When translating something, how do you maintain a consistent style throughout? I'm concerned about starting off in my own style, then gradually slipping into a style more influenced by the original. I'm not trying to be faithful to the original style because I'm changing it from an anachronistic historical style to a more accessible modern one.

I mean style as it's defined here:

Style is the particular manner of writing individual to an author, the unique way an author puts his words together.

4 Answers 4


I've never translated anything longer than a paragraph, but I have had to produce extended pieces of writing in a consistent style. Here are my suggestions:

  • Rather than starting at the beginning of the original and steadily translating page by page until you reach the end, do the translation out of sequence. E.g. if the original has twenty chapters, translate chapter 13, then chapter 4, then chapter 9, then chapter 18, and so on.

  • When the first draft is complete, read it as a whole and revise it for consistency. If you are not working to a tight deadline take some time off before you do this to allow yourself to "step back" and see it as an outsider would.

  • if circumstances permit, get someone else to read the revised version and ask them to comment on whether the style holds together, as well as on any other potential improvements.

These suggestions can apply to any piece of writing, not just a translation.


In my opinion the true kernel of one and every translation is to deliver original author's idea by using your own unique style and signature. All the translations of original works to Russian I've ever seen carried some sort of original rework and refinement to make author's idea clearer to reader, to bring those emotions, thoughts and feelings author (or characters of his book) described and experienced.

This is not an easy task for sure. Many books were written in ancient times in a very complex and sophisticated language, many of them describe events, people and appearances that are not obvious to current people and in some cases neither they were to the contemporaries.

They need to be adapted and should be adapted.

And they are often adapted by historians and scientists like it supposed to do, by the people who know the epoch and who can translate those circumstances to the modern language. The perfect example is 1984 by George Orwell. Though it is a dystopia, it perfectly describes after-war state of minds and Cold War espionage mania and suspicion among people. For non-English natives it had required a fair piece of effort to translate all those Newspeak figures he used in this book.

Naturally translation of fiction literature should not be literal and it is wonderful.


There's never anything wrong with breaking convention if there's a purpose and if you are precise. However, on that note, there is an enormous volume of research that has been done on translation. Linguists have created very clear styles and people are quite accustomed to them. If you did create a new style, it would beget the question as to whether the style is more important than the content that you are writing about.

  • Are you talking about translation styles like idiomatic or literal? That is not the kind of style I'm asking about. Jul 1, 2016 at 8:38
  • I was being quite literal. What do you mean by translation style in your question? Jul 1, 2016 at 9:08
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    What do you mean by translation style in your question? so why do you answer the question if you didn't understand its idea? Linguists don't create styles, they can only research them
    – Suncatcher
    May 5, 2020 at 20:36

I just finished translating my first book.

I've noticed that when I reach easier passages that use simple sentence structure, I tend to write fluently in my own style. I'm also not terribly interested in preserving the author's style. When I reread these easier chapters, it sounds like my own writing. I could probably pass it off as my own original work if I wanted.

But when I reach more difficult passages that use technical vocabulary and detailed descriptions, my writing becomes stilted. It no longer reads like my own writing.

Moreover, my translation abilities have improved over the course of this project, being that this is the first time I have translated anything of this magnitude. After I went back to reread earlier chapters, I noticed that some passages weren't translated properly (I could tell just from reading my English translation. I know myself very well. I know what I sound like when I'm making something up. When I saw my "BS voice" in the translation, I knew to go back and retranslate).

Fortunately, because I had marked the original page numbers in my translation, this made it pretty easy to go back and referencing the original.

Once I had finished translating the entire book, it was time for my second draft. (That's what I'm working on now.)

Do NOT just open it up with a word processor and fix words. If you do this, the style will be preserved. The easy-to-translate passages will still be fluid, and the hard-to-translate ones will still be stilted.

Instead, open your first draft in one window and have a blank document in another window. Rewrite the entire book.

I've found that my second draft is, essentially, translating Bad English into Good English. But this time, make sure to "translate" it paragraph by paragraph, not sentence by sentence. Note that I have a lot of liberties in my translation.

For some very technical chapters, I need to study the original in depth and take notes. Then, I put everything away and just write from my notes. I don't care about sentences and paragraphs. I just care about conveying the content. Then, once I've finished, I compare it to the original to double check.

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