Guidelines for Translators

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Joel's style of writing is very colloquial. Sometimes it is not grammatical. This is intentional; his goal is to create the feeling of listening to someone speak, not reading something from a book.

This style often sounds terrible in certain languages, such as German or Arabic, where writing is expected to be far more formal than written speech.

In general the policy for these translations is to capture as much as possible of the feeling of the original article without sacrificing the quality of the final translated article.

Sometimes Joel uses a very long run-on sentence, which in English conveys the impression of breathlessness, like he's a little bit crazy, going on and on about something. This is intentional!


Many jokes don't work well when translated. In this case it's better just to leave out the joke. Don't put a footnote that says, "This was funny in English." Nobody cares :)

If you can provide a slightly different joke that works very well in your language, go ahead and do so.

Cultural References

Sometimes it makes sense to translate a cultural reference to one that makes more sense. For example, in Italian we changed the CEO's hobby from playing golf to sailing in his yacht, in the British English version we changed it to playing croquet.


In Joel's writing, there are a lot of hyperlinks which go to another one of his articles.

In this case, if there is already a translation of the linked article, link to the translation. If there isn't, make a wiki placeholder that contains a link back to the original English article on Joel on Software.

Funny Links

Sometimes you'll find links that are intended to tell a joke. If you can translate those somehow, all the better; if you can't, that's OK, it probably wasn't funny!

Please Link Back

Please include a link to the original English article in every translation.


In Spanish, use neutral translations as much as possible. If you see a translation that is not understood in Latin America and Spain, either replace it with something universal, or provide an alternate translation in parentheses.

Flemish dialect that is not understood in Holland should be avoided if possible, but it's ok to use a Flemish colloquial phrase if most Netherlanders would be expected to understand it.

French should be French French, not Canadian or Swiss, since the French French are more uppity about things like this!

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