Everything has meaning. A statement like this can be true – at least to an extent. In terms of written communication and especially in English, formatting, vocabulary, and structure can determine the tone and sentiment of the message as well as what audience we are trying to communicate with; however, what works in English doesn’t necessarily work in other languages. The marketing ground is strewn with disastrous results of ideas that did not correctly communicate from English, but today’s often overlooked word seeks to fix that.
Typesetting, in its most basic form, can simply be defined as the formatting and positioning of text on a page, first appearing in Soloman Franklin Smith’s The Theatrical Apprenticeship in 1846, which states: “She..would then dismiss us to our type-setting.” The word itself is a combination of type, from the Greek typos, meaning ‘ blow, dent, impression, mark,’ which was initially used for the letter blocks used in printing (1713) but was later applied to the printed characters themselves (1785), and the verbal noun of set, which comes from the Old English settan, meaning ‘cause to sit, put in some place, etc.,’ and was first utilized in the sense of situational placement circa 950 in The Lindisfarne Gospels, where Matthew 5:14 notes: “Ofer mor geseted, supra monte posita.” (“a town set upon a hill”).
In practice, typesetting – though an integral part of translating marketing materials – is more than just changing the language and copy-pasting the result: it’s an attempt to assure that the language as well as the messages translates as clearly as possible. Though we’re a far way off from Gutenberg simply changing the blocks in his printing press, there are a number of different cultural and linguistic aspects to consider, such as:
– Fonts: Arial and Times New Roman are what we’re most accustomed to in English, but which font works best in your target area for your specific message?
– Graphics: Needless to say, different colours and images don’t translate well, which is why you’ll see the colour red in Chinese advertising, but never black.
– Formatting: In languages which read right-to-left (such as Hebrew and Arabic) or languages which don’t have breaks between words (such as Thai), how do you know where to break for another line without confusing your message?
– Layout: Compared to English, translated text typically expands or contracts, which is fine, unless you’re in a country which prefers aligned text (China) or a country where certain characters shouldn’t be used to start or end a line of text (Japan).
With translation, saying the right thing is important; however, not “arranging” it in the best possible way – by using typesetting – can be costly.