Translating the table of contents in a Word document

Ever wondered what is the most efficient way to translate the tables of contents in your Word documents? Here’s an explanation about what this process is about and how to carry it out.

Table of contents and heading styles

Tables of contents (aka ToC for short) in Word might be typed, formatted and indented manually, but most often they are generated automatically based on heading styles. This kind of ToC can be easily updated when any headings are modified or displaced, and it allows easy navigation through the document as each element is a hyperlink to its corresponding section. Applying styles to your document is highly recommended because, among other advantages (like standardizing format), it allows to generate and maintain a table of contents very easily. 

If you don’t know how to do that, here’s a couple of tutorials: Create a table of contents automatically (from Microsoft website) and Microsoft Word – Heading Styles And Table Of Contents (a video from YouTube).

So we have a Word document that contains a style-based table of contents. When you (or the author) inserted the ToC, Word didn’t really insert the text that you see, but just some code that tells Word that the text from the headings must be virtually replicated in the ToC. So each piece of text is not really there, but it’s taken from the document headings. If any modification is made to the headings, the table of contents can be quickly updated via the appropriate menu or by right-clicking on the ToC.

Importing a document with a table of contents in Transit NXT

Knowing that headings are virtually replicated in the ToC helps you understand why you might not have segments for the lines of the table of contents when you import the document in Transit NXT, but just some non-translatable code marking the point of insertion you selected for the ToC. If you see the text from the ToC in your language pairs in Transit, that means that it was created manually, in which case it cannot be updated when headings are modified (and translation is understood here as a deep modification!).

If for any reason styles are removed from some or all headings after the table of contents is created, the link between headings and ToC will be lost and it won’t be possible to update it (or, it will, but it will only include headings that have styles, if any). That means that it might not be possible to generate the ToC in the translated target document. Therefore, before importing it’s advisable to check that the ToC is updatable and that an update won’t affect its integrity.

Translation of the table of contents

The basic idea is that the table of contents is not to be translated as such (not directly at least). Once the translation of the document is complete, the translated headings should be used to generate a translated version of the table of contents.

Exporting the target document and restoring the table of contents

When you open the exported target document, you might not see the table of contents right away. However, it hasn’t been removed, it’s still there but it needs to be updated. When you udpate it as instructed in the abovementioned article, the text from the translated headings will be retrieved and used to generate the translated version of the table of contents.

Thanks for reading, and please do not hesitate to send your comments or questions or to ask for specific tooltips that address your specific doubts.

Special thanks to Karen Ellis for reviewing this post.


About Michael Scholand

GILT professional with over 15 years experience in technical translation, business software and games localization. CEO and founder of STAR Servicios Lingüísticos. CAT tools and Translation Management Systems expert.
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