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  • Writer's pictureSarah Hudson

Translator briefs

No, I'm not talking about underwear! I'm in fact making a plea for an underused resource that can make a huge difference to the service a translator can provide and the quality of the final translation.

A translator's brief can be extremely useful to a translator, so why are they so rarely provided? Perhaps it's because translators working with direct clients and indeed agencies are afraid to burden their busy clients with additional tasks. As a seasoned translator, the most I can usually hope for is "Refer to the source texts provided" or "Use the latest version of the term base". This is helpful for sure, but time and money could certainly be saved and added value delivered if certain key information were provided from the get-go.

I don't think it's necessary for the client to provide reams of information, only what is needed to inform the translator about the purpose of the text and any specific considerations that need to be taken into account. I have put together the following template as a starting point.

Company name:

Overall subject of the text:

Intended readership: (e.g. suppliers, general public, group of experts, B2B, B2C)

Where are the readers located – does the text need to be adapted for readers in a specific country or should it be suitable for an international audience?

Purpose of the text:

What are you trying to achieve - to sell, promote, inform, persuade?

Themes and motifs:

Are there any key ideas that should be drawn out and emphasised?

Tone of voice: (e.g. casual, formal, authoritative, reassuring, inspiring, youthful etc.)

Terminology and jargon:

Is there an assumption that the readers will understand these terms or do they need to be explained for readers who have no knowledge of your product/company/expertise?

Can you provide definitions of keywords and phrases that are important in the text?

Reference materials:

Can you provide web links or documents that can serve as reference material?


Do you have specific branding guidelines that must be observed?

Do you require literal translations of slogans and product names or will you require an additional specialist transcreation service for this? Does your marketing team or advertising agency need to be involved in this process?

The aim of these headings and questions is to serve as a good starting point. I strongly believe that translator briefs should be used as standard to make the translation process more efficient and effective for both the translator and the client. This is certainly the norm for similar tasks such as copywriting and design work. Why shouldn’t this also apply to translation? Why do you think? I would love to hear your opinions and learn from your experiences.

1 Comment

Jan 08, 2020

I could not agree more with what has been written here, such briefs should be the norm, not the exception. Any information that enables the translator to deliver a translation that the client actually wants, rather than them having to infer their client’s wishes from often very limited source material, just has to benefit all parties, right? If future clients of your, or indeed any translation service, read only one of your blog posts, this has to be it. Nuff said.

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