Spanish-English Translation Style Guide

Last updated Jan 22, 2024
By Gwenydd Jones
The Translator’s Studio “Spanish-English Translation Style Guide” is a collection of the guidelines we prefer to follow for Spanish-to-English translation. That is, unless the client specifies other preferences, or the text type requires a different approach. We spend so long checking everything that we decided to keep our notes here, in one place. We hope you find them useful, too!
What we prefer to do
Adjective order
Translate adjectives in reverse order, maintaining the same distance from the noun, as long as this works. E.g. Exterior poliuretano y textil = Textile and polyurethane upper (not Polyurethane and textile upper).
Blog: article length
Long posts: approx. 1.2K words. Short posts: around 500 words. Exceptions possible.
This idea is taken from the Savvy Newcomer Style Guide, ATA. It’s where you put the most important information at the start of the paragraph. It helps skim reading.
Bullet-point punctuation

As per the English Style Guide by the European Commission (May 2018), p. 52, section 11 Lists.

Capitalisation after a colon in a standard sentence
BrEn, don’t capitalise. AmEn, capitalise if it begins an independent clause.
Compass points
The simplified rule is that compass points are written out in lowercase, unless they form part of proper nouns, when they take uppercase.
Preferred for blog articles and marketing. Avoid in neutral and formal writing.
Dashes (em)
Avoid unless absolutely necessary. No spaces around them. (Ctrl + Alt + minus sign).
Dashes (en)
Use between numbers, no space, e.g. 4–7. (Ctrl + minus sign).
estados miembros
Member States (of the EU, capitalised in English).
Full-stop position in quotes
Inside the quotation marks for full grammatical sentences, outside the quotation marks for fragments.
His/her vs their
While it may be grammatically controversial, we prefer to use their when we want to be gender inclusive, because it makes our writing more succinct.
Hyphenated words in titles
As per the Chicago Manual of Style. Capitalize the first word. Capitalize subsequent words, but not articles, prepositions, or coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, or, nor). Don’t capitalise the part of a word following a prefix.
Hyphenation with foreign words
Foreign and Latin words aren’t hyphenated unless they have a hyphen in the original. E.g. “She did it on an ad hoc basis.”
In order to
Use to instead of in order to wherever possible.
-ly adverb compounds before a noun
There is no hyphen in compounds that start with an -ly adverb before the noun. E.g. A highly controversial statement, a terribly long day.
Names of organisations
Translate if a well-established translation or a quality, official translation exists. Otherwise, leave organisation name in Spanish with English translation in round brackets.
Paragraph length for blog articles
Keep paragraphs short. Try for three lines in Word (max. four lines), unless impossible to do. It’s easier to read that way, looks better on the page, and is better for mobile optimisation.
Avoid unless needed. Use full stops rather than semicolons.
Sentence length
Keep sentences short. Use full stops rather than commas where possible. This makes it easier for the reader to digest information.
Spacing with degrees
We use a space: 37 °C.
Spacing with forward slashes that mean or.
We don’t use a space. E.g. The earth wire is green/green and yellow.
Spacing with per cent signs
We use a space 100 % of the time.
Spanish punctuation
Never copy Spanish punctuation. Punctuate the English text based on English punctuation rules.
Spanish words in the English text
Spanish words in the English text are italicised unless they are proper nouns or if they can be found in an English dictionary. So, we wouldn’t italicise fiesta (unless it is being presented as a linguistic example, as is the case here), but we would italicise chiringuito.
We use sentence case on the blog and in our clients’ texts, unless they prefer title case.
We think the easiest way to read am/pm is in lowercase, without a space. E.g. 8pm. Don’t repeat am/pm unless necessary: 7–8pm. We prefer noon/midnight. E.g. 12 noon, 12 midnight–2:30am. Avoid unnecessary zeros: 8:00pm.

Note that style preferences on this vary widely depending on organisation, publication and country. For instance, BBC news uses the 24-hour clock. But the BBC TV guide combines the 24-hour clock with the lowercase-without-a-space approach.

Title case

Follow the Chicago Manual of Style.

Useful online app: Title Case Converter.

  1. Always capitalize the first and last word of the main title.
  2. Capitalize nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and subordinating conjunctions (as, because, which, that).
  3. Don’t capitalize articles, prepositions (except in phrasal verbs), or coordinating conjunctions.

Subheadings/subtitles use sentence case.

Titles of works in text
APA style. Capitalise and italicise independent sources (e.g. book, thesis, report, film, newspaper or work of art). Title case and double quotation marks if it forms part of a greater whole (e.g. article in a larger publication, chapter, blog post, song from an album or social media post).
Translating titles of works
  1. If official translation exists, select from the following options, depending on the text and customer requirements:

– Leave Spanish title in, but capitalise and italicise as per EN convention. Offer official translations in round brackets capitalising and italicising as per EN convention.

– Remove Spanish and offer only official translation, capitalising and italicising as per EN convention.

  1. If no official translation exists, leave Spanish title in, but capitalise and italicise as per EN convention. Offer official translations in round brackets, capitalising and putting the title in inverted commas, as per Encyclopaedia Britannica.

EXCEPTION: Bibliographies. Long lists of titles. Instances when including a translation in brackets makes the text too heavy, e.g. in CVs. Consult the client.

Try to use simple vocabulary. E.g. Obtain = get, therefore = so. This improves readability.
Use in instead of within wherever possible.

Written by Gwenydd Jones

Gwenydd Jones is a Spanish- and French-to-English translator, an SEO blogger and a course creator. She is the founder of The Translator's Studio and the lead teacher on its courses. Connect with Gwenydd on LinkedIn or contact her through this website.

You may also like …


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *