The devil is in the details. Part I: lists

How do you translate a list of country names like the one below into French?

Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Spain

Seems simple enough, right? You just translate each word and boom, you’re done. 

Well, yes and no. If you did just that, you would then get the following list:

Belgique, Allemagne, Pays-Bas, Espagne

This list is perfectly fine but notice how the original one was ordered alphabetically. That order has changed now because the countries’ names’ start with different letters when translated: “Spain” becomes “Espagne” and “Germany” becomes “Allemagne”. The countries move in the alphabetical order.

That’s precisely the kind of little details that I love sneaking into my translations. Whenever possible (i.e. when technically feasible), when I encounter these types of lists, I’ll always rebuild the original alphabetical order. So my list would be as follows. 

Allemagne, Belgique, Espagne, Pays-Bas

Not a substantial change but the thing is much more readable to a French speaker. Now, imagine if the list is some kind of an index: people would have an easier time finding what they are searching for. That’s a detail, but a powerful one.