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Style guidelines and principles

This document provides generic style guidelines for Sailfish OS. The target audience for this documentation is everyone translating Sailfish OS-related material. The goal is to create contemporary translations that provide a high-quality user experience.

Sailfish OS audience and target group for the translations is young, active users accustomed to social media and therefore its language.

The scope of this style guide is limited to issues that are often problematic when translating texts. For general guidelines on correct Finnish usage, you may consult the following resources, among others:

Basics of good writing style

  • Write in a personal style, engaging and involving the user.
  • Use active style and present tense. Use imperatives and talk to the user.
  • Make sure the text is consistent and clear and correct in grammar and spelling.
  • Write in short sentences.
  • Use a positive tone, avoid negative expressions.
  • Avoid ambiguity. Make sure that pronouns point clearly to the relevant nouns, and avoid long strings of modifiers or nouns.

Remember we are sailing on a jolly boat. Have fun! Play with the language. Be innovative and guide the readers onto a journey. Do not attempt to use humor, but use fresh and fun tone where it naturally fits. Remember that the most important part is delivering a clear message.

Note that in technical writing, descriptions and instructions should not include text that is written from a marketing point of view.

Language and culture

Because our communication is targeted to international use and part of it will be translated, try to keep the language culturally unambiguous, be careful of religious references, and avoid using idiomatic expressions or slang. The key aspects are clarity and simplicity. Consider these targets when adapting the jolly tone to the texts. In software UI translations: Respect the source text, but do not create word for word translations. Take the context into account when translating.



Please try to be informal if that feels natural in your language. Avoid mentioning pronouns.

Keep addressing consistent: e.g. if a paragraph was started using the second person, retain it throughout all its sentences (as opposed to switching to third person or neutral mood).


Use gender-neutral or all-inclusive terms to refer to human beings, rather than terms that include man, woman, and similar masculine and feminine terms.

For example:

  • Correct: ystävä
  • Incorrect: ystävätär


Use the present tense for any present or future events. For past events, use the imperfect tense if the text simply states what has happened, and the perfect tense, if the event is looked at from the perspective of its relevance to the present.

For example: Toiminto epäonnistui (simple statement of fact) but Tiedosto on tallennettu (implies that you can now go and open it whenever you need it).


Whenever possible, use the active voice. Keep the message clear and the sentences short.

Remember that the Finnish passive implies a human actor, so it should be avoided when referring to the actions of non-human actors when possible and practical. Do not mechanically translate English passive verbs as passive in Finnish. For example:

  • Correct: Tallenna yhteystiedot osoitekirjaan
  • Incorrect: Yhteystiedot tallennetaan osoitekirjaan


Use the imperative form.

For example:

  • Correct: Siirry Asetuksiin
  • Incorrect: Käyttäjä siirtyy Asetuksiin


Capitalise application names and company names.

In the UI, start the first word with a capital letter.

Respect capitalisation rules of the language in question.

Alternative word forms

If a word has several alternative variants of an inflected form, use the shortest variant. For example:

  • Correct: palveluja, palvelujen
  • Incorrect: palveluita, palveluiden
  • Correct: puheluja, puhelujen
  • Incorrect: puheluita, puheluiden

Use the short nominal forms of verbs instead of the -minen forms:

  • Correct: tallennus
  • Incorrect: tallentaminen

User Interface menu items are named using verbs.

Empty states in the UI

User Interface empty states are typically written in the 2-sentence form, using verbs and active tone and, where possible, guiding the user towards the next possible steps to take. Keep sentences short and content informative. Where possible, guide user to reflect the good sides of an application or service (like referring to friends instead of contacts in the People app). For example:
(tell the situation, what items are missing) (point user to next actions)
No contacts yet. Pull down to add your friends.

App covers (that are shown in the Home) for empty states aim to be short informative messages. Length is typically two words.


End punctuation

In UI strings, do not use a full stop at the end of a sentence if there’s only one sentence. If there are two or more sentences, use full stops normally.

If the segment ends with the colon or ellipsis, the translation should follow the source.


In technical writing, use common abbreviations. Do not use Latin abbreviations.

In the UI, use common abbreviations, including Latin abbreviations. Make sure text clarity does not suffer. If in doubt, do not use an abbreviation.

Do not use a full stop in or after acronyms or initialisms, e.g.:

  • Correct: WLAN
  • Incorrect: W.L.A.N.

Do not use a full stop with unit (measurement) symbols, e.g.:

  • Correct: kg
  • Incorrect: kg.

Use a full stop with Latin abbreviations, e.g.:

  • Correct: e.g., ca., etc.
  • Incorrect: eg, ca, etc

Avoid abbreviations such as esim. and jne. Write words out when possible.

Add case endings to abbreviations as appropriate. Use a colon when an acronym is read as a series of letters instead of as a word, or when the abbreviation does not contain the last letter of the word:

  • WLANin (read as “veelanin”)
  • **** (read as “äf tee peen”)
  • cm:n


Do not use contractions (e.g. aren’t, should’ve) in technical writing.

In the UI, contractions can be used when needed if the space is limited. Make sure that information given to the user is not lost because of such shortcuts.

Before using a contraction, try to rephrase the text so that contraction can be avoided. Omit words that are not essential for delivering the message clearly. If contracting cannot be avoided, minimize the number of words contracted. It is better to contract one word more than to contract several words a little.


  • Correct: Ei verkkoyhteyttä. Yritä kohta uudelleen.
  • Incorrect: Verkkoyht. ei ole. Yritä hetken kul. uud.


Leave a space before the hyphen in compound words with many parts. Also, the hyphen should be a non-breaking hyphen \u2011 instead of an ordinary hyphen. E.g.:

  • Correct: vain luku \u2011tiedosto
  • Incorrect: vain luku-tiedosto or vain luku -tiedosto

Do not use an ordinary hyphen if you need to hyphenate a word because it does not fit on one line. Always use the soft hyphen \u00AD for this.


Do not create plurals with parentheses. Consult translation tool user guide for handling the plurals.


In a series, do not use a comma before a conjunction:

  • Correct: Luo uusi, muokkaa ja poista
  • Incorrect: Luo uusi, muokkaa, ja poista.

Use a semicolon to separate items in a series when one or more items have internal punctuation.

Quotation marks

Respect language’s quotation rules. A comprehensive list of marks can be found here:


In technical writing, write lists with bullets.

In the UI, write lists without bullets or colons.


In technical writing, create structured, consistent and accurate headings. Consider verb structures in headings.

Text modules

In technical writing, make sure each module can be read independently, containing all the needed information so that modules do not need to be read in any certain order.


In technical writing, when describing procedures, make sure to describe the steps clearly with only one task per step. Describe the expected results of those steps.



Write numbers as digits, including numbers below 10.

For example:

  • Correct: 1 viesti tullut
  • Incorrect: Yksi viesti tullut


Use numerals for measurements.

Use a space between the numeral and the unit, except with degree and percentage sign. E.g.:

  • Correct: 5 cm, 20°, 20 °C
  • Incorrect: 5cm, 20 °, 20°C


Sailfish OS has a separate Terminology project to maintain consistency. Use that approved terminology when available.

Company names

Do not translate company names unless there is an official, translated name available.

Product names and trademarks

Do not translate product names or trademarks.

Warnings, cautions, and notes are legal texts that need to be confirmed with legal department. In case of legal texts, follow the instructions carefully and ask for more information if needed.


When finalising translations for the UI, check the following:

  • Everything has been translated to your best knowledge.
  • Spell check is done.
  • Check consistency with the other translations done for the language.
  • Ensure correct Sailfish OS terminology is used. If needed, propose new term entries.
  • Confirm legal texts are consistent with the source.
  • Company and product names, trademarks, symbols, and measurements have not been hyphenated.
  • Ensure regional formats are retained, such as date, time, numeric and quotation literals.

When finalising texts for the technical writing, check these points as well:

  • Titles and headings are structured and accurate.
  • Language is clear and consistent.
  • Sentences vary in length and have a clear form.