The Knowledge of the Translator

Using Tags in Translation and the Function of Tags

What Are Tags in CAT Tools? How to Use Tags During Translation?

We live in a time when technology has developed unimaginably, and, with this development, it offers more efficient features to humanity every day. Recognizing and using programs and software are crucial to benefit from the opportunities offered by technology and to get the most out of the features it provides.

Revolutions in technology have played critical roles in the current formation of the translation industry, giving it a structure that can deliver to the translation sector faster and more accurate results. Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) tools significantly increased speed, accuracy, and consistency in the translation sector.

In this article, we answer questions such as what a tag is, what tags are used for, and how tags are used in CAT tools. Just one of the many useful features that CAT tools offer is tags, which can be used in many different ways and for different purposes. Since the text uploaded to a CAT Tool was previously created in a different text editing tool such as Microsoft Word, the stylistic properties used in text (i.e. bold or italic font) are imported into CAT Tools with the help of the tags.

How to Preserve the Layout of the Translation?

Preserving the formal features of the source text is as important for professional translation as preserving the meaning and style in the source text. With CAT Tools, translators can fully translate format-related features in the source text into the target text.


The elements we consider as tags are essentially HTML entities. These HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) entities are the foundation of text used today.

Tag Examples from Translation Projects

Translators often encounter these entities because translation work relates to texts. This makes it easier for them to know what they do and what they mean. Tags can be used in pairs, start and end tags, or as a single tag. Additionally, the tags that appear in CAT Tools have different appearances and functions. For example, the text  tag pair shows functions to make text bold. The  tag, an abbreviation for “Trademark” and is the superscript for the TM symbol, is an example of a single tag. Click here to see other frequently used tags.

If the tags used in the source text are not found in the target text, deficiencies and differences may appear. In a target text, it would be a mistake if, for instance, “Company Name” is written instead of “Company NameTM”. Using source tags is crucial for the delivery of a complete translation.


The above paragraphs described how important the use of tags is and what can happen if they are not used. Although not very common, there are certain situations when targets should not be used. This is often caused by the language pair used in translation and the fact that these languages have different rules.

For example: The tag ' is used in the sentence “I was in an accident with my father's car.” instead of a single quotation mark. Using this tag will produce an incorrect translation, because the quotation marks are not used in the Turkish translation of the sentence: “Babamın arabasıyla kaza yaptım.”

Important information: As in this example, if you don’t use the tag in the source in target, it is marked as an error in Quality Assurance (QA) Tools such as XBench or Verifika. But don’t worry, because not using the quotation mark label, which QA tools here view as an error, doesn’t cause a real error and can be ignored.


Tags to preserve the format of the source text and reflect it fully in the translation can have various views in different CAT Tools and different display settings. Programs frequently used today include SDL Trados, memoQ, Memsource, Across, Idiom and SDL Passolo. These programs differ in their general appearances, themes, color schemes, shortcuts, settings, sequences, patterns, segmentation differences, and the appearance of tags. Tags in some CAT tools clearly show HTML code, while others, such as Memsource, only show numbers. The user can set the appearance of tags in a text in many CAT Tools.

By practicing implementing this information in translations, a translator can quickly understand their correct uses after gaining sufficient theoretical knowledge. The translator should identify the CAT tool that he or she uses most frequently and in which he or she understand how to use tags. Once you understand the functionality and logic of the tags in one tool, it becomes easy to figure out how to use tags in other CAT tools, because the function and logic of the tags are fundamentally the same.


How to Insert Tags During Translation?

Previous sections of this article highlighted the importance of accurately and completely transferring tags from the source to the target. In the rapidly changing and evolving translation industry, it more important than ever to quickly deliver accurate translations. It is necessary to use the shortcuts available in CAT tools to not waste time translating. Since all shortcuts are the subject of a separate article, here we will only define shortcuts to use while working with tags.

In the first method, you can simultaneously hold the  CTRL and Insert keys—for SDL Trados—before you start translating and paste the tags from the source text into the target text. You can then translate the pasted text without deleting tags.

In the second method, after translating the target segment, you can place the cursor where you want to insert the tag in the target text and click the label in the source text while simultaneously holding down the CTRL key. After this action, the selected tag is copied to the position of the cursor in the target text.

Also, if you want to copy a tag pair to the target, select the text you want to keep between the tag pair in the target and double-click on the tag pair you want to copy. This allows you to insert a tag pair where it should be in the target text.


Watch Out for Spacing Errors!

Tags are essential for accurate and fast translations. However, they can lead to unexpected errors in translation in case of carelessness. Tags are applied to the translation as mentioned in the shortcuts section, ensuring that the tags are accurately placed in the target text. However, avoid double spaces in the target text while doing this.

As tags have a separate structure from normal text, they can lead to distraction within the text. The most important and first thing to know here is: Tags do not represent a space, unless it is a “space tag” (a tag that is a “non-breaking space” and contains  ). As a result, if there are no spaces before or after the tags, the words merge with no spaces in between. Similarly, if a space is inserted before or after the space tag, two spaces will be left where an extra space was added. These create spacing issues in translations. You must reference the source text and follow the grammar rules of the target text while spacing.

In addition, the tag
 creates a line break and is an empty label. It does not represent a space, but the target text moves to the next line where this tag is placed, generally leaving no spaces to either side of this tag.

Where to Insert Tags

We discussed how to transfer tags from the source text into the target, the different methods we can use to do this, and the various errors that may occur. Now it’s time to determine where to place tags in the target text. The degree of difficulty in using tags may vary based on the language pair for translations. For example, because syntax is extremely similar between English and German, the locations of tags on the source and target are very similar in translations with this language pair. But a translation from English to Turkish may be different.

For example: When the sentence “I always believed that this little kid had something special' is translated into Turkish as “Bu ufaklıkta özel bir şeyler olduğuna daima inandım.” the tags at the beginning of the English sentence would be inserted into the last part of the Turkish translation. There is no problem, as in this case, when there is only one tag. However, you may get more confused as the number of tags increases.

Another issue to be considered in the example above is whether the tag relies on a particular word or phrase and its changing location. The location of tags that do not depend on a particular word and fundamentally determine the structural characteristics of the sentence should be at the same places in the source and target texts.

For example: The sentence “To break lines
in a text,
use the br element.” will appear as follows after being translated as “Bir metni
satırlara ayırmak için
br öğesini kullanın”:
“Bir metni
satırlara ayırmak için
br öğesini kullanın.”

The location of the tags in the source should be considered during translating in such cases. Since this tag opens a new line, there are no spaces before or after the tags. No spaces are inserted before or after a new line tag, just as no spaces are inserted at the end of a segment when moving from one segment to another.

As mentioned above, knowing how to use tags plays a key role in translating quickly and accurately. There would be big problems between you and your client, because the target text wouldn't appear as in the source text due to the misplacement or absence of tags. All translators today who wish to get the most out of the advantages of technology should learn how best to utilize tag and shortcuts and apply them to their translations.

Written By: M. Furkan Şahin

Date of Publication: 01/13/2020

Target Audience: All Translators, Students in the Department of Translation Studies, Beginners in Translation, Translators Looking for Ways to Improve Themselves

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