A style guide is a document which ensures the compliance of language norms and cultural differentiation during the translation process. The guide may include a description of the target audience (for whom the translation is intended), shape the tone of the text, and set the rules for translation of standard constructions: abbreviations, contractions, names of the companies and brands. In other words, the style guide is a roadmap for the translator.


  • It saves time and money on the editing of the final version of the translation.
  • The translation fully complies with the standards and the realities of the target market.
  • The translation follows a coherent stylistic pattern.

Let's assume you need to translate the marketing and supporting documents for launching a new product into the Chinese market. You submit your documents for translation to the bureau and after a short while you get a final variant which looks fine from the first sight. Just in case of any errors, you decide to make sure that the translation is properly adequate and ask your Chinese friend to proofread the text. It turns out that the instruction and the technical datasheet of the product contain different variants of translation for the same name of detail, the address format is wrong, two different dialects of the Chinese language are used. Thus, you need to rewrite everything, having spent a lot of time and money.

The style guide helps to avoid such kinds of situations: translators have clear instructions and editors follow specific compliance criteria. As a result, you attain a high quality and authentic translation.


The style guide is created by professional linguists, who are usually native speakers, separately for each language pair. It may contain the following sections:

  1. General principles – a brief description of the translation strategy:
    • whether the translation should be literal or the text should be rephrased in order to convey the meaning more clearly?
    • if the translator should avoid borrowed words and/or colloquialisms?
    • which qualities should the final variant of translation possess?
  2. Information about the target group:
    • who the translation is intended for (students, programmers, company clients, etc.)
    • whether the recipients are familiar with the topic
    • what is the recipients' level of education
  3. Text structure – rules for the structural elements layout:
    • the headers (length, rules of formatting, rules for parts of speech usage)
    • lists (format of the numbers, capitalization, nested lists format)
    • table of contents, navigation (general rules of formatting, rules of index and links formatting)
  4. Text style
    • tone of the text (formal, neutral, informal)
    • address and phone numbers formatting rules
    • numbers (fractions, separators) formatting rules
    • units of measurements
    • date and time formatting rules
    • capitalization
  5. Grammar and punctuation
    • sentence structure (word order in different types of sentences, inversion)
    • pronouns usage
    • preferences for passive/active voice usage
    • punctuation rules
  6. Terminology (if there is no special glossary):
    • list of translated terms
    • translation of abbreviations and acronyms
    • translation of company names and brands
    • translation of idioms

Each section includes a set of rules and recommendations to follow during the translation process. The rules are usually illustrated with examples for clarity.

As an annex to the style guide, the checklist for the translator is sometimes created, which should be filled out in order not to miss something important.


Depending on the degree of detail required there are three types of style guides:

  1. Short - Includes all language specifications, sometimes key points for translator. Contains 2-4 pages.
  2. Medium - Includes more description, concerning translation specifics of the specific type of material (soft, manual). Contains only key points. About 10 pages.
  3. Long - Includes most detailed version, considering all translation variations and containing multiple examples. Up to 30 pages.

The deadline for the style guide creation is usually approximately 4 to 10 hours depending on its volume.