Advice for aspiring translators of advertising texts

Advertising texts are a compromise between fiction and technical documentation and are therefore extremely difficult to translate. There is a danger of either treating the text too loosely, conveying the idea, or going into technical detail, drying up the final version. This is why experienced advertising translators recommend sticking to the golden mean. But how to do it?

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Have a look at the pictures

If you work with CAT-tools, where there is no original, it is a must to look at pictures. This advice might be called trivial, if it were not for the real benefits it provides.

Firstly, the problem of choosing the right term is removed. If you come across, for example, the word label and the context does not specify the exact translation. What does the word mean — sticker, label, label? A picture will explain.

Secondly, the length of the title is clarified. This is important if you are translating a flyer or presentation, for which not only the content is important, but also the sentence sizes, because you need to match the layout of the marketing material.


Promotional texts have more room for creativity than instructions or contracts. You can rearrange words, use synonyms, divide long sentences into shorter ones.

The translator’s main task is to preserve the text’s call to purchase. Texts about food should create an appetite, about clothes — a desire to try them on, about smartphones — a feeling of benefit from a new device.

Avoid repetition

One of the rules of translating into Russian is variety. But when working with ads, you’ll want to make sure the same words cross from text to text — sophisticated, unique, refined, and so on.

If an author likes a certain word, he/she can use it in almost every sentence. And while for English-language materials it is an absolutely normal approach, for Russian-language materials it is not. Whereas in French texts «this, that» occurs at every turn and looks organic, in Russian repetition is undesirable and irritating.

For example, direct speech in English-language literature begins with the standard «he says». When translating into Russian, a specialist has to find a substitute construction and translate «he said» as «he exclaimed», «he said», «he grumbled».

In this respect, advertising texts are similar to fiction texts. For this reason, you will only hear one word in several paragraphs, especially the following parts of speech:

indexical pronouns (that, this);
Personal pronouns;
possessive pronouns (the translation she combed her hair could be «she combed» or «she combed her hair», but not necessarily «she combed her hair»);
repetitive adjectives (there is regular repetition of adjectives in translation, e.g. unique).

Be clear about the terms

If you are translating an ad for a well-known brand and you keep repeating a term that needs to be translated in different ways, find out in advance which one you need to use. You can do the following:

check the information on the company’s website;
ask your manager or customer for a glossary before you start the translation;
ask them to send you the texts they have liked previously (in the case of an agency).

Add verbs

Advertising in English can do without a verb. For example, «The magnificent scent, creating unforgettable feelings of freshness and freedom.

In similar materials in Russian its presence is obligatory. Otherwise, the result is passive. You feel as if some part of the sentence has simply disappeared. This is why verbs should be picked up for all texts, even if the original version didn’t include a verb. And then the end result will be dynamic.

«Your shiny hair, full of vitality…» looks worse than «Your hair is always shiny and full of vitality».

The passive voice also «eats up» the dynamic. He weighs down the sentences, giving them cumbersome, absolutely useless and undesirable for advertising.

Eliminate uppercase letters

If there are uppercase letters in the original texts at every turn, it does not mean that the nuance should be left in the Russian translation. If you’re lucky, it will look incongruous, if not, it will spoil the whole impression of the material.

In Russian, it is not customary to begin each word of the title with a capital letter, as is often done in English. Neither is it a good idea to begin.

In conclusion

Marketing texts are very different from other types of texts. And the main thing when translating them is to determine for yourself the golden mean between creativity and technicalities.

How do you check yourself? The result of a translation must be catchy, appetising and memorable. So if after reading the final text you don’t feel like trying, buying or using the product being described, it is better to put the text aside so that you can correct it later.