Top 10 Tips for Microsoft Translation into French

Are you helping with translation into French, but don't have time to study all aspects of the French Style Guide? Here are ten of the most important aspects to keep in mind.

1. Microsoft voice

  • Write short, easy-to-read sentences. The general style should be clear, friendly, and concise.
  • Avoid the passive voice.
  • Avoid slang and be careful with colloquialisms; you can connect with customers, but be professional in doing so.
  • Write naturally: the reader should feel that the text was written in French rather than a translation, so feel free to rewrite. You should convey the exact message, but in such a way it sounds familiar to the French reader.
  • When addressing users, use only the masculine form.


English: You are connected to the internet.

Our style: Vous êtes connecté à Internet.

2. Punctuation

  • Use curly apostrophes (Alt + 146), unless instructed otherwise.
  • Use French quotation marks (« », Alt + 174 and Alt + 175), unless instructed otherwise.
  • Don't use semicolons. Two shorter sentences are better and easier to read.
  • Don't use exclamation points just because they appear in the source. Use stronger words.
  • As with exclamation points, use question marks judiciously.
  • Use colons to introduce lists and explanations. You may use a colon at the end of an introductory phrase even if it's not a complete sentence. Don't use a colon to introduce only one idea (unless it's a quotation or an explanation).
  • Don't overuse capital letters, even if they're used in the English text.


English: How to Create a File

Our style: Création d'un fichier

  • In French, it's recommended to replace the dash (–) with a period, comma, or parentheses when the dash is used to emphasize something or introduce a nonessential element.


English: Each table in your database should store facts about a single subject—about customers, for example, or products.

Our style: Chacune des tables de votre base de données devrait se limiter à un seul sujet, tel que clients ou produits, par exemple.

3. Nonbreaking spaces

Remember that in French, a nonbreaking space is required before the following punctuation: ; ! : ?.

Also use nonbreaking spaces in the following instances:

  • Between _chapitre_ or annexe and its number or letter
  • As a thousand separator
  • Between a unit of measure or currency and the number that goes with it
  • Between any items that should not be divided onto separate lines
  • Before the percent (%) sign

4. Numbers

The general rule for French is to spell out cardinal numbers from zero to nine unless we are expressing numbers as numbers.


Our style: La mise à niveau vers la version 10.1 prendra cinq à dix minutes.

Our style: Le temps de chargement est estimé à 11 secondes.

5. Acronyms

Write acronyms in capital letters. When an acronym is plural, don't include an -s at the end. When the acronym is localized, it takes the gender of the first substantive.

English Our style
DTP la PAO (Publication assistée par ordinateur)
DBMS le SGBD (Système de gestion de base de données)

When the acronym isn't localized, on the first occurrence, write its full name in French in normal style. After this, place the acronym and the spelled-out English term in italics, in parentheses.


Our style: Si cette application gère l´échange dynamique de données (DDE, Dynamic Data Exchange) ou la liaison et l´incorporation d´objets (OLE, Object Linking and Embedding), vous pouvez également y coller avec liaison un document graphique. Les abonnements et le DDE ne sont disponibles que si vous utilisez la version 7.0.

6. Verbs

Simple tenses are used. The easiest tense to understand is the simple present. Avoid future tense unless you're describing something that will really happen in the future and the simple present tense is inapplicable. Use simple past tense when you describe events that have already happened.

Use simple past tense (passé composé) when you describe events that already happened, and use complex tenses (for example, plus-que-parfait or futur antérieur) only when required by basic grammar rules.

Avoid using tenses that can sound too formal, such as passé simple and past subjunctive tenses. Subjunctive constructions in French are quite complicated. Avoid using them as much as possible. Use the active voice and the indicative or imperative mood instead. Use verb tenses you would use in normal conversation, while still applying the basic rules of concordance des temps.

7. Possessive adjectives

English uses possessives frequently. However, in French, possessive adjectives have to be avoided whenever possible. The definite forms are preferred.


English: Contact your administrator.

Our style: Contactez l'administrateur.

8. Bulleted lists

If the bulleted items are complete sentences, each begins with a capital letter and ends with a period.

Example 1

Our style: Vous pouvez obtenir plus d´informations dans les chapitres suivants de cette deuxième partie.

  • Le chapitre 6 traite des lettres types.
  • Le chapitre 7 traite des étiquettes et autres documents à fusionner.

If the bulleted items continue an introductory phrase, each begins with a capital and ends with no final punctuation.

Example 2

Our style: Vous avez le choix entre les options suivantes:

  • Alignement contre la marge gauche
  • Alignement contre la marge droite
  • Centrage entre les deux marges

Example 3

Our style: Avant d'ouvrir un autre fichier, vous pouvez:

  • Enregistrer le premier fichier et le fermer
  • Fermer le premier fichier sans l'enregistrer
  • Ne pas fermer le premier fichier

Also, consistency should always be maintained among bulleted items in a given list: please use only nouns (see Example 2), only infinitives (see Example 3), only sentences (see Example 1), and so on, whether the English text is consistent or not.

9. Application, product, and feature names

The names of applications and products are often trademarked or may be trademarked in the future and are therefore rarely translated. Occasionally, feature names are trademarked, too. Before translating any application, product, or feature name, please verify that it is in fact translatable and not protected in any way. This information needs to be obtained from the Microsoft team.

Keep the period (don't replace it with a comma) when translating the version number of a feature or product.


English: Version 11.1

Our style: Version 11.1

10. Reference material

There is more, of course. If you have questions, consult the terminology, translation, and full French Style Guide. You can use these dictionaries when in doubt:

  • Le Trésor de la Langue Française Informatisé (
  • Le Petit Robert, ROBERT, Paul, Paris : Dictionnaire Le Robert
  • Le Petit Larousse, Éditions Larousse
  • Le bon usage, GREVISSE, Maurice, Paris-Gembloux : Duculot