Language Style - English (United Kingdom)
- 1 Style guidelines and principles
- 2 Basics of good writing style
- 3 Language and culture
- 4 Grammar
- 5 Punctuation
- 6 Numerals
- 7 Terminology
- 8 Checklist
Style guidelines and principles
This document provides generic style guidelines for Sailfish OS. The target audience for this documentation is everyone translating Sailfish OS-related material. The goal is to create contemporary translations that provide a high-quality user experience.
Sailfish OS audience and target group for the translations is young, active users accustomed to social media and therefore its language.
Basics of good writing style
- Write in a personal style, engaging and involving the user.
- Use active style and present tense. Use imperatives and talk to the user.
- Make sure the text is consistent and clear and correct in grammar and spelling.
- Write in short sentences.
- Use a positive tone, avoid negative expressions.
- Avoid ambiguity. Make sure that pronouns point clearly to the relevant nouns, and avoid long strings of modifiers or nouns.
Remember we are sailing on a jolly boat. Have fun! Play with the language. Be innovative and guide the readers onto a journey. Do not attempt to use humor, but use fresh and fun tone where it naturally fits. Remember that the most important part is delivering a clear message.
Note that in technical writing, descriptions and instructions should not include text that is written from a marketing point of view.
Language and culture
Because our communication is targeted to international use and part of it will be translated, try to keep the language culturally unambiguous, be careful of religious references, and avoid using idiomatic expressions or slang. The key aspects are clarity and simplicity. Consider these targets when adapting the jolly tone to the texts. In software UI translations: Respect the source text, but do not create word for word translations. Take the context into account when translating.
When possible, leave out articles.
Please try to be informal if that feels natural in your language. Avoid mentioning pronouns.
Keep addressing consistent: e.g. if a paragraph was started using the second person, retain it throughout all its sentences (as opposed to switching to third person or neutral mood).
Use gender-neutral or all-inclusive terms to refer to human beings, rather than terms that include man, woman, and similar masculine and feminine terms. For example:
- Correct: Chair, chairperson
- Incorrect: Chairman
Use the present tense. E.g.:
- Correct: Media player selects songs.
- Incorrect: Media player will select songs.
Whenever possible, use the active voice. Keep the message clear and the sentences short. For example:
- Correct: Create Account Settings in...
- Incorrect: Account Settings are created in...
Use the imperative form. For example:
- Correct: Go to Settings
- Incorrect: User goes to Settings
Capitalise application names and company names.
In the UI, start the first word with a capital letter.
Respect capitalisation rules of the language in question.
Menu style in the UI
User Interface menu items are named using verbs.
Empty states in the UI
User Interface empty states are typically written in the 2-sentence form, using verbs and active tone and, where possible, guiding the user towards the next possible steps to take. Keep sentences short and content informative. Where possible, guide user to reflect the good sides of an application or service (like referring to friends instead of contacts in the People app).
For example: <Tell the situation, what items are missing><point user to next actions> → <No contacts yet.><Pull down to add your friends.>
App covers (that are shown in the Home) for empty states aim to be short informative messages. Length is typically two words.
In UI strings, do not use a full stop at the end of a sentence if there’s only one sentence. If there are two or more sentences, use full stops normally.
If the segment ends with the colon or ellipsis, the translation should follow the source.
In technical writing, use common abbreviations. Do not use Latin abbreviations.
In the UI, use common abbreviations, including Latin abbreviations. Make sure text clarity does not suffer. If in doubt, do not use an abbreviation.
Do not use a full stop in or after acronyms or initialisms, e.g.:
- Correct: WLAN
- Incorrect: W.L.A.N.
Do not use a full stop with unit (measurement) symbols, e.g.:
- Correct: kg
- Incorrect: kg.
Use a full stop with Latin abbreviations, e.g.:
- Correct: e.g., ca., etc.
- Incorrect: eg, ca, etc
Do not use contractions (e.g. aren't, should've) in technical writing.
In the UI, contractions can be used when needed if the space is limited. Make sure that information given to the user is not lost because of such shortcuts.
Before using a contraction, try to rephrase the text so that contraction can be avoided. Omit words that are not essential for delivering the message clearly. If contracting cannot be avoided, minimize the number of words contracted. It is better to contract one word more than to contract several words a little.
Hyphenate in object-verbal noun compounds.
- Correct: read-only file
- Incorrect: read only file or readonly file
Independent clauses =
Use a comma between independent clauses joined by and, but, and or.
- Example: To open Account, go to Settings, and create new.
Do not create plurals with parentheses. Consult translation tool user guide for handling the plurals.
Respect language's quotation rules. A comprehensive list of marks can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quotation_mark#Summary_table_for_various_languages
Use a comma to separate elements in a series, including the last two elements.
- Correct: Create new, modify, and delete
- Incorrect: Create new, modify and delete
Use a semicolon to separate items in a series when one or more items have internal punctuation.
In technical writing, write lists with bullets.
In the UI, write lists without bullets or colons.
In technical writing, create structured, consistent and accurate headings. Consider verb structures in headings.
In technical writing, make sure each module can be read independently, containing all the needed information so that modules do not need to be read in any certain order.
In technical writing, when describing procedures, make sure to describe the steps clearly with only one task per step. Describe the expected results of those steps.
Write numbers as digits, including numbers below 10. For example:
- Correct: 1 message received
- Incorrect: One message received
Use numerals for measurements.
Use a space between the numeral and the unit, except with degree and percentage sign. E.g.:
- Correct: 5 cm, 20°, 20 °C
- Incorrect: 5cm, 20 °, 20°C
Sailfish OS has a separate Terminology project to maintain consistency. Use that approved terminology when available.
Do not translate company names unless there is an official, translated name available.
Product names and trademarks
Do not translate product names or trademarks.
Safety information and legal texts
Warnings, cautions, and notes are legal texts that need to be confirmed with legal department. In case of legal texts, follow the instructions carefully and ask for more information if needed.
When finalising translations for the UI, check the following:
- Everything has been translated to your best knowledge.
- Spell check is done.
- Check consistency with the other translations done for the language.
- Ensure correct Sailfish OS terminology is used. If needed, propose new term entries.
- Confirm legal texts are consistent with the source.
- Company and product names, trademarks, symbols, and measurements have not been hyphenated.
- Ensure regional formats are retained, such as date, time, numeric and quotation literals.
When finalising texts for the technical writing, check these points as well:
- Titles and headings are structured and accurate.
- Language is clear and consistent.
- Sentences vary in length and have a clear form.