Tip to avoid Text Expansion and Contraction in Translation


Imagine that your business has made a fresh marketing campaign investment. The ad writing, the design, and the approval procedure have all taken several days to complete. But when your designer starts the desktop publishing process after the document has been translated into Spanish before being sent to your overseas market, the copy no longer fits!

The length of a written document often changes when it is translated into another language, and it’s referred to as text expansion or contraction. No company wants unplanned text expansion and text contraction because it loses the effectiveness of the content. 

Building enough space to allow for text expansion from the beginning of the design with careful planning and the involvement of reputable translation services will accommodate the translated text. By keeping translation services in mind when creating and designing your publications, you can reach worldwide audiences. 

Text expansion and contraction

Every language is distinct. However, there may be some similarities in their language, letters, words, meanings, and speech.

Text expansion happens when the target language—the one you translate into—takes up more space than the source language. Simply put, the identical statement requires more words in specific languages. This may be the result of variations in language usage of terminology, phrase construction, or syntax. In some circumstances, word length can also cause expansion. For instance, a translation from English to German might yield a similar number of words, but German includes longer, more space-consuming complex terms.

The text contraction is the opposite, and the translated text shrinks compared to the source text. The text will shrink when translated from English into Danish, Swedish, or many Asian languages

What causes text expansion and contraction

Before translation, it is challenging to predict expansion or contraction precisely since it depends on various variables, including the nature of the languages, the sorts of material, and the writing styles. The expanding or contracting text length could be caused by the variables listed below.

  1. Character Length: Languages with a complicated character set, like Korean, Chinese, or Japanese, are likely longer than those written in the Latin alphabet. Even though there is probably the same number of characters in the source and target languages, the necessary width will differ. For example, the Japanese word for “hello” is こんにちは . While both versions include five characters, the Japanese version occupies a significantly larger horizontal space.
  2. Combination Words: Many European languages, including German, Dutch, and Finnish, use huge compound words in favour of many smaller ones. For instance, the English translation of the German phrase “Kraftfahrzeughaftpflichtversicherung” is “motor vehicle indemnity insurance.” A layout redesign may be necessary due to the lengthy compound terms. If the entire sentence in English cannot fit on one line, it can be continued on the following line. However, writing long compound terms on the same line can be challenging, making your document’s arrangement more complicated.
  3. Content Types: Content type plays a significant role in the length of the translated text. For instance, since legal and medical translations must be highly accurate and cannot have even the slightest word added or cut, the length change in these translations is likely to be considerable. Literary translations, however, significantly rely on the authors’ writing approaches. Ensuring the translated works have the authors’ writing styles as closely as possible is the responsibility of translators. Estimating the text expansion or shrinkage of a book translation process is, therefore, rather difficult.
  4. Abbreviations: The target language doesn’t use the same abbreviations as the source language, so the translated version must utilize the longer, more space-consuming form. Even if the target language has abbreviations for a particular term, those abbreviations’ lengths can vary. For instance, TCYTTG (T chc Y t Th gii) is the Vietnamese translation of WHO (World Health Organization). Without a note or particular context, most Vietnamese speakers cannot understand the meaning of the acronym TCYTTG. The text will expand or contract significantly if your work uses many acronyms.

Tips to avoid text expansion and contraction in translation

Words or entire paragraphs may cross bleed lines, depart specified columns, or encroach upon design features due to text expansion. Text contraction can result in an unbalanced document with too much white space. For translation services to be successful, design flexibility is crucial. The process of managing the text expansion and contraction is known as “typesetting”. Following are the important tips to avoid typesetting. 

  • Avoid using acronyms. Although frequently used in English, abbreviations are regional and may not have a translated counterpart, which causes the entire text to be out of alignment.
  • White space is essential. The text should have plenty of white space, so it doesn’t appear cluttered as it grows.
  • Avoid cramming the source text into tiny or constricted boxes.
  • Font size adjustment is the quickest solution when having to copy-fit or adjusts text to fit the space allotted. However, the text adjustment should be careful as it can significantly impact the overall layout. Avoid using a font size that can be difficult to read.
  • Don’t include text in graphics because the translated text may not complement the image the way you had intended. 
  • For consistency among translations, use specified paragraph and character styles.
  • Instead of utilizing text boxes, rules, or tabs, whenever possible, create actual tables. Resizing functional tables to accommodate growing text is simpler. Don’t make your columns too narrow when creating tables. The English text may fit, but imagine how long, complex German words will appear in the small columns.
  • Avoid using idioms, colloquialisms, and specific cultural references.

We are here to help

White Globe is the top language service provider in Asia, and we provide translation, localization, typesetting, and interpretation services. Our skilled typesetters can change the type to match a layout and address any issues that might develop since they have a thorough understanding of language and subject matter. The final documents are checked for readability, accessibility, and aesthetic quality by translation and typesetting specialists to ensure they are on par with the originals. Our services are cost and time-efficient. 

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