Style Guide Xhosa (xh)


This style guide is intended for translators working on isiXhosa Mozilla projects. It provides in-depth information about the quality standards expected by Mozilla for the translation of all product components. All translators should read this guide before commencing any translation work.

This guide addresses general translation issues and specifies certain rules of style and usage specific to your language. It should be used as a guideline to avoid common typographic errors, and to maintain consistent terminology and writing style across a project’s components and indeed a product range. The guide should be used in conjunction with the current and previous product-specific glossaries, glossaries of other products of a product range, and the industry standard platform-specific glossaries, such as those provided by Microsoft.

This document may be updated or completed in the course of translation. Where no specific instruction or recommendation is specified, translators should use the phrasing and style that comply with industry standards.

General Style Considerations

Style guidelines

Follow these basic rules:

Original American English text tends to be rather casual. For isiXhosa you must adapt your text to the expected audience. It is important to keep sentences as concise and close to the original meaning as possible.

Try to avoid long, nested sentence constructions. If necessary, break up the original sentence and regroup it syntactically.

Use wording that is succinct, unambiguous, and free of jargon.

Produce a translation that sounds as it if was originally written in your language, i.e. avoid following the original source sentence structure too closely.

Always bear in mind who your target audience is (i.e. an experienced computer user, a beginner, or a combination of both groups).

Use a consistent style throughout all product components and across a product range, to ensure that all isiXhosa Mozilla products can be linguistically identified as part of a group of products.

Style guidelines specific to Mozilla products

Please refer to the reference documentation supplied by Mozilla and any this style guides and make a note of anything significant and specific that should be noted with respect to Mozilla.

Reference terminology

The following terminology sources should be used as reference in the translation:

Product-specific glossary, to ensure consistency across all product components.

Previous version product-specific glossary, to ensure consistency between versions.

Glossaries of other Mozilla products, to ensure cross-product consistency.

Microsoft / Apple glossaries, to ensure adherence to the industry standards. It is your responsibility to make sure that you always have the latest Microsoft and Apple glossaries at your disposal. The glossaries can be found at: and

Terminology not found in the glossary or style guide

Please make a log of any terms not found in the glossary or style guide that are used frequently in the materials. Return this log to Rubric so that the terms can be incorporated into the glossary. This increases consistency in large projects.


Common Abbreviations

You might need to abbreviate some words in the UI (mainly buttons or options names) due to lack of space. This can be done in the following ways:

It should be noted that isiXhosa does not frequently use abbreviations and acronyms and consequently there are very few abbreviations and no acronyms found in isiXhosa. In most cases, isiXhosa applies English abbreviations as in the following examples: i-XNLU (isiXhosa National Language Body), i-ANC (African National Congress).

The few common abbreviations in isiXhosa include the following examples:

Njlnjl). (njalonjalo meaning and so on),

okt. (oko kukuthi meaning that is).

The Greater Dictionary of isiXhosa, Vol 3, (pages xxiv – xxv) contains a list of abbreviations. Although these abbreviations were created for purposes of the dictionary, they are widely accepted and are used in any relevant context.

The following table lists common isiXhosa expressions and their associated, acceptable abbreviations.

Expression Acceptable Abbreviation
Mnumzana (+) Mnu.
Umzekelo (for example) (+) umz.
Njalonjalo (and so on) (+) (njlnjl).
Oko kukuthi (that is) (+) okt.
Njingalwazi (Professor) (+) Njing.
Gqirha (Doctor) (+) Gqir.
Nkosikazi (Mesdames) (+) Nksk
Nkosazana (Mistress) (+) Nksz

Use the common abbreviations listed in this section, but avoid extensive use of abbreviations. Do not abbreviate such words as “and,” “or,” “something,” “someone,” or any other word that users might not recognize. If you have any doubt, spell out the word rather than using an abbreviation.

Measurements and Numerals

Metric System Commonly Used?: Yes

Temperature: Celsius

Category English Translation
Linear Measure Kilometer Ikhilomitha
Meter Imitha
Decimeter Idesimitha
Centimeter Isentimitha
Millimeter Imilimitha
Capacity Hectoliter Ihektholitha
Liter Ilitha
Deciliter Idesilitha
Centiliter Isentilitha
Milliliter Imililitha
Mass Ton Ithani
Kilogram Ikhilogrem
Pound Iponti
Gram Igrem
Decigram Idesigrem
Centigram Isentigrem
Milligram Imiligrem
English Units of Measurement Inch I-intshi
Feet Iinyawo
Mile Imayile
Gallon Igaloni

Notes: The British units of measurement are no longer (officially) used in South Africa, but the names and abbreviations are still known, mainly in a historical context.

Xhosa doesn’t have abbreviations of measurement units, but use the English ones.


Percentages are like in English, e.g. 85 %.

Digit Groups

Country/region: South Africa
Decimal Separator: 0,00
Decimal Separator Description: Comma
Decimal Separator Example: 5,6 ; 75,05
Thousand Separator: Space
Thousand Separator Description: Space
Thousand Separator Example: 1 543 672 ; 1 765 234 987
Notes: isiXhosa follows English in this regard.

Filename Extensions

Filename extensions and graphic formats referenced by filename extensions such as BMP, GIF, HTML, PNG, TIFF must not be translated.


Acronyms are made up of the initial letters of several words that are represented by these letters. Some well-known examples are WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), OLE (Object Linking and Embedding), or RAM (Random Access Memory).

The term acronym refers to words that are made up of the initial letters of the major parts of a compound term if they are pronounced as a new word. Some well-known examples of acronyms are WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), OLE (Object Linking and Embedding), or RAM (Random Access Memory).

Caution: Do not include a generic term after an acronym or abbreviation if one of the letters in the acronym stands for that term. Even though this might occur in the US-English version, it should be “corrected” in the localized version. The following examples show the redundancy in red for English terms.

English terms Incorrect translation of isiXhosa Correct translation of isiXhosa
(-) RPC call (-) Umnxeba we-RPC (+) I-RPC
(-) HTML language (-) Ulwimi lwe-HTML (+) I-HTML
(-) TCP/IP-Protocol (-) IProtokhol ye-TCP/IP (+) I-TCP/IP
(-) PIN Number (-) Inani le-PIN (+) I-PIN

Localized Acronyms

In online help or documentation, spell out the words that comprise an acronym or abbreviation the first time that acronym is used in the text. You should include the language-specific translation, the US term, and the acronym as in the following example:

  1. I-Dat Access Objects (i-DAO) (Data Access Objects, DAO)
  2. I-ActiveXData Objects (i-ADO) (ActiveX Data Objects, ADO)

In the above examples, isiXhosa follows the English pattern with the prefix i- and a hyphen in the acronym. Note that the hyphen is necessary to avoid confusion and to indicate the English term in the context of isiXhosa. In other words, it indicates that the prefix i- is not part of the English word. In the user interface, there is usually not enough space for all three terms (US term, language-specific translation, and the acronym); only in wizards, the acronym can easily be spelled out and localized on first mention. If there are space constraints or there is no 'first' occurrence, it is up to you to judge to the best of your knowledge whether the acronym or abbreviation can be left as is or should be spelled out and localized.

You should also consider that different users will have different levels of knowledge about a product. For example, an Italian Exchange user will understand “DL,” but the average Italian Windows user might not understand “DL” and would need to see “lista di distribuzione” (distribution list) instead. Try to be consistent within a product with your use of acronyms and initializations.

Unlocalized Acronyms

Many abbreviations and acronyms are standardized and remain untranslated. They are only followed by their full spelling, including their relevant prefixes, in isiXhosa if the acronym needs to be explained to the speakers of a different language. In other cases, where the acronym is rather common, adding the fully spelled-out form will only confuse users. In these cases, the acronym can be used on its own.

The following list contains examples of acronyms and abbreviations that are considered commonly understood; these acronyms and abbreviations should not be localized or spelled out in full in isiXhosa:

  1. ANSI (American National Standards Institute)
  2. ISO (International Standards Organization)
  3. ISDN
  4. DOS
  5. DSL
  6. CD
  7. DVD

The initial prefix i- must precede these acronyms and abbreviations to make them fit in the context of isiXhosa. If you are unsure what an acronym or abbreviation stands for or refers to, please contact the Moderator responsible for this Style Guide.


Product Names

As a general rule, all product names are used without definite or indefinite articles. They are treated as proper names.

Copyrights and Trademarks

Product names are often trademarked or may be trademarked in the future and are therefore rarely translated. Before translating any product or component name, please verify that it is in fact translatable and not protected in any way. If in doubt, please contact the Rubric Project Manager.

The same product may be marketed under different names in different countries. One solution is to add a note saying "Marketed as -------- in the UK etc" the first time the product is mentioned, and then continue to use the name as given in the text.

Gender-neutral Translation

You should always recognize your audience’s sensitivity to male and female stereotypes. Instead of stressing gender differences or reinforcing stereotypical distinctions between men and women, use language that is as neutral as possible. The neutral approach also applies to the localization of scenarios, comparisons, examples, illustrations, and metaphors.

Create a balance when assigning roles and functions to men and women (active vs. passive roles, leading vs. secondary roles, technical vs. non-technical professions, and so on). Scenarios, pictures, metaphors, and comparisons should be based on areas and attributes common to both genders.

Instead of using phrases which mention the two genders separately, use a general term that includes both genders such as “people,” “users,” or “persons.”

Avoid writing sentences that refer to a single person whose gender is unknown. You can often avoid this situation by rewriting the sentence to make the subject plural. In cases where a reference to a single person is impossible to avoid, do not use “he or she,” “him or her,” or “his or hers.” The language in Microsoft products should sound natural, as if part of a spoken conversation. Also, generally avoid the use of slashes to combine both genders (although sometimes exceptions are made - see table below).

Fortunately, we have no problem in representing he/she; him/her; his/hers in isiXhosa. We simply indicate this by means of a subject concord, viz, u- (singular) ba-/ni- (plural)

Umfazi wam (my wife) sounds impolite and has to be replaced by inkosikazi yam. (-) Unyoko ( your mother) sounds impolite especially when used by a younger person. This can also be regarded as an insult. A more polite way is (+) umama wakho( your mother) or (+) umama wakhe ( his or her mother) depending on the pronoun used.

Use the following strategies to avoid the use of overtly gender-biased expressions:

Linguistic method Example Context
Use a Neutral noun (+) Umntu, inkokeli, inkokeli yeqela, ichule, umsebenzi, umsebenzisi Concept descriptions, explanations

Localized term vs. English term

The preferred language in the computer world is English. Therefore, a translator frequently has to decide whether to use the (correct, but obsolete) translation or simply the English word.


The examples below show how English loanwords inflect for number in isiXhosa.

English example isiXhosa examples
Clients (+) Iiklayenti
Websites (+) Iiwebhusayithi
Proxys (+) (Iiproksi/izimeli)

The above loanwords inflected for class 10 and 2 by adding the class 10 plural prefix ii- and the class 2 prefix aba-.

Singular & Plural

Sometimes an English verb can be used as loan word in the target language, that is, isiXhosa in this case. Such loan words usually follow the syntactic and morphological rules of the target language.

For the sake of exposition, let us assume that the verbs in red below are not translated in isiXhosa.

English example IsiXhosa examples IsiXhosa examples IsiXhosa examples
Copy (+) Kopa (+) Kopile (+) Ukukopa
Print (+) Printa (+) Printile (+) Ukuprinta
spell (+) Pela (+) Pelile (+) Ukupela


Headings should convey as much information as possible about the ensuing text to help readers locate information quickly.


In English headings, all nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and subordinate conjunctions (such as “that,” “until,” and “which”) are capitalized. Please do not apply the same principle to isiXhosa headings. Instead, follow the normal isiXhosa capitalization rules.

For example:
Eng: Know Your Rights.
Xho: Wazi amalungelo akho.

Government Departments have responsibility of development. / (+) AmaSebe kaRhulumente anoxanduva lophuhliso.

The same rule applies to software strings.

In Lists and Tables

In English the titles for chapters usually begin with "How to …" or with phrases such as "Working with …" or "Using …". Titles should convey as much information as possible about the ensuing text to help readers locate information quickly. If in English the heading begins with a gerund, try to use a nominalized form in isiXhosa.

English example IsiXhosa example
Sending a file (+) Ukuthumela ifayile
Using Styles (+) Ukusebenzisa iindlela ezithile

Whenever possible, headings of lists and tables should consist of one or two words, preferably active nouns. They should be concise, even if the original heading uses a longer phrase.

US heading IsiXhosa heading
In order to (+) (Khona ukuze u…)
Do this (+) Yenza oku
How to use (+) Indlela yokusebenzisa
First do this (+) Qala wenze oku
Then do this (+) Ukuze wenze oku
How to: (+) Indlela yoku-:
Walkthrough (+) Yihla nayo

Hyphenation and Compound formation

General Hyphenation Rules

In isiXhosa there are no words in which hyphens are used, except for using English words when hyphenation rules are adopted.


Noun and verb compounds are a frequent word formation strategy in isiXhosa. Product user interfaces, online help, and documentation contain a number of such examples. However, not all languages use compounding to create complex word meanings.

In isiXhosa, compounds are derived from:

Noun + noun e.g. umnini + ikhaya = (+) umninikhaya
Verb + noun e.g. jonga + ikhaya = (+) Jongikhaya
Verb + verb e.g. khala +baleka = (+) ukhalebaleka
Verb + adverb e.g. tsiba + entla = (+) uTsibentla

The compounds are spelt as one word despite the fact that they are formed from different parts of speech. When a compound refers to a place name which has been derived from two parts of a bigger place name, the word is separated by a hyphen, e.g. uMzantsi-Afrika (South Africa).

Generally, compounds should be understandable and clear to the user. Overly long or complex compounds should be avoided by verbally expressing the relationship among the various compound components. Keep in mind that unintuitive compounds are ultimately an intelligibility and usability issue.

English examples IsiXhosa example
Internet Accounts (+) Iiakhawunti zeIntanethi
Logon script processing (+) (Isikripthi senkqubo yokuvula)
Workgroup Administrator (+) UMlawuli Weqela Lomsebenzi
Internet News Server Name (+) IGama leSeva yeeNdaba zeIntanethi

Note that English compounds are not necessarily compounds in isiXhosa. However, English compounds must be translated in a manner that is intelligible to the user and if isiXhosa translation is narrative in an undesired manner, the English word should be left as it is, with a proper isiXhosa prefix.

Applications, Products, and Features

Application/product names are often trademarked or may be trademarked in the future and are therefore rarely translated. Occasionally, feature names are trademarked, too (e.g. IntelliSense™). Before translating any application, product, or feature name, please verify that it is in fact translatable and not protected in any way.

Microsoft product names are usually trademarked and remain unlocalized. Product names and non-translated feature names are considered proper nouns and are used without definite or indefinite articles in English. For instance, attaching a genitive “s” to trademarked product names is not feasible as it could be interpreted as a modification of such names. Additions to a product or component name are either added with a hyphen or a periphrastic construction needs to be used. For example, instead of expressing a possessive relationship by using the genitive marker “s” in English, a periphrastic construction should be used:

  1. (-) Microsoft‟s products
  2. (+) Microsoft products
  3. (+) Products by Microsoft

Product names and non-translated feature names should also be treated as proper nouns in isiXhosa

English example isiXhosa example
Windows Mail shares your Internet Connection settings with Internet Explorer (+) (IWindows Mail yabelana neInternet Explorer nonxibelwano lwe-Intanethi Yakho)
Website addresses will be sent to Microsoft (+) (Ii-dilesi zewebhusayithi ziya kuthunyelwa kuMicrosoft)

By contrast, translated feature names are used with a definite or indefinite article as they are not treated as proper names.

English example isiXhosa example
Hide the Task Manager when it is minimized (+) (Fihla iTask Manager xa icuthiwe)
Check for updates in your installed Media Player's language (+) (Khangela iimpawu ezintsha ezifakwe kulwimi lweMedia Player yakho)

Note that although the two names, Task Manager and Media Player are translatable, it is preferred that they are, in this context, not translated for purposes of clarity because the translated versions of these names will have a potential of losing their meanings since they will be general.

Compounds with Acronyms, Abbreviations or Numerals

The compounds below contain either an abbreviation or a numeral followed by a component name. The abbreviation or numeral is marked in red in the English example. The isiXhosa example below show how such constructions should be translated.

English example isiXhosa example
CD-ROM drive (+) Idrayivu ye-CD-ROM
2-D gridlines (+) giriyaasu 2-D
24 bit color value (+) Ibit color value ezingama-24
3.5 Floppy (+) Iflopi eyi-3.5
51/4-inch Floppy (+) Iflopi (ezii-intshi) ezi-51/4

Note: It is an acceptable principle that when a technical term of the source language does not have a straight equivalent in the target language and all other translation strategies are, for purposes of intelligibility, not applicable, the term should be used as it is in the interest of maintaining the meaning of the term to the user. (Also see the subchapter on English Terminology and the isiXhosa Terminology for further comments in this respect).

Note also that the translation of the compounds above is similar in every respect with the translation of other compounds in this chapter.


Prepositions and Articles


There are no prepositions in isiXhosa. In terms of their semantic, prepositions in isiXhosa function as locatives. However, prepositional phrases in English need to be translated according to their context; anglicisms should be avoided. The table below contains frequently used verbs and the prepositions that follow them. Please use this table as a reference. Please note that the prepositions which function as locatives in isiXhosa are not written separately from their locative nouns but as part of the nouns.

US-English expression IsiXhosa expression Comment
Migrate to (+) (fudukela kwi… ) The locative formative e- forms part of the succeeding locative noun
Migrate from (+) (fuduka kwi….)
Welcome to… (+) wamkelekile kwi.. The locative applies to products

The examples below contain frequently occurring noun phrases that are preceded by a preposition. Please use this table as a reference. Since the prepositions in isiXhosa function as locatives, they must be written as part of the nouns in all cases.

US-English expression IsiXhosa expression
In the toolbar (+)kwitoolbar
on the tab (+) phezu kwetab

Key Names

isiXhosa adopts English versions.

Procedures and Syntax


Use the descriptor (menu, button, command, etc.) only if the source text uses it or if it is needed for clarifying the position of a term in the interface.

Status Bar Messages

Please make sure you adequately capture the meaning of messages when translating.

If you think a source status bar message is ambiguous, query it to make sure you provide the reader with the right information: if you cannot understand it, they are also not certain to. There is nothing more annoying than "help" that doesn't!


Commas and Other Common Punctuation Marks

In Lists and Tables

Do not use a comma after bulleted points.

If the original source entry contains a period, leave it. If the source text does not contain a period, but you split the translation into several independent sentences, put a period at the end of each sentence.

Never put a period after just one word.

The result of this method may be that some entries within one table are with and some entries are without a final period. From a technical point of view this is acceptable. The same convention applies to captions and callouts

Comma vs. Period in Numerals

English uses a period as decimal separator. In isiXhosa, a comma is used. Do not use a space for this purpose as a space separates the numeral from the abbreviation.

In paper sizes the decimal separator and the abbreviation "in" for inches are kept, since the sizes are US norms and should be represented accordingly.

English example isiXhosa example
5.25 cm (+) (ii-cm) ezi-5.25
5 x 7.2 inches (+) ii-intshi ezi-5 x 7.2
Letter Landscape 11 x 8.5 in (+) iLetter Landscape ezii-in ezili-11 x 8.5

For thousands, English uses a comma while many other languages use a period (at Microsoft we normally do not use a space for this purpose, but we use a period instead to avoid wrapping problems). In isiXhosa a comma is used.

English example isiXhosa example
1,526 (+) 1,526
$ 1,526.75 (+) $1,526.75

Special Characters

isiXhosa adopts English versions.

Typographic Conventions

Consistent use of typographic conventions in documentation helps users locate and interpret information easily. Generally speaking, the source format should be followed as closely as possible, i.e. terms with a particular formatting in the source should have the same formatting in the translation.

If menu, command, option, etc. names are highlighted by bold print in the source, use bold print for the corresponding translated terms. If menu, command, option, etc. names are put in quotes in the source, use quotes for the corresponding terms in the translation.

Note that in software strings, you must use two double quotes (""xxx"") to denote names within a string. If you only use a single double quotes ("xxx"), this will cause problems with the compilation, as strings are generally denoted by double quotes.


Guidelines for the Localization of Error Messages

IsiXhosa Style in Error Messages

It is important to use consistent terminology and language style in the localized error messages, and not just translate as they appear in the US product. New localizers frequently ask for help with error messages. The main principles for translation are clarity, comprehensibility, and consistency.

Standard Phrases in Error Messages

When translating standard phrases, standardize. Note that sometimes the US uses different forms to express the same thing.


English Translation Example Comment
Cannot … Could not … (+) Awunako (+) Awunako ukucima It is not easy for Xhosa to just translate such single terms as they can refer to either a person or thing. As such – in most cases translation refers to a person, and that could be wrong.
Failed to … Failure of … (+) (Akuphumeleli uku-) (+) (Akuphumeleli ukucima) See the comment above
Cannot find … Could not find … Unable to find … Unable to locate … (+) Akunako ukufumana (+) Akunako ukufumana into See the comment above
Not enough memory Insufficient memory There is not enough memory There is not enough memory available (+) Imemori ayanelanga (+) Imemori yekhompyutha yakho ayanelanga See the comment above
... is not available ... is unavailable (+) … ayikho (+) i-intanethi ayikho See the comment above

Error Messages Containing Placeholders When localizing error messages containing placeholders, try to find out what will replace the placeholder. This is necessary for the sentence to be grammatically correct when the placeholder is replaced with a word or phrase. Note that the letters used in placeholders convey a specific meaning, see examples below:

%d, %ld, %u, and %lu means n/a
%c means n/a
%s means n/a
Examples of error messages containing placeholders:
"Checking Web %1!d! of %2!d!" means "Checking Web n/a
"INI file "%1!-.200s!" section" means "INI file n/a

When localizing error messages containing placeholders, find out what text will replace the placeholder when the user sees the error message. This process is necessary because you must ensure the resulting sentence will be grammatically correct when the placeholder is replaced with a word or phrase. Most source strings have instructions that detail what text will replace the placeholder.

In the English source string, placeholders are found in the position where they would naturally occur in that language. Since in English numerals typically precede the noun, the numeral placeholders typically precede the noun in the source strings. If the numeral follows the noun it modifies in isiXhosa, you have to move the placeholder after the noun

The letters and symbols used in placeholder text convey a specific meaning. Please refer to the following table for examples of placeholder text and corresponding error message text that users will see.

Placeholder text Error message text that users will see
%d, %ld, %u, and %lu Number (such as 3 or 512)
%c Letter (such as “f” or “s”)
%s String (such as “Click here to continue.”)
“Checking Web 1!d! of 2!d!” “Checking Web of
“INI file " 1!-.200s!" section” “INI file "" section”
English example Message User will see
IsiXhosa example Replace invalid %s? Replace invalid data? Replace invalid file? (+) Kufakwe i-%s (kwengasebenziyo?)
%s already exists File already exists Name already exists (+) I-%s sele ikho.
%s is now set as your personal contact. Regina is now set as your personal contact Mr. Kim is now set as your personal contact (+) I-%s ngoku ibekwe njengomntu oya kunxibelelana naye.(ilungiselelwe ukunxibelelana ngokomntu)
%s stopped working and was closed The application stopped working and was closed The program stopped working and was closed (+) I-%s iyekile ukusebenza yaze yavalwa. (Ayisebenzi kwaye ivaliwe)

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