CRITI Style Guide

In order to assure that CRITI translations meet the highest expectations of our customers, please use the following style guidelines while translating. This guide does not seek to define all language-specific items, many of which are defined elsewhere in the authoritative references contained in this document. Rather it defines specific aspects required of CRITI translations in general. Note that the guidelines here may not apply in all cases, but should be followed unless specifications dictate otherwise.

The following items are arranged alphabetically by subject:


Do not create non-standard abbreviations. If abbreviations are used that are not widely known, they should be introduced in parentheses after the first occurrence of the term (or the first occurrence in a chapter, for longer works).

Be consistent in the use of abbreviations. For example, in a translation into English, approximately should be consistently abbreviated as approx. rather than by using app. in some locations and approx. in others.

In cases where terms are used only a few times, abbreviating them does not serve a purpose. In such cases do not use abbreviations. Also avoid abbreviations in cases where they would not be understandable to the target audience. In such cases spell terms out.


The names of CARICOM and CARIFORUM institutions should be translated but only the English-language acronyms for them should be used. For example, the Caribbean Court of Justice would be translated into Dutch as Caribisch Hof van Justitie, but the acronym CCJ would be used, e.g., “Caribisch Hof van Justitie (CCJ)” with CCJ used in subsequent locations.

For other organisations, follow the way in which the organisation presents itself. For example, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) does presents itself in French as l’Organisation de Coopération et de Développement Économiques (OCDE), in which case the acronym should be translated.


For postal addresses in the country-specific form in which they are written. However, if the country name is not present in the address, please add it. Do not translate names of streets (e.g., the street on which CRITI is located would be “Henck Arronstraat” in an English text, not “Henck Aaron Street”). For example, if a Dutch text includes CRITI’s address as:

Henck Arronstraat 25, 2de verdieping

A translation into English should have:

Henck Arronstraat 25, 2de verdieping

Note that the text “2de verdieping” has been left in Dutch.

However, if an address is given to provide instructions for how to reach a location (rather than as a postal address), translate any needed items, e.g.,

Henck Arronstraat 25, 2nd floor

If in doubt about the purpose of an address, include translations of any needed portions in brackets, e.g.,

Henck Arronstraat 25, 2de verdieping [2nd floor]

Colloquialisms and slang

Most CRITI translations are of texts written at a relatively formal level and should use formal language. Colloquialisms and slang should be avoided where possible in such translations. If translations are of a type and intended for an audience where colloquial language is appropriate (e.g., for a health bulletin aimed at youth), such language may be used, but care should be taken to preserve the image of the client and to adhere as closely to the source text as possible, unless specifications request a highly adaptive translation.


Formality of the translation should match the source unless specifications dictate otherwise. If the source formality would pose a barrier to the target audience, please discuss this matter with the CRITI project manager. For text translated from English into French, Spanish, or Dutch, use the vous, Usted/Ustedes, and u forms respectively, unless the specifications, text type, or audience call for the use of informal pronouns.

Non-native source texts

A substantial portion of CRITI’s translations will be from texts written by non-native speakers of the language in which they are written. As a CRITI translator, it is your responsibility, unless otherwise specified, to produce translations that reflect well on the creator of the source content. In most cases, the intended meaning will be clear and you should simply correct for source errors in your translation. However, you may on occasion encounter portions where the intended meaning is not clear. In such cases you should consult with your CRITI project manager for clarification. If you believe you understand the intended meaning, please translate it accordingly, but document your uncertainty so that it can be checked.

Regional terms

In the Caribbean, local dialects may use different words than European or continental North American dialects, particularly for foodstuffs, political entities, and cultural items, all of which may feature prominently in CRITI translations. In general, the guiding principle should be that CRITI translations should meet the needs of the intended audience. The following guidelines will help you decide which words to use if there are regional variants:

  • Give preference to words used in standard dictionaries of the target language unless: (a) these words will not be widely understood within the target audience (in which case it might be appropriate to use the standard term but include the regional variant in parentheses at the first occurrence), or (b) the specifications require a regional or vernacular flavor to the translation.

Example: the avocado tree is commonly called an alligator tree in some parts of the Caribbean, but this term will not be understood everywhere. As a result, the standard avocado tree should be used, possibly followed with “(also known as the alligator tree)” if the audience might not know “avocado”.

  • If no widely standard terms are available (e.g., for concepts or institutions particular to the Caribbean), use words that will be the most broadly understood in the Caribbean (i.e., avoid a country-specific word if there is a general Caribbean word).

Example: The translator encounters the French cotonnier créole. There is no standard English phrase for this kind of cotton (it is considered a type of extra long staple cotton), so the Caribbean-specific sea island cotton would be an appropriate translation.

  • If there are only country-specific words, use one throughout and provide the alternatives in parentheses at the first occurrence. The name most widely should be chosen, where possible.

Example: A French text refers to the fruit known as a girembellier (Phyllanthus acidus). When translated into English, there is no single common name in English for this fruit, so the translator might refer to it as ‘damzel (also known as sour cherry, jimbilin, or gooseberry)’ at the first occurrence and then use damzel for other occurrences. (Since sour cherries and gooseberries are ambiguous and have other standard English meanings, these should not be used as the general term.)

  • Spanish poses particular challenges due to strong regional variants. CRITI translations should follow norms for “neutral Spanish” when possible. Orthography should follow the guidelines of the Real Academia Española. In cases where there is no neutral Spanish form and where regional vocabulary differences would impact understanding, give preference to common Central/South American forms. If these forms would not be understood in the Caribbean, use Caribbean-specific forms.

Simplifying texts

Texts may assume a certain level of education on the part of the audience. If the target audience of the translation cannot be assumed to have the educational level implicit in the source text, the translation may be simplified with respect to reading level. In the event that such adaptation is needed it should be indicated in the translation specifications you receive. If such adaptation is not indicated and you believe it is necessary, please contact your CRITI project manager to discuss.

If texts are simplified, note the following guidelines:

  • All content present in the source must be present in the target, unless otherwise specified.
  • Simplifications should not change meaning. For example, the following text contains two embedded clauses and might be difficult for some individuals to read:
    A number of restrictions, which are referred to in Public Law 743-2, which contains specific exemptions for foreign nationals, are in full force.

    This text could be simplified as:

    A number of restrictions are in full force. Public Law 743-2 refers to these restrictions and contains specific exemptions for foreign nationals.

    However, the following simplification removes the information that Public Law 743-2 defines the exemptions and would not be considered an acceptable simplification:

    Public Law 743-2 refers to a number of restrictions. There are specific exemptions for foreign nationals. These restrictions are in full force.

Spelling and grammar

CRITI translations, unless otherwise noted, should utilise the following standards for spelling and grammar:

  • Dutch: Use Algemeen Nederlands spelling and grammar as defined by the Nederlandse Taalunie. For spelling, use the Woordenlijst Nederlandse taal (the Groene boekje) with the 2005 reforms. Note that any recent spell checkers for Dutch will generally meet this requirement. For grammar, follow the rules set forth in the Algemene Nederlandse Spraakkunst.
  • English: Use British spellings (e.g., centre instead of center, colour instead of color, and emphasise instead of emphasize) unless you are specifically told to use U.S. spelling. As there is no national or international body that defines English usage, the standard of reference should be dictionaries from the Oxford University Press. For grammar, follow general British conventions. Most “UK English” spell checkers will meet these requirements, with no additional attention required. A useful outline of some differences between British and American grammar can be found here. In general, however, grammar differences between the two are relatively slight compared to spelling and vocabulary differences.
  • French: French texts should follow the orthographic and grammatical guidance of the Académie française. Avoid specifically Canadian expressions. Most “French – France” spell checkers meet these requirements.
  • Spanish: Spelling and grammar should follow the guidelines of the Real Academia Española. Any general Spanish spell checker should meet these requirements.

Spell checkers, domain-specific

Some domains (subject fields) such as medical or legal have specialized spelling checkers. These spelling checkers generally include specialized vocabulary in addition to general-language words. If such spelling checkers are available to the translators, these should be used where appropriate.

Style guide, client

If the client provides a style guide, consider the specific guidance it provides authoritative in all cases, even if it contradicts general style requirements. If you feel that the style guide will lead to an error, please note the issue and report it to your CRITI project manager when you return the translation.

Style guides, for international organisations

Many international organisations have their own style guides. These should be mandated in project specifications. However, if they are not, use the following style guides where appropriate:

  • For texts related to the European Union, European Commission, or relationships with European institutions, use the DGT’s style guides:
  • For English-language texts related to the United Nations and affiliated organisations, used the United Nations Editorial Manual
  • For texts related to the OECD, the OECD style guide is available in English and French.

If you are aware of other style guides that should be included in this list, please inform your CRITI project manager.

Style guides, general

Qualified CRITI translators should be skilled at written communication in their target languages. As such, their translations should meet generally acceptable requirements for general target-language style. In case of questions about specific points of style, there are a number of resources available that may be of use. In the absence of a client- or organisation-specific style guide, use the following style guides to answer specific questions:

  • Dutch: Taaladvies contains practical advice on proper Dutch style.
  • English (British): For most CRITI translations that do not have a specified style, use the style guide of Oxford University. Note that normal British style uses single quote marks (i.e., ‘ and ’) for first-level quotations and double quotes (i.e., “ and ”) for second-level quotations and places punctuation outside of quotes unless the punctuation is part of the quotation.
  • English (American): For translations into the American English, use the Chicago Manual of Style. Note that typical American style uses double quote marks (i.e., “ and ”) for first-level quotations and single quotes (i.e., ‘ and ’) for second-level quotations, and places punctuation inside of quotes.
  • Spanish: The Associated Press’ Manual de estilo provides useful general language guidance, with a focus on journalistic styles.

Telephone numbers

Telephone numbers written for use within a particular country are often written without the country code. As such forms are ambiguous or unusable outside of the country where they are in use, telephone numbers in translations should be given with the appropriate country code. For example, if CRITI’s telephone number appears in a Dutch text written in Suriname as 474215, it should be written as +597 474215 in an English translation. Do not attempt to provide dialing ‘instructions’ (e.g., 00597 474215), since dialing instructions vary from country to country, but instead provide the country code after a +, followed by a space and the number, as shown with the CRITI phone number.


Terminology refers to uses of language that are specific to a particular domain (subject field), client, or text type and that are not part of common language knowledge. In some cases a term may look like a general-language expression, but have a particular meaning in a given context. For example, in English the word frog is generally understood to refer to a small amphibious animal. However, in the context of music it may refer to portion of a violin bow, and in a text about railroads it may refer to the crossing point of two rails. Terminology is of special concern, because using incorrect terminology can lead to confusion or even have legal repercussions. As a result, CRITI translators must ensure that their translations use correct terminology.

There are three types of terminology that must be followed:

  • Terms in a client termbase. If the requestor has provided a termbase, please ensure that all terms contained in it are translated according to its guidelines, even if those guidelines contradict the CRITI termbase or domain conventions. If you believe a translation in the termbase is in error, please contact your project manager for clarification.
  • Terms in the CRITI termbase. If the CRITI termbase defines a term, please ensure that you use a translation provided by the termbase and marked as accepted. Do not use terms marked as unacceptable or create other translations than those provided in the termbase.
  • Domain terminology. Very often you will encounter terms that are not defined in any termbase to which you have access. In such cases, use your knowledge of the domain to provide a correct and consistent translation. You should also submit the term to the CRITI termbase for inclusion in future updates to the termbase.

Titles, personal

Do translate titles such as ‘Mr’, ‘Dr’, or ‘Prof’ in running text to the appropriate equivalent title (e.g., ‘Dhr van der Waals’ would be rendered as ‘Mr van der Waals’ in English). However, if a title is used in a postal address, please leave it untranslated. If there is no equivalent title, you may leave the untranslated title in the text unless it would result in confusion (e.g., the same written title appears in the target language with a different meaning).

Toggle This