The previous post in this series looked at how the use of some common formatting shortcuts could cause problems in the translated file. Those kinds of shortcuts are generally only used by someone who is unfamiliar with Word™ or is in a hurry. There are other practices common to even more experienced users of Word™ that can cause problems for translation and increase the time and cost of formatting the translated file.
For example, the newer versions of Microsoft Word™ (beginning with 2003) allow you to embed or link content created in any Office application in a Word™ file as an OLE object using the Object drop-down menu under Insert. This practice can be very useful, but it means more work and headaches for translators.
Don’t embed objects
Embedded objects become part of the Word document. It can be easier, for example, to create a complex table in Excel and then either copy or embed it in Word™. Embedding the table as an object has one major advantage over copying and pasting—the table can be easily resized just like any other imported image. But, from the point of view of translation, it has a more serious disadvantage–the Word document you created is now a “compound file” with an Excel file within it.
It may seem to you that translation shouldn’t be a problem. After all, you can just double-click on the embedded object to open the table as an Excel file and edit it. But translators don’t work that way. As we said in the last post, translators use computer-aided translation (CAT) tools to make their work more efficient, consistent, and reusable. But the CAT tool will not be able to read the embedded file directly. The Excel file will have to be extracted, translated separately, and then replaced in the Word™ file. If there are a number of such embedded files, this can add significant time and difficulty to the translation process.
Copying a table from Excel and using the Paste Special option to paste the table as a Microsoft Excel Worksheet Object is another way of embedding an Excel table and has the same problems.
Finally, there is the practice of choosing Excel Spreadsheet from the drop-down menu under Table on the Insert Menu. In this case, you may not create a separate Excel file directly, but Word™ does, so this is also a bad idea.
The bottom line: If you must create the table in Excel, do it in Excel and copy and paste it into Word™ so that it becomes a Word™ table. Don’t embed it. This may require more fooling with the table to make it fit, but it will speed up the translation process and save you money.
Rarely link objects
Linking to another file as an object in Word™ does not actually copy the other file’s contents—it just creates a representation of the source file in the Word™ document with a dynamic link back to the original file. When the original file is updated, the Word™ document is automatically updated with the new content.
This can come in handy if, for instance, you want to use the same content in different documents—you only have to update it in one place. However, linking can also cause problems for translation. A link to another file is a link to the entire file, not just to the content that appears in your Word™ document. If the Excel worksheet, for instance, contains additional data, there will be no easy way for a CAT tool to isolate the precise information that needs to be translated.
If your linked files only contain the information used in Word™, you may want to keep the links, especially if you may later make changes to the translated version of an individual document. However, you will need to provide all of the linked files—as well as the Word™ file–to your translation partner for the initial translation.
The bottom line: For a Word™ file that will be translated, cutting and pasting is almost always preferable to linking objects.
In our next post in this series, we’ll look at using styles in Word™.