Culture & Language

Style Guide for Translations into Spanish

Young boy playing on playground equipmentExplore this style guide for language best practices that are helpful in providing meaningful information to the Spanish-speaking Head Start community.

About the Style Guide

The Office of Head Start (OHS) asks its National Centers, contractors, and vendors to use this guide, along with the Head Start Bilingual Glossary when translating materials. These best practices and standards apply to all materials published on the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC).

Use it to render culturally sensitive and functional translations for all Head Start digital resources in Spanish.

1. Plain Language and Style

Plain language is communication that an audience can understand the first time they read or hear it. The Head Start audience who reads and speaks in Spanish is diverse. It is composed of both providers and families from different backgrounds and cultures. This may be a challenge for translators and linguists. However, OHS has created specific language resources to provide material in Spanish that is accurate, concise, and fluent in the following style. 

1.1 Tone

Content provided in Spanish through the ECLKC is:

  • Informative and educational
  • Written in a friendly and inviting tone
  • Clear for all Spanish-speaking readers
  • Authoritative and reliable

1.2 Voice

The ECLKC provides information and services for a diverse Spanish-speaking population. We strive to build relationships with the communities we serve through various digital platforms.

  • For content in Spanish published on the ECLKC, use the personal pronoun “usted”
  • For social media in Spanish, use the personal pronoun “tú”

2. Prior to Translating

Use these tips prior to translating. They help you start your Spanish translations with the proper format used in online information and resources.

2.1. Titles and References

Before translating a title or referencing ECLKC pages, make sure the title hasn’t already been translated either in page titles or hyperlinked PDF documents.

  • Check whether a title has been previously translated using the ECLKC Search bar and then going to the Spanish version of the page to look for the title
  • In a paragraph or reference section, when a title hasn’t been translated yet, translate it and then add the “(en inglés)” notation to let the reader know that the content is only available in English
  • Avoid writing the title in English and then the Spanish translation in brackets since it is not a web usability best practice for digital resources

2.2. Hyperlinking

  • When a hyperlinked text takes the reader to an English page, add the notation “(en inglés)” after the hyperlinked title or URL

Example: Recursos para abordar el uso indebido de sustancias durante el embarazo (en inglés)

3. Spelling, Grammar, and Text Formatting

3.1. Accents marks

  • Use accent marks on capital letters when required

Example: Área de juego

3.2. Abbreviations, Acronyms, and Initialisms

  • When writing acronyms and initialisms in English for the first time in a webpage or document, spell out the whole term, then add the acronym or initialism followed by the “(sigla en inglés)” notation

Example: La Oficina Nacional de Head Start (OHS, sigla en inglés)

  • Don’t use the “(sigla en inglés)” notation in titles. Use it when the term appears for the first time in the body of the article or page
  • Acronyms and initialisms in plural form don’t include an “s” at the end nor an apostrophe
  • In upcoming appearances on the same resource, just use the abbreviation

Example: Los niños que son DLL se comunican usando palabras de uno o más idiomas.

  • Acronyms that are proper names and have more than four letters are written with only the first letter capitalized

Example: Unesco

  • Abbreviate “for example” in Spanish (p. ej.,) when it has been abbreviated in English (e.g.,) 

Example: P. ej., las familias pueden esperar fuera del aula.

  • Add a period after abbreviations 

Example: Dra. or pág.

3.3. Apostrophes (’)

  • Do not use the apostrophe in numbers (’99) when translating into Spanish

Example: Esta es la promoción del 99.

3.4. Bulleted and Numbered Lists

  • In lists consisting of only one word, don’t capitalize the first word and use a comma or no punctuation mark at the end of the word
  • In lists consisting of phrases, don’t capitalize the first word and use a semicolon at the end of the phrase
  • If you use a comma or semicolon in lists consisting of only one word or phrase, use a period in the last item on the list. You can also use “y” in the second to last item after the punctuation mark
  • In lists with complete sentences, capitalize the first word and use a period at the end of each sentence

Reference: http://ow.ly/d/2ndo

3.5. Capitalization

  • Capitalize:
    • Acronyms
    • Only the first word of a title or subtitle, unless the name is officially written using capitalization in all words in a trustworthy reference
    • Only the first word of a slogan or campaign (e.g. campaña Cimientos seguros, futuros saludables)
       
  • Don’t capitalize:
    • Days of the week and months
    • Cardinal points
    • Languages, nationalities, ethnicities, and religions
    • Titles, positions, and professions (e.g., especialista en la primera infancia, director)
    • Any kind of subject matter (e.g., derecho, matemáticas, psicología)
    • First word after a colon, unless it is a quote or part of a subheading in a heading
      (e.g., Los diferentes colores que usarán son: blanco, amarillo, verde, gris y azul)
    • Words in parentheses, unless it is an acronym or abbreviation
    • words such as web, internet, federal, calle, avenida, zona, barrio

3.6. Commas

  • The serial comma is not used in Spanish
  • Use a comma before “y” or “o” when there is a sentence that numbers elements and immediately after a new sentence is introduced, or when a complex sentence with more than one subject is introduced

Example: En la mañana los niños estuvieron tranquilos, alegres y ordenados, y después
de almuerzo estuvieron muy inquietos.

3.7. Date and Time

  • Add a comma between the day and the date
  • Leave a space between “p.” and “m.” or “a.” and “m.” when using these abbreviations
  • Add the time zone using this format: (hora del este)

Example: La reunión se llevará a cabo el martes, 25 de diciembre de 2019 a las 9 p. m. (hora del este) en el salón general.

3.8. Em Dash (—)

  • Type the em dash right next to the initial and last word of the clause

Example: Para todos los maestros —los que se encontraban en la reunión— era esencial dialogar sobre ese tema.

3.9. Italics

  • When referring to text in another language within a Spanish narrative

Example: Los muffins para el desayuno de los niños eran saludables.

  • When using intentionally misspelled words

Example: Mis hijos van pa'l parque todas las tardes.

  • Books and newspapers titles; literary, scientific, and artistic works; and titles of websites within a text (not in a biography)

3.10. Numbers

  • Use figures for all numbers above nine
  • Spell out all numbers under 10
  • Use numeric figures for all ages, dimensions, fractions, miles, sums of money, percentages, and times of day
  • For numeric intervals, use a preposition instead of a dash (e.g. páginas 94 a 98 or páginas 94 y 95)
  • Avoid starting a sentence with a number; spell it out instead or reword the sentence if possible
  • For money, use the English punctuation: $1,276.50
    • Don’t use: $1.276,59
  • For abbreviated ordinal numbers, use (º, ª, er, os, as) following this order: number, period, and superior letter

Examples:
1.º/.er, 2.º/.ª, 3.er, 4.ª, 21.er, etc.
La 2.ª edición se publicará muy pronto.

  • Avoid using fractional numbers as ordinal numbers

Example: Use “decimosegundo” en vez de “doceavo”.

3.11. Percentages (%)

  • If the English text uses the word “percent” spelled out, use it in Spanish as well (por ciento).
  • If the English text uses the symbol (%), use it in Spanish as well, and leave a space between the number and the symbol

Example: El 32 % del personal no asistió a la conferencia.

3.12. Prefixes

  • Prefixes are written right next to the main word without a hyphen, except when that word is capitalized, it is an acronym, or a number

Example: expresidente, sociocultural, anti-Brexit, pro-LGTBQ

  • Prefixes are written separately when used in a multi-word unit

Example: ex vice presidente

3.13. Punctuation

  • Punctuation marks are written outside of quotation marks, parentheses, brackets, and dashes
  • Exclamation points and question marks are used at the beginning (opening) and end (closing) of sentences: ¿? ¡ !
  • Don’t use a period on table of contents, image captions, or diagram captions 
  • Don’t use a colon between a preposition and a link, hyperlink, or URL

Example: Suscríbase en https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/es

3.14. Quotes

  • When introducing a quotation, use a colon and capitalize the first letter

Example: El estudio señala: “Los niños pueden comunicarse con los adultos desde que nacen”.

  • Always add a period after a quote that ends in an exclamation or question mark

Example: “¡Es una estrategia excelente!”.

3.15. Symbols

  • When using a symbol, such as the abbreviation of measurement units (kg, oz) don't use plural forms or add periods

3.16. The expression “and/or” is incorrect in Spanish

  • This expression only applies to English grammar. In Spanish, the conjunction “o” has both values, so “and/or” should be translated as “o”

4. Helpful Resources

Review some helpful resources that will help you deliver clear, reader-focused, and high-quality translations, Spanish captioning, and interpretation services.

4.1. Grammar Rules and Linguistic Questions Resources

4.2. Translation Guidance

4.3. Additional Federal Resources

5. Frequently Mistranslated English Terms

Term Preferred Translation False Cognate

access (to)

acceder a

accesar

Act (as in law)

Ley

Acta

actual

real, verdadero

actual

actually

en realidad, realmente

actualmente

agenda (as in meeting agenda)

orden del día

agenda

American

estadounidense

americano

application

solicitud

aplicación

apply (to) (e.g., for a job)

solicitar

aplicar

apply (to) (something to)

aplicarse (es reflexivo), es aplicable a

aplicar

approach (as in method)

enfoque, método

acercamiento

billion

mil millones

billón

circle

encerrar en un círculo

circular

citation (quotation)

cita

citación

collateral (finance)

fianza, garantía, aval

colateral

compensation

remuneración (sueldo o salario)

compensación

comprehensive

integral, completo, exhaustivo

comprensivo

confident

seguro de sí mismo

confidente

consistent

coherente, constante

consistente

convenient

cómodo, práctico, útil

conveniente

directions (driving, instructions)

instrucciones, indicaciones

direcciones

disorder (health)

trastorno, enfermedad, condición

desorden

eventually

finalmente, en última instancia, tarde o temprano

eventualmente

expectant mother

madre embarazada/gestante

madre expectante

facilities

establecimientos, instalaciones

facilidades

form (as in an application)

formulario

forma

foundation (basis)

fundamentos, bases, cimientos

fundación

health food

alimentos sin aditivos

comida saludable

healthy appetite

buen apetito

apetito saludable

instance

ejemplo, caso

instancia

introduce (to) (meeting a person)

presentar

introducir

learn more

informar(se), enterar(se), tomar conocimiento

aprenda más

medical condition

enfermedad, afección, padecimiento

condición médica

minutes (meeting)

actas

minutas

molest (to)

abusar sexualmente

molestar

post (to) (online)

publicar (en línea)

postear

process (to) (an application)

tramitar

procesar

qualified (for a job, etc.)

estar capacitado, reunir los requisitos necesarios

calificar

recipient

destinatario

recipiente

reconciliations (accounting)

conciliaciones

reconciliaciones

refer (to)

consultar

referirse

relevant

pertinente, correspondiente

relevante

remove (to)

quitar, sacar

remover

responsive

sensible, receptivo

responsivo

salary

sueldo

salario

selection guidelines

criterios de selección

guías de selección

sensitive

sensible

sensitivo

social media

redes sociales

medios sociales

submit (to)

presentar, enviar

someter

substantiate

confirmar, corroborar

sustanciar

suggestion

recomendación, sugerencia

sugerencia

surgeon general

director de salud pública

cirujano general

transgender

transgénero

transexual

ultimately

en última instancia

últimamente