10 Mistakes You Make When Producing InDesign Documents In Many Languages

by Stefano Bernardi 5 minutes to read

In the last two years, I met and taught hundreds of people that often work in multilingual projects and I noticed an alarming tendency.

As an InDesign user one of your tasks is to ensure that your documents are translation friendly—but among thousands of documents analyzed, I found really few that were ready for translation.

The risks

The risks of working with not translation friendly documents are that you:

  • Spend much more time on the project than is necessary
  • Lead the translator to make mistakes
  • Introduce mistakes yourself
  • Forget to translate parts of the documents
  • Pay a higher cost
  • Will have a hard time updating documents at a later stage

The 10 Mistakes you are probably making

1. Using the wrong tools

Using the wrong tools (or not using a tool at all) to create the translated versions of your documents is very dangerous.

One of the most common methods to translate an InDesign document is by exchanging Word or Excel files with translators and copy/pasting the sentences from one document to another. This method is highly imprecise and can easily lead to mistakes.

Other tools to approach the problem are scripts, plugins or the use of InCopy. Those solutions lack some basic features that you want to have when translating a file (like Translation Memories, import/export of TMs, basic collaboration features, etc.) or might be discontinued and stop working with newer versions of InDesign.

For a deeper understanding, you should check our post: “4 Tools to Avoid When Translating an InDesign document

2. Returns and tabulations to break sentence

Using hard returns or a tabulation to break a sentence in InDesign creates two (or more) different sentences in the translator’s tools and that makes it hard for the translator to understand the sentence and translate correctly.

Returns and tabulations to break sentence

3. Threaded text

You should think of your text in the InDesign document as if it were dummy text. When that text is replaced with the actual content, you want your file to look the same as it looks right now and the content to be placed on the right page.

I explained a few tactics and secrets about dealing with threaded-text in this post.

Text that overflow the box

4. No overflow space

Some languages take up more space than others. For example, the same content in English translated to German often takes up to 30% more space.

Keep that in consideration and leave some white space at the end of the text to avoid edits in the translated versions of your documents.

5. Tabulation and spaces in the middle of sentences

Using tabulations incorrectly or typing spaces in the middle of a sentence will make it impossible to retain the style and layout of your document.

Avoid placing spaces in the middle of a sentence, use margins and tabulations correctly.

Tabulation and spaces in the middle of sentences

Again make sure your document will have the same look when the text is replaced with a longer language.

6. Bulleted and numbered lists without styles

This is not connected with your layout but with something a little technical that influences translation costs and consistency.

Bulleted and numbered lists without styles

The sentences

  • “1. This is a sentence” and
  • “This is a sentence”

might look like the same sentence but they are not.

Also the sentences

  • “A. Item of the list” and
  • “Item of the list”

are different sentences.

This works also for bulleted sentences.

Without the right settings in InDesign, the translation tool cannot interpret those two sentences correctly. If that happens, the translator has to deal with the numbered list without using any automation.

Besides having more content to translate, not using the Paragraph Styles to create bulleted and numbered lists might create inconsistency in the translation.

7. Images to localize

Having images to translate makes it harder and more time-consuming to create multilingual versions of your document.

An image with text inside is unique to the language version of your document and you’ll need to replace it manually in the translated document.

Translated images dramatically increase the chance of errors.

Check this post for more information on how to deal correctly with images in InDesign.

8. The use of outlined text

When a text is outlined, InDesign doesn’t recognize it as textual content anymore. The outlined text becomes an image and so it’s impossible to translate and its translation might be forgotten.

The outlined text becomes an image and so it’s impossible to translate

9. Layout with many languages (2 or more)

I feel a little like Don Quixote fighting against the windmills because this point is also a personal battle.

I don’t appreciate layouts with more languages—not even in catalogs—because the User Experience is awful. The reader can get lost and reading the content takes more time.

Besides all of that, with layouts that have more languages (2 or more) on the same page/spread—you make it impossible for yourself or the translator to use a tool to translate the content.

Not using the right tool harms the quality of your documents. It makes it harder to translate the document, increases the chance of error, and lowers the consistency.

If you can choose, avoid layouts that are not single language.

10. Communicate badly with your colleagues or your vendor

Communicating properly with your vendor or your colleagues is very important.

  1. Make sure your document is translation-friendly
  2. Always provide them with a PDF of your document
  3. Integrate the right tool into your workflow

If you often work with InDesign documents that need to be produced in many languages (Catalogs, User Manuals, Brochures, etc.), you might want to try Redokun.

With Redokun you can:

  • Drastically reduce the time spent getting the documents translated
  • Significantly cut down on translation expenses
  • Reduce time spent on updates and revisions

Try Redokun for free for 14 days.

Stefano Bernardi
Stefano Bernardi

Stefano has worked on numerous mid to large–sized InDesign projects for Alstom, DeLonghi, Philips, and many others before starting Redokun in 2015.
As Redokun’s Co-Founder, Stefano spends most of his time helping customers to optimize their InDesign work-flow. He also holds in-house InDesign courses for companies in the Venice, Italy area.

19 Tips To Optimize Your InDesign File For Translation (Free eBook)

Free InDesign eBook
A short guide for InDesign users who work on multilingual projects. It'll give you an exhaustive look into the issue of creating an InDesign document ready for translation.

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