27 September 2011

Seeking_#1: Graphic standards to accommodate cultural preferences

Can anyone point me to a graphic standard (charte graphique) catering for  the cultural preferences of readers of the different language versions of bi- or multilingual technical publications?

This series of 'Seeking' blogs is the direct result of frustrating experiences involving English-language versions of technical publications laid out using graphic standards developed by French agencies to meet the cultural and artistic preferences of French customers (i.e. the company publishing the magazine, brochure, datasheet, etc.) with little thought for the cultural preferences of the technical (i.e. most engineers) English-mother-tongue readership of the English-language versions.

Many layout templates designed by French graphic artists present problems for into-English translators and their end readers (i.e. the customer's potential customers), including:  
1) No white space between paragraphs; yet studies in the US demonstrate that American readers at least often choose to skip any text that appears as a single, large, indigestable block.
2) Higher proportion of text in ALL CAPS than corresponding layout designed in English-speaking countries*; whereas English-language sources on typography often point out that for  English-speaking readers, ALL CAPS is the equivalent of shouting and difficult to read. More.
3) High proportion of headings in ALL CAPS which, in technical documents for technical readers can make it difficult to distinguish between selected acronyms, plural acronyms, initialisms and other words (IT vs it; CATS vs CATs vs cats, etc.). Tradenames and product names with mixed upper and lower case letters are another frequent problem in this area (e.g. InDesign).
4) "Quotations both in quotation marks and in italics" where, in English, the usual practice is one or the other, not both. See How to format block quotations. Also Rules about quotation marks.

Web templates by English-mother-tongue graphic artists at Webmaster Templates.

* Comments, links and other feedback welcome. 

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