Translate and format a Microsoft Word file

Microsoft Word files are widespread and provide users with many options to optimize the translation workflow.

We often receive Microsoft Word files for translation that generate high additional costs due to the formatting of the translated documents. We will show you how to optimize them here.

Technical translation of Microsoft Word files

In the area of technical translation we offer our customers all options – from pure translation up to complete layout processing by us – see also technical documentation.

Complete service with translation and layout

We would be pleased to take over the entire layout for you. The related costs are shown in our quotes as a separate item.

However, we would like to explicitly state that Microsoft Word specifies the page break on the basis of the local print drivers. Furthermore, there are many options for automatic formatting in Microsoft Word that can change the appearance of a document.

This may lead to a file looking different if it is opened on different computers. In any case, the Microsoft Word file needs to be checked before printing or creating a PDF file.

Translation only

If you would like to deal with as much of it as possible yourself in order to cut down external costs, you can also commission technical translation only. We then supply a pre-formatted Word file that you can finish off yourself.

The steps required for this can be found under Layout of translated Word documents. We assume that the scenario is as follows:

  • The translation involves a single MS Word file
  • Images are inserted into the Word file
  • An automatically generated table of contents has been created

Depending on the type of document, you will find software-independent notes concerning document optimization in the relevant articles on our homepage.

Preparing MS Word documents for translation

General information about Microsoft Word

User training that is often lacking

Authors often lack the necessary knowledge of Microsoft Word files to use paragraph and character formats properly. As well as the usual checks that are carried out in FrameMaker and InDesign, it should therefore also be checked whether formats have been used at all.

Problematic OLE functions

Another problem is created by the Microsoft Word OLE function. In embedded files, it must always be checked whether the files contain additional invisible text.

Necessary checks

With Microsoft Word files, more extensive checking is required before the start of translation in order to guarantee a smooth translation workflow.

As with the other programs, the control characters also need to be visible here.

Show control characters

In Microsoft Word, you can show the control characters using a button in the menu bar.

Microsoft Word - Show control characters

The screen changes in Microsoft Word accordingly:

Microsoft Word - Meaning of control characters

The control characters in the screenshot above have the following meaning:

  1. First row indent
  2. Left indent
  3. Tabulator position
  4. Tabulator characters in the text
  5. Space
  6. Line break
  7. Paragraph break

Checking the Word file before translation

Manual formatting

Manual formatting often takes place in Microsoft Word, i.e. manual formats such as font and type size, line spacing and indents are manually assigned to individual paragraphs and characters without using formats.

Standard paragraph format

This can usually be recognized from the fact that all paragraphs have the Standard format assigned to them.

Click in several paragraphs one after the other and examine the format name which is displayed in the menu bar at the top.

Microsoft Word - Recognizing an adjusted style sheet

Effects on the translation

Manual formatting is not a problem in itself. The formats assigned here are also automatically assigned to the translated text.

However, in doing so you dispense with possible automated functions such as the automatic creation of a table of contents, the keeping together of images and their associated legends, tables and table titles etc.

Additional layout costs

In any case, you can reckon with higher layout costs for the layout of the translated text. When a document is being translated into several languages, you should consider whether to carry out structured basic formatting prior to translation for cost-saving purposes.

Space formatting

This applies in the same way as with Adobe FrameMaker.

We will show you how to improve formatting in the next section.

Use of style sheets and special characters in Microsoft Word files

Creating and using style sheets

Standard style sheets in Microsoft Word

With larger documents, it is also incredibly helpful to use paragraph formats in Microsoft Word files. The paragraph formats which are available for use in the document are shown in the paragraph format list:

Microsoft Word - View style sheet list

Standard formats heading1 – heading3 are available for headings, and can be adapted to your own needs.

Furthermore, depending on the contents of the document you should define your own paragraph formats for lists, indented text, captions, table titles etc.

The following chapter shows how to do this based on the standard stylesheet:

Create style sheet

In the same way as enumeration formats in FrameMaker, you can also carry out the following formatting manually in Microsoft Word from the starting point of the “Standard” stylesheet.

Microsoft Word - Create new style sheet 1

Click on the small arrow as shown above with the cursor in the newly formatted paragraph.

Microsoft Word - Create new style sheet 2

Click on Create new style sheet in the following window.

The following window opens.

Microsoft Word - Create new style sheet 3

Enter a name for the new stylesheet in the Name field and then save by clicking on OK.

Microsoft Word now creates a new stylesheet with the settings of the current paragraph.

Using style sheets

Place the cursor in the paragraph to be formatted and then click on the format you would like to assign in the style sheet list.

Microsoft Word - Apply style sheet

Adapting style sheets for headers

A table of contents can be generated automatically from the standard formats for heading (heading1 – heading3).

You should therefore use these formats and adapt them according to your requirements:

  • Assign the heading format to be adapted for a paragraph.
  • Then adapt the format to your needs.

In the following, the heading 1 format was assigned to the current paragraph and manually adapted.

Microsoft Word - Heading 1 assigned and changed

This numbering can now be transferred to all paragraphs formatted with heading 1 as follows:

  • Search for the heading1 entry in the stylesheet list.
  • Click on the arrow for the drop-down menu at the right-hand edge of the entry and select Update to adapt to the selection.

Microsoft Word - Adapt heading 1 stylesheet

Use special characters

It is often desirable to keep certain character sequences in the same line.

This applies to figures with units (e.g. 8 kg) as well as fixed expressions such as Adobe InDesign.

If you do not want DIN EN 15038-1 to appear on two different lines, you can insert non-breaking spaces and hyphens.

You can add a non-breaking space with Ctrl+shift+space and a non-breaking hyphen with Ctrl+shift+-.

In a Microsoft Word file this will look as follows:

Microsoft Word - Assigning non-wrapping space

Advantage: these characters are retained during technical translation using CAT tools. You therefore no longer need to check all occurrences of such character sequences for unwanted wrapping after translation.

Optimum incorporation of images in Word files

Incorporation of language-neutral images


In Microsoft Word, graphics are inserted into the document and fixed. There is therefore no elegant and easy way to replace German screenshots with foreign-language screenshots like there is with FrameMaker or InDesign.

A helpful measure for reducing costs is to insert the file names of inserted screenshots into the Microsoft Word file above or below the screenshot itself. This then helps the translator with the assignment of target-language screenshots.

Alternatively, the screenshots can be inserted in the target language before translation.

Dimensioned drawings, schematic diagrams…

Graphics inserted in Microsoft Word should not contain any language information whatsoever. The CAT tool cannot extract texts from inserted images and these will not be translated.

Text boxes

Remove the text from the graphic completely and insert text boxes in the same location in Microsoft Word instead:

Microsoft Word - Insert text box

Optimizing embedded files (OLE) for translation

OLE = Object Linking and Embedding

If you embed a Microsoft Excel file into Microsoft Word as an OLE, then the entire file is embedded and not just the part of this file that is displayed in Word.

Display in Microsoft Word

An example: You see the following Microsoft Excel table in Microsoft Word:

Microsoft Word - Displaying Excel files

Actual contained data

However, the Microsoft Excel table also includes the text shown in red

Microsoft Word - Word additional content in Excel files


Text in the CAT tool

The entire content of the Microsoft Excel file is read into the CAT tool and is therefore also translated. There is no option to just import the displayed text.

Measures for reducing costs

Double-click on the embedded file in Microsoft Word and delete all content that is not displayed.

Microsoft Word - Delete superfluous content from Excel files


This also applies to drawing sheets that are not displayed which may be contained within Excel and Visio files.

Technical translation of Word files at PRODOC

Files required for technical translation

Word file

The Word file itself is required for importing into the CAT tool. We create the translation quotation on the basis of this import. Since almost anyone can view Word files – even if they only use the freely-available Open Office – the Microsoft Word file normally also serves as a display file for the translator.

If the Word file is bigger than 5MB, an additional file which does not exceed this size should be created for displaying the document:

PDF file

PDF format can be used for this, since it can be created quickly, it is compact and it can be viewed by anyone using the freely-available Acrobat Reader.


If the file to be translated contains screenshots, these should be created before translation starts and given appropriate names.

Sending Word files to PRODOC

Word inserts all images completely into the document. This increases the size of the Word files and file sizes of greater than 5MB quickly result if several graphics are inserted.

Compress the Word file, the PDF file (if necessary) and the German and foreign-language screenshots into a ZIP file.

  • If the ZIP file is smaller than 5MB, send it to us via email.
  • If the ZIP file is bigger than 5MB, then please let us know without sending the file to us directly. We will then create a ShareFile user account for you via which we can exchange large files with you via a secure browser connection.

Receiving translated files from PRODOC

If you have commissioned us to carry out the entire layout, you will then receive a ZIP file from us via email or ShareFile which you simply need to unpack in a suitable location.

This contains the translated Word file and, if required, also a foreign-language PDF file which you can use directly.

If you have commissioned us to do translating only, you will only receive the Word file. You can find out how to generate a finished foreign-language file in the next section.

Layout of translated Microsoft Word files

Necessary corrections

Even if you have taken all the measures in advance in order to automate the layout of the translated text as far as possible, adjustments to the text and graphics are unavoidable due to differing text lengths.

The table of contents may also need to be updated and translations of OLE objects included.

Adapting the text flow

Adapting page breaks

Depending on the formatting settings and text lengths, the following may occur:

  • Unwanted empty spaces
  • Texts that belong together divided between two pages.

Adapt the page break in accordance with your requirements.

When doing this it is advisable to use the options for line and page breaks. These can be found by clicking the right mouse button in the current paragraph and select the Paragraph submenu.

Microsoft Word - Manual wrap monitoring

Adjusting the line breaks

Even if the correct spellcheck dictionary is already selected after processing with the CAT tool, unwanted separations may have occurred due to selecting unsuitable separation specifications.

Examine the ends of the lines in the document and correct any unwanted separations. The following may occur:

Line break errors Remedy
Separation of numbers and units Insert non-breaking separator (ctrl+shift+space)
Separation of two words which are connected with a hyphen Insert non-breaking hyphen (ctrl+_)
Unwanted word separation Insert hard line break (shift+enter)

Adapt text boxes

If text boxes were used to label graphics they may be too small.

It will then look like this:

Microsoft Word - Adapting text boxes 1

As you can see, you can’t see anything.

Microsoft Word has no professional display function for missing text, as is the case with FrameMaker and InDesign.

Instead, you must take great care to ensure that the end of paragraph character appears in all text boxes:

Microsoft Word - Adapting text boxes 2

Even if you see the end of paragraph character, you should compare the translated text with the original because it is possible that there is another paragraph below the paragraph that is being displayed.


Manual replacement

You need to manually replace every inserted screenshot with the foreign-language screenshot in Microsoft Word.

A naming system is therefore beneficial if the text contains many screenshots in order to prevent unnecessary searching and assignment problems.

How to replace a screenshot

Click on the screenshot in the Microsoft Word file and in the menu that appears click on Insert Picture.

Microsoft Word - Replacing a screenshot

Select the screenshot to be used in the Insert Picture window and insert it.

OLE objects

Replacing text in the original language

After exporting from the CAT tool, text in OLE objects, such as Excel or Visio files, remain in the original language.

Microsoft Word - Replacing text in the original language 1

Double-click on the object:

Microsoft Word - Replacing text in the original language 2

The view of the embedded object has now been updated and the translated text is displayed.

Close the object again to save the changes to the display in the Microsoft Word file. Repeat this process for all embedded files.

Table of contents

Displaying and updating the table of contents

After exporting from the CAT tool, there is normally no text where the table of contents should be.

Highlight the area where the table of contents should be:

Microsoft Word - Generating the table of contents 1

Now press F9.

The table of contents is generated and displayed.

Microsoft Word - Generating the table of contents 2