your language service provider for the best outcome. Having a partner you can trust could not only save your budget, but it could ensure accuracy. And when we’re talking about FDA or other types of regulatory compliance, you really can’t afford not to work with a translation company who has your back.

Knowing that the quality of your source document absolutely impacts the quality of your translation, let’s look at three ways to ensure that your medical document translations will be accurately and properly formatted.

1. Share Your Formatting Guidelines

When sharing a medical document for translation, you may have other, previously-formatted documents and formatting guidelines to share as well. As part of the intake procedure with your medical document translations company, talk to your project manager about your specifications. Do you want the new document’s formatting to align with an older document? Does your printer require certain settings? Does your design area use a document coding system? Share any relevant information ahead of time to avoid surprises later in the process.

Address special formatting needs ahead of time whenever possible. When translating from left-to-right languages, such as English, into right-to-left languages, such as Arabic or Urdu, the entire layout needs to be flipped, not just the text. Here are a few points that may have escaped notice previously:

  • In English, we read tables left to right, but in Arabic, tables need to be oriented right to left.
  • For surveys where participants are asked to answer using a 1-10 scale, the numbers will need to go in the opposite direction.
  • How do you want your translator to handle special font requirements?

Now is the time to talk about these issues.

Although your language service provider likely has default formatting guidelines for different types of medical documents, it never hurts to clarify expectations. Giving your translation experts any additional information early on will guarantee your project is delivered in print-ready condition, accurately, correctly, and on time.

2. Avoid Unnecessarily Complex Formatting

Complex formatting like text boxes, borders, frames, automatic numbering and data fields, and captions within images, etc. can slow down the translation process. Be mindful of differences between the appearance of two different languages and how these differences could affect formatting of your document. For example, suppose you need a package label displaying information for pharmaceuticals translated from English to Chinese. The original text and translated text is not likely to fit in the same fixed-width box.

In general, the more flexibility you can build into your layout design, the better. This is especially true when it comes to desktop publishing and localization of your medical document translations. If you have a bit of text fitting within a graphic design that you want translated, for instance, it’s best to separate the design from the content so that font sizes, line heights, etc. can be more easily adapted for translated text. Keep these ideas in mind also when designing database field widths. Our graphic design and electronic pre-press professionals understand the complexities of preparing foreign language electronic files for printing. If you have questions, they’ll have the answers. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.

The bottom line: If your translator or editor needs to adjust her translation to fit within a certain space, this could significantly increase your desktop publishing costs and may slow down the process, especially if the formatting prevents translation memory tools from functioning well. So remember that simple is almost always better when it comes to formatting.

3. Encourage Translators to Report Errors

The way in which you communicate with your language service provider can make a big difference in getting accurate and properly formatted medical document translations. Always ask about translation processes, quality assurance standards, back translations, translation certification, and guidelines specific to in-country review. Be sure also to establish agreed upon deadlines and milestones from the start to guarantee your timing needs will be met.

Quality assurance is a crucial aspect of any translation project and it should be an ongoing effort. Best practices recommend all priority documents be revised at least once a year to verify if they are current and correct. It’s not uncommon to find errors in medical document translations that have been deemed final and received legal approval (if applicable). Here your translators perform a valuable service. In addition to making your text readable for native non-English speakers, they can catch lingering errors. So encourage them to report any errors they spot in the original document and update the document immediately.

Establishing strong communication channels between yourself and your language service provider from the start of your project will build a positive working relationship of trust on which you can rely. No one wants to deal with complications or formatting issues, but a partnership built on trust can help to avoid delays and costly errors.

At DTS Language Services, Inc., we take pride in delivering accurate and properly formatted translations on-time, the first time. Contact us to chat about your next project. We would be happy to provide you with a FREE quote for medical document translations.