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EU Translation Guide: Get your document into shape

writer-107391When you start

If your outline include a summary, begin with that: you may find it is enough! Put it at the beginning because that is the first (and sometimes the only) part that people will read.

Pay particular attention to links that will help readers to follow your logic and reasoning. Choose headings and other ‘signposts’ that will enable them to find key information to save you repeating it throughout the document. Use informative headings and sub-headings to highlight the most important points of the document. A heading such as ‘Mergers need to be monitored more carefully’ is more informative than ‘Monitoring mergers”.

Consider how best to make your points and keep your document reader-friendly: could you use icons, graphs, or tables instead of text? Do you need a glossary or a list of-definitions?

After the beginning, the next most frequently read part is the conclusion. A reader may skip everything in between to get to the conclusion. Make it clear, concise and to the point.

Show your readers the structure of longer documents by including a clear table of contents.

As you write

Follow the hints.

Consult drafting aids.

Keep cutting! Be tough – ask if each section and each word is really necessary. Cut out superfluous words, but make sure the message is still clear.

Two common problems at the European Commission:

1. Recycling an earlier text without adapting it properly
Older models may be unclearly written and may not reflect new circumstances and new drafting practices. Take care to make all the necessary adaptations.

2. Cutting and pasting
You may have to use passages from a variety of documents to assemble a new text. Beware of inconsistent terminology, repetition or omission: these can undermine the internal logic and clarity of the end result.

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