By GeaSpeak Team | 2022-09-27

What are they?

Tags are pieces of information that describe the data or content that they are assigned to. They are typically used in CAT tools to indicate the portions of a text that have different formatting (such as distinct fonts, font sizes, or font colors) and they are also used as placeholders. They are important because they help translators and editors guarantee that the layout and formatting of the source text is preserved in the target text.

Types of Tags

There are two main types:

Formatting Tags

They correspond to text formats such as bold, italic, superscript, subscript, non-breaking space, among others. Most of them are paired tags, that is, for each opening tag, there should be a matching closing tag. Both affect the content between them. However, some of them are individual, as is the case of line break and non-breaking space tags.

Placeholder Tags

They are replaced by specific elements (such as dates, email addresses, phone numbers, etc). In contrast with formatting tags, they always work individually, i.e., there are no opening or closing tags.

In the following images, there are some examples of tags from different CAT tools:

XTM Tags
Xliff Editor Tags
Wordfast Tags

Potential Issues with Tags and How to Solve Them


Different CAT tools offer the possibility to hide or show tags in different formats (with a number or with more detailed information of the type of tag). Some CAT tools show tags with a default format that cannot be changed, even though sometimes they show information about their content or the type of format they represent when hovering over the tag. However, other tools, such as SDL Trados Studio, give us the possibility to select how to see them and even let us hide them.

Moreover, when working with tags it is crucial to consult the source text in order to be aware of the content and format of the text that is being translated. It is not advisable to hide tags, since doing so can bring about formatting problems or difficulties with the correct processing of the bilingual files due to missing tags that were omitted because they were not visible.

How to enable tags in SDL Trados:

  • Go to View tab > Options group and select a Tag Display Mode.

In SDL Trados Studio, tags can be selected in the following formats:

  • No Tag Text
  • Tag ID
  • Partial Tag Text
  • Full Tag Text

It is important that the same tags in the source segment are present in the target segment, in order to avoid mismatches when running QA (Quality Assurance) tools such as Xbench or other QA features built-in in CAT tools. If a segment contains numerous tags, one simple way to ensure that all of them are included in the target is by using the “Copy source” feature and then overwriting only the English text with the related translation.

Some exceptions (regarding their presence and position)

  • According to the type of file, some symbols or punctuation marks, namely dashes (-), ampersands (&) and apostrophes (’) can appear as tags. In cases like this, it is important to eliminate the tag from the translation segment if such symbols or punctuation marks are not used in the target language. Otherwise, they will appear in the final translated file. In Spanish, for example, instead of using dashes, we would generally include colons or semicolons; instead of the ampersand, we would write “y”; and we wouldn’t use the apostrophe as it doesn’t exist, unless it is part of a proper noun in English.
  • As regards placeholders, it may be necessary to change their arrangement as the order of words in English and Spanish (or any other target language) may be different.

Two key issues with placeholders

When translating, it is also key to consider the element that the placeholder will be replaced with, so as to avoid gender or number agreement mistakes or errors with the order of the structure:

  • Gender or Number Agreement Example: “<patient_name> is sick.” In languages like Spanish we need to know the patient name to see if the adjective should be masculine or feminine: “está enfermo/a.”
  • Word Order Example: “<company_name> <department_name> is taking care of the problem.” If for this sentence placeholders are displayed like this: “<62> <63> is taking care of the problem,” in languages like Spanish or Portuguese, we need to invert the structure, as we need to mention the department name first and then the company name. Also, in Spanish we need to add a preposition between the department and company names, i.e., between the tags, so that it would read: “<63> de <62> se está ocupando del problema.”