German translation style guide (Richtlinien für die deutsche Übersetzung)

Thank you for considering to contribute to the German translation! Before you start writing, please make sure that you have read the following general translation rules.


Formal or informal?


Although written German tends to be quite formal, websites in German are usually following informal netiquette. As Zulip’s guides are written in a more colloquial style, German translations should be rather informal as well.

Don’t use slang or regional phrases in the German translation:

  • Instead of “So’n Dreck kann jedem mal passieren.”, you could say “Dieser Fehler tritt häufiger auf.”

  • “Das ist die Seite, wo der Quelltext steht.” - the “wo” is regional, say “Das ist die Seite, auf der Quelltext steht.” instead.

Gender-inclusive language

Use gender-inclusive language, placing a gender colon (Gender-Doppelpunkt) where necessary.

Place the gender colon between the word stem and the feminine ending.

  • Instead of Nutzer, use Nutzer:innen

  • Instead of dieser Nutzer, use diese:r Nutzer:in

Try to find gender-neutral alternatives before using the gender colon.

  • Instead of jede:r, try to use alle.

If a gender-neutral term is readily available, consider using it.

  • Instead of benutzerdefiniert, consider using eigen.

In compound nouns, only use the gender colon in the last element, if appropriate.

  • Instead of Nutzer:innengruppe or Nutzer:innen-Gruppe, use Nutzergruppe.

Form of address

Use “Du” instead of “Sie”.

For the reasons provided in the previous section, stick to Du (informal) instead of Sie (formal) when addressing the reader and remember to capitalize Du.

Form of instruction

Prefer imperative over constructions with auxiliary verbs.

For instructions, try to use the imperative (e.g. “Gehe auf die Seite” - “Go to the page”) instead of constructions with auxiliary verbs (e.g. “Du musst auf die Seite … gehen” - “You have to go the page …”). This keeps the phrases short, less stiff and avoids unnecessary addressing of the reader.

Rules for labels

Use continuous labels with verbs in infinitive form

To be consistent with other online platforms, use continuous labels for buttons, item titles, etc. with verbs in infinitive form, e.g. Manage streams - Kanäle verwalten instead of Verwalte Kanäle.

Concatenation of words

Try to avoid it.

German is famous for its concatenations of nouns (e.g. Heizölrückstoßdämpfung, which means fuel oil recoil attenuation). For the sake of correct rendering and simplicity, you should try to avoid such concatenations whenever possible, since they can break the layout of the Zulip frontend. Try to stick to a maximum length of 20 characters and follow your intuition.

  • A term like Tastaturkürzel for Keyboard shortcuts is fine - it is shorter than 20 characters and commonly used in web applications.

  • A term like Benachrichtigungsstichwörter for Alert words should not be used, it sounds odd and is longer than 20 characters. You could use “Stichwörter, die mich benachrichtigen” instead.


Use them if other web apps do so and a teenager could understand the term.

Unlike other languages, German happily adapts modern words from English. This becomes even more evident in internet applications, so you should not be afraid of using them if they provide an advantage over the German equivalent. Take the following two examples as a reference:

  • Translating Bot: Use Bot, as a completely accurate German equivalent doesn’t exist (e.g. Roboter) and the term Bot is not unknown to German speakers.

Special characters

Use “ä, ö, ü” and “ß” consistently.

While ä, ö, ü and ß are more and more being replaced by ae, oe, ue and ss in chats, forums and even websites, German translations containing umlauts have a more trustworthy appearance. For capitalizations, you can replace the ß by ss.

False friends

Watch out!

A false friend is a word in another language that is spelled or sounds similar to a word in one’s own language, yet has a different meaning. False friends for the translation from German to English include actually - eigentlich, eventually - schließlich, map - Karte, etc. Make sure to not walk into such a trap.


  • Try to keep words and phrases short and understandable. The front-end developers will thank you ;)

  • Be consistent. Use the same terms for the same things, even if that means repeating. Have a look at other German translations on Zulip to get a feeling for the vocabulary.

  • Balance common verbs and nouns with specific IT-related translations of English terms - this can be tricky, try to check how other resources were translated (e.g. Gmail, Microsoft websites, Facebook) to decide what wouldn’t sound awkward / rude in German.

  • For additional translation information, feel free to check out this Wikipedia guide on translating German Wikipedia articles into English.

Some terms are very tricky to translate, so be sure to communicate with other German speakers in the community. It’s all about making Zulip friendly and usable.

Terms (Begriffe)

  • Message - Nachricht

“Nachricht” (Facebook, WhatsApp, Transifex)

  • Direct Message (DM), Direct Messages (DMs) - Direktnachricht (DM), Direktnachrichten (DMs)

While we try to avoid concatenating words whenever possible, “Direktnachricht” is used by many other platforms (e.g. X/Twitter, Slack, Discord). Use DM with its plural form DMs rather than DN/DNs in line with other services.

“Direktnachricht” (X/Twitter, Slack)

  • Starred Message - Markierte Nachricht

We go with “markiert” instead of “gesternt” (which is not even a proper German word) here, since it comes closer to the original meaning of “starred”.

“Markierte Nachricht” (Gmail, Transifex), “Nachricht mit Stern” (WhatsApp)

“Bereich” (Transifex), “Community” (Google+)

  • Stream - Stream

Even though the term Stream is not commonly used in German web applications, it is both understood well enough by many Germans with only little English skills, and the best choice for describing Zulip’s chat hierarchy. The term “Kanal” wouldn’t fit here, since it translates to “channel” - these are used by other chat applications with a simple, flat chat hierarchy, that is, no differentiation between streams and topics.

“Stream” (Transifex), “Kanal” (KDE IRC documentation, various small German forums)

  • Topic - Thema

(Gmail - for email subjects, Transifex)

  • Public Stream - Öffentlicher Stream

While some might find this direct translation a tad long, the alternative “Offener Stream” can be ambiguous - especially users who are inexperienced with Zulip could think of this as streams that are online.

“Öffentlicher Stream” (Transifex)

  • Bot - Bot

Not only is “bot” a short and easily memorable term, it is also widely used in German technology magazines, forums, etc.

“Bot” (Transifex, Heise, Die Zeit)

  • Integration - Integration

While the German translation of “Integration” is spelled just like the English version, the translation is referring to the German term. For this reason, use “Integrationen” instead of “Integrations” when speaking of multiple integrations in German. There aren’t many German sources available for this translation, but “Integration” has the same meaning in German and English.

“Integration/-en” (Transifex)

  • Notification - Benachrichtigung

Nice and easy. Other translations for “notification” like “Erwähnung”, “Bescheid” or “Notiz” don’t fit here.

“Benachrichtigung” (Facebook, Gmail, Transifex, Wikipedia)

  • Alert Word - Signalwort

This one is tricky, since one might initially think of “Alarmwort” as a proper translation. “Alarm”, however, has a negative connotation, people link it to unpleasant events. “Signal”, on the other hand, is neutral, just like “alert word”. Nevertheless, Linguee shows that some websites misuse “Alarm” for the translation.

“Signalwort” (Transifex), “Wort-Alarm” (Linguee)

  • View - View (Developer documentation)

Since this is a Zulip-specific term for

every path that the Zulip server supports (doesn’t show a 404 page for),

and there is no German equivalent, talking of “Views” is preferable in the developer documentation and makes it easier to rely on parts of the German and parts of the English documentation.

  • View - Ansicht (User-facing documentation)

For user-facing documentation, we want to use “Ansicht” instead of “view”, as “Ansicht” provides a translated description for what you think of when hearing “view”. “Ansicht” is not desirable for the developer documentation, since it does not emphasize the developing aspects of views (in contrast to anglicisms, which Germans often link to IT-related definitions).

“Ansicht” (Transifex)

  • Home - Startseite

Nice and easy. “Zuhause” obviously doesn’t fit here ;).

“Startseite” (Facebook, Transifex)

  • Emoji - Emoji

“Emoji” is the standard term for Emojis. Any other Germanized translation like “Bildschriftzeichen” (which exists!) would sound stiff and outdated. “Emoticon” works as well, but is not that common in German.

“Emoji” (Facebook, WhatsApp), “Emoticon” (Google+)

Phrases (Ausdrücke)

  • Subscribe/Unsubscribe - Abonnieren/Deabonnieren

This translation is unambiguous.

“Deabonnieren” (YouTube, Transifex)

  • Narrow to - Begrenzen auf

Transifex has two different translations for “Narrow to” - “Schränke auf … ein.” and “Begrenze auf … .” Both sound a bit strange to a German speaker, since they would expect grammatically correct sentences when using the imperative (e.g. “Schränke diesen Stream ein auf … .”) Since this would be too long for many labels, the infinitive “begrenzen auf” is preferable. “einschränken auf” sounds equally good, but Transifex shows more use cases for “begrenzen auf”.

“Schränke auf … ein.” (Transifex) “Begrenze auf … .” (Transifex)

  • Filter - Filtern

A direct translation is fine here. Watch out to to use the infinitive instead of the imperative, e.g. “Nachrichten filtern” instead of “Filtere Nachrichten”.

“Filtern” (Thunderbird, LinkedIn)

  • Mute/Unmute - Stummschalten/Lautschalten

“Lautschalten” is rarely used in German, but so is “Stummschaltung deaktivieren”. Since anyone can understand the idea behind “Lautschalten”, it is preferable due to its brevity.

  • Deactivate/Reactivate - Deaktivieren/Reaktivieren

“Deaktivieren/Reaktivieren” (Transifex)

  • Search - Suchen

“Suchen” (YouTube, Google, Facebook, Transifex)

  • Pin/Unpin - Anpinnen/Loslösen

While “pinnen” is shorter than “anpinnen”, “anpinnen” sweeps any amiguity out of the way. This term is not used too often on Zulip, so the length shouldn’t be a problem.

“Anpinnen/Ablösen” (Transifex), “Pinnen” (Pinterest)

  • Mention/@mention - Erwähnen/@-erwähnen

Make sure to say “@-erwähnen”, but “die @-Erwähnung” (capitalized).

“Erwähnen/@-Erwähnen” (Transifex)

  • Invalid - Ungültig

“Ungültig” (Transifex)

  • Customization - Anpassen

The literal translation “Anpassung” would sound weird in most cases, so we use the infinitive form “anpassen”.

  • I want - Ich möchte

“Ich möchte” is the polite form of “Ich will”.

“Ich möchte” - (Transifex, general sense of politeness)

  • User - Nutzer:in

“Benutzer:in” would work as well, but “Nutzer:in” is shorter and more commonly used in web applications.

“Nutzer*innen” (Figma, Facebook), “Benutzer*innen” (GitHub, Airtable), “Nutzer” (Facebook, Gmail), “Benutzer” (Transifex)

  • Person/People - Personen

We use “Personen” instead of plural “Nutzer:innen” for “people”.

“Nutzer/Personen” (Transifex)

Other (Verschiedenes)

  • You - Du

Why not “Sie”? In brief, Zulip and other web applications tend to use a rather informal language. If you would like to read more about the reasoning behind this, refer to the general notes for translating German.

“Du” (Google, Facebook), “Sie” (Transifex)

  • We - Wir (rarely used)

German guides don’t use “wir” very often - they tend to reformulate the phrases instead.

“Wir” (Google, Transifex)