YT Academy Class:

Understanding and implementing the right style

In this class, we're looking at the process of implementing the desired style in text.

It's not easy to tell what style is about and what the impact of an analysis is. To understand how, we first should answer why.

'' A man's style should be like his dress. It should be as unobtrusive and should attract as little attention as possible. ''

Cyril Edwin Mitchinson Joad

So, how do we define style?

Style is a way in which language is used; therefore, it consists of choices made from the repertoire of the language.

Please remember, as a translator or reviser who is able to read the source, you have a great advantage. The author of the text already made their decisions. The most important part is to recognise these decisions.

The implementation of style

To implement style correctly, we must pay attention to both sentences as a whole and to their different components, namely, verbs, nouns, adjectives and linking words.



When it comes to sentences, we can focus both on length and structure. Sentence length affects the register, as the shorter the sentences are, the snappier they sound. Come! Try! Buy! Vs. Come try our products and buy your favourites.

In addition, it is easy to make a text sound awkward by miscalculating the sentence length. In general, English sentences are shorter and use fewer subordinate clauses than, say, Spanish. Break down the sentences as much as necessary (we have just done it there). Translating from Spanish, we would have said In general, English sentences are shorter and use fewer subordinate clauses than, say, Spanish, so break down the sentences as much as necessary, which could get wordy.

Sentence structure

Another important aspect is sentence structure, as, again, it can have an impact on the register. Generally, passive sentences are more formal, and they focus on the object or the action, removing attention from the speaker. Attached is a document vs I attached a document. Applying this incorrectly can result in an inconsistent style (because, in general, active or passive voice will be maintained consistently throughout the text). ​

Moreover, some languages have structural characteristics, such as putting the verb before the subject or omitting the subject altogether, whereas this would be inappropriate for an English text. We must alter the sentence structure to make it sound natural in the target language. If we fail to do this, the translation might sound awkward, as well as unidiomatic.

Word order and contractions

Somewhat related to this is the issue of word order and contractions. Some languages do not feature contractions, while others do. We use contractions when we want to make the text more casual or to make it sound like it is being spoken, therefore placing the content within a certain register. Occasionally, contractions may also be related to emphasis. For example, it is rare to say “it is not” when you are speaking and we tend to say “it isn’t” or “it’s not”. However, it is possible to say “it is not” when we want to emphasise something, and we might need to keep that emphasis in the text. In any case, in written language we tend to avoid contractions, unless it is an informal letter or specific marketing material.

Linguistic elements

As well as looking at the overall sentence construction, we must also focus on its parts in order to implement style correctly.


When it comes to verbs, for example, we can use phrasal verbs to help place the text in a more informal register. E.g. Get in vs enter. Another relevant example is the use of the imperative as opposed to ‘going to’. Whilst the imperative is prompting and energetic, by using ‘going to’ we can adopt a conciliatory and helpful tone. Let’s start this training course! Vs We are going to start the training course.


We must also be aware of the risks of making a text sound unidiomatic by using too many words if, for example, the verb in the target language already implies a couple of other words included in the source language, rendering their translation unnecessary.


Other important building blocks within the sentence are nouns. Firstly, we can alter the text’s register by using synonyms.
For example the word 'drunk' has more then 2,000 synonyms, but more words have a lot of synonyms. For example 'smart':






The challenge with translation is that you're not looking for a synonym but the translation.
We advise to use IATE for translation purposes, which will provide you with multiple alternative translations and examples.


Also, because nouns are fundamental within the sentence, we must be careful to avoid unidiomatic translations, as well as being precise when we translate them. For example, most English words lack precise gender, so when the source language distinguishes between feminine and masculine, we might have to qualify that in English. E.g. female doctor. In addition, if the source language has many words for a certain concept or object because it is something very relevant for that culture (e.g. snow for Eskimos), we can take to add adjectives that qualify “snow” in order to translate meaning in full. E.g. wet snow, dirty snow…

Linking words

Lastly, linking words are a relevant aspect for style implementation. It is important to choose the right linker between sentences for nuance and degree of intensity, as that can influence the register and tone. E.g. But (objection) is different from although (concession). E.g. nevertheless is stronger than however. Finally, make sure to choose your linking words in a way that does not make the text sound unidiomatic. Some linkers can be similar between languages but not mean exactly the same or make the sentence sound unnatural. For example, in case it… is similar to en caso de que… in Spanish, but in most cases, it would be better translated as if.

Try it yourself

To see what different variants style could have, we challenge you to come up with some creative solutions. Note, that our examples are a very creative way of transcreation, with the purpose to give you an idea of the power of style. ​

At the core of every piece of writing is the message — the information we’re trying to communicate to our user. In this case, our message is, “An error has occurred.” Our tone will be how we communicate that message.


“We apologise, but we are experiencing a problem.”
We’re not trying to make users laugh, or using any strong emotion in the message. It’s a fairly traditional, straightforward message.


“We’re sorry, but we’re experiencing a problem on our end.”
The message is still serious, respectful, and matter-of-fact. But the message becomes more casual with a few small changes:
“We are” becomes “we’re”
“Apologise” becomes “sorry”
The addition of the expression “on our end”

Little more emotion

“Oops! We’re sorry, but we’re experiencing a problem on our end.”


Now we’ve taken the error message’s tone to informal and emotional. If we add an attempt at humor and a little irreverence, we’ll have taken the same message to a totally different tone of voice.
“What did you do!? You broke it! (Just kidding. We’re experiencing a problem on our end.)”

What are our expectations?

Every text has a certain style in it, whether it's notable or not. It's our job to mirror these stylistic aspects into a translation while taking care of the meaning and cultural differences. These three priorities will always be the same. ​

However, if we say a translation is a unique piece of writing by itself, we should also acknowledge there will always be a part of our style in the text. The purpose is to mirror the authors' style. ​
This means we do need to prevent our style becoming a dominant aspect in the text. We are able to prevent this by getting to know our own style and investing in a broader vocabulary.

Mention often-used linguistic aspects. Write them down and learn alternatives to say the same. In this way you can alternate when preffered.

You can paste some of your texts into an online text analyser to see what your most common used words or combinations are.

Re-read your old texts to see what catches your eye. If you've found out what you did previously, you also know to what style you've developed.

Talk about this with people who are reading your texts. How would they describe your writing style?

Expertise differentiation

Each text is written for a certain purpose and with every purpose, there is a different amount of importance regarding style. ​

This affects your priorities when translating. Basically there are always three priorities: containing the meaning, localise for another culture and translating a style. When there is no perfect alternative you may have to compromise one of these priorities. ​

For example: the purpose of a legal document is to be as complete as possible, so you can't compromise on the meaning, whereas with a marketing text it may be possible to change the meaning in order to communicate better with the audience. ​

This is something we want to prevent, so make sure you always look for other possibilities.

How do we evaluate ´Style´ in our translations?

Our QA (Quality Assessment) system provides a framework for describing and defining quality metrics and is used to assess the quality of translations performed by our translators. ​

Young Translators evaluates style according to the 'Style' dimension and the associated error types. Style issues appear when a choice made by the translator does not fit the style of the text nor the audience. For example, the text can be correct in terms of meaning, grammar and spelling. However, the text does not read well. That is when we start looking at the 'style' dimension. ​

The writing style analysis can play a very important role in preventing these errors, as it allows us to be more aware of the style of the original text. ​

The error types that apply to 'Style' are:

4.Company style
5.Inconsistent style

We identify unidiomatic issues if the translation contains expressions that are not natural to a native speaker of the target language. Examples are wrong translations of idioms, which in their turn sound unnatural.

Issues in register appear when a text uses a level of formality higher or lower than required by the specifications or general language conventions. The wrong address can have a big impact on the style of the translation. It can make texts feel personal when they are not supposed to, or feel cold-hearted and distant when they’re supposed to be personal. The form of address differ per language. In some
languages it tends to have a greater impact than in other languages.

Awkward issues are addressed when a translation may be correct in terms of meaning, grammar and spelling, but still sounds awkward or ‘not natural’. An expert in the target language should be able to spot these issues quite easily.

​Issues in company style are only relevant when we are provided with a Style Guide from the client.

When various styles are present in a translation, without there being any obvious reason for it, we define it as Inconsistent style. These issues can be solved by reviewing the translation using the writing style analysis.