Are proof-readers always right?
Thread poster: Claire Titchmarsh
Claire Titchmarsh  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:54
Italian to English
+ ...
May 4, 2004

This topic may have been dealt with before in various guises but I would really like to hear about other people's experiences so I know how to deal with this in the future.

I recently did a translation of a newspaper article for a new agency. They accepted it saying it was fine and then a few days later sent it back saying their proof-reader said it was unsatisfactory. It had been proof-read halfway through and they had asked me to revise the remaining page. I had a good look at the proof-reader's comments and most of them were entirely subjective, i.e. they had substituted one adjective for another, in some cases making the text worse than in my translation. All the comments made by the proof-reader were vague and not explained properly.
While I'm quite happy to accept that there may be the occasional mistake in terminology, and it's usually helpful to have your work reviewed by someone else, do we really have to accept unfounded, subjective amendments?

I appreciate that there's probably limited mileage in arguing your case, because unless there's a technical error you're just arguing about style and you could spend all day debating the point, but I do resent having my work labelled "unsatisfactory" just because someone else would have used a different adjective.
I'd be very interested to hear anyone else's opinions on proof-reading. ciao!


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Kimmy
Local time: 18:54
Italian to English
+ ...
This has just happened to me too..... May 4, 2004

and it left me very deluded and upset.

Also due to the fact that the agent had my work in hand for a week and then only got back to me with the term "unsatisfactory" the day prior to final delivery to client! Leaving precious little time for constructive modifications in my honest opinion!

I tried to argue it as best and as honestly as I could to no avail! In the end I was forced to offer a discount or risk not being paid at all! Highly unethical for me I know but it was that or get nothing.

There were things that could have been improved by me and I take full responsability for these but to wait so long and then give me the vote of no confidence di absoltuely nothing for mine!

There are sooooooo many different ways of translating a text, especially if we are talking about a newspaper article and not a highly technical piece where "freedom of expression" is rather limited,

I would argue the case as far as you feel would be constructive.

At the end of the day it's your words against theirs!!!!

Good luck!

Kim


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:54
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Use a book if possible May 4, 2004

Claire Titchmarsh wrote:
It had been proof-read halfway through and they had asked me to revise the remaining page.


If you can deduce the style preferences of the proofreader from the half that he did, then you can attempt to do the rest yourself. But if, as you state, the changes are entirely subjective, then you can't be expected to do the remaining page in the same style because the style is entirely arbitrary. Ask them if their proofreader can point to any book or reference work that backs up his statements, and if he can, then you'll get the same book and do the remaining page according to that book.


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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:54
Member (2004)
English to Italian
Improving... May 4, 2004

Samuel Murray-Smit wrote:

If you can deduce the style preferences of the proofreader from the half that he did, then you can attempt to do the rest yourself. But if, as you state, the changes are entirely subjective, then you can't be expected to do the remaining page in the same style because the style is entirely arbitrary. Ask them if their proofreader can point to any book or reference work that backs up his statements, and if he can, then you'll get the same book and do the remaining page according to that book.


I think they want Claire to revise the last page, full stop, because the proofreader found the translation unsatisfactory. In other words, they are asking Claire to improve the last page, already delivered, before the proofreader can carry on with his job. As it is, the proofreading would take too much time.

Giovanni


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Kimmy
Local time: 18:54
Italian to English
+ ...
According to who???' May 4, 2004

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL wrote:

As it is, the proofreading would take too much time.

Giovanni


Style is always subjective!
I don't believe that her work was "UN-profreadable" the way it was IF, and only IF, the changes made were mostly subjective.

For example, most of the changes to my text were subjective as well, over and above the ones that were reasonably queried and that would have been changed and modified had I been given the time to do so!

However, why should a translator accomodate a difference in style to their way of writing (both grammatically correct) becasue the proof reader didn't "like" it?

There is a shady area and difficult to pin point but if their comments were style related there was a much more ethical way of handling the situation, instead of labelling her work as Unsatisfactory!

Wouldn't it be better to say that the style is a little removed from what they had in mind (remember we are talking "subjective" here) and could you please revise the rest of your text to reflect the style of the proofreader's comments?

Any translator would find that approach more professional and accepting than saying "Uunsatisfactory, fix please"!

Kim


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Jennifer Baker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:54
Member (2004)
Italian to English
How I relate! May 4, 2004

I posted a thread very similar to yours a couple of months ago when the same thing happened to me. Last Friday was the payment deadline for the job and I still haven't received anything, so it looks like I'm in for a struggle to get paid. The frustrating part was the arbitrary manner in which the proofreader made totally subjective decisions regarding adjectives and synonyms- this was an 8000 word document, and the virtual ping-ponging could have gone on forever. And as in your case, in my opinion the so-called "corrections" were often to the detriment of the text. The proofreader was not a native English speaker but Italian, and repeatedly added unnecessary articles and prepositions.
I don't have much advice to give except to say that at a certain point I cut my losses and stopped sending back and forth the revisions (I found myself proofreading the proofreader!) and sent my invoice, because it was obviously becoming a waste of time.
Now I am on to sending a late payment reminder...
Remember- there's always the Blue Board. I'm still hoping that I won't need to write a negative review (I've never had anything but cordial and positve experiences with the other agencies that I've worked for), but at least it's an option if worse comes to worse.
Tanti auguri!



[Edited at 2004-05-04 12:42]


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:54
Spanish to English
+ ...
Contest the proofer's choices May 4, 2004

Claire Titchmarsh wrote:

..... because unless there's a technical error you're just arguing about style and you could spend all day debating the point...



I agree with you absolutely and you may have a strong case for pointing out that the proofreader was possibly wasting company time (and money) by making 'unnecessary' changes that are entirely subjective.

Why don't you take a few examples, check out usage in the Internet in equivalent sites (newspapers, ect). Explain to client how/why you choose a particular expression, provide supporting evidence, show how the proofreader changed it, and provide supporting evidence of why this should not be, or why the change was unnecessary.

In this way you can prove at least that are both right (but you show how the proofreader was overdoing things) and maybe even argue for your original choices, thereby defending your reputation.

I wouldn't take it lying down, if I really felt I had a case (as you say, it's very subjective). But even one example would just demonstrate your point that language is subjective.


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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:54
Member (2004)
English to Italian
opinions... May 4, 2004



According to whom????

Kim


According to the proofreader, obviously. He/she thought there was too much to change and the text was sent back to Claire. Style is indeed subjective, but the client did not like it. Claire can only point this out to the agency, unfortunately.

G


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Claire Titchmarsh  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:54
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thanks May 4, 2004

everyone for your comments. I didn't take it lying down and sent the revisions back saying (as politely as possible) what I thought. They acknowledged receipt but completely ignored my comments.
I'll be plying my trade elsewhere in future!!


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Iulia Manescu  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:54
Member (2005)
English to Romanian
+ ...
Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't, sometimes they've got no idea! May 4, 2004

The same thing happened to me. I don’t know what you had to translate, but in my case, I got a medical translation from a news press release – a very up-to-date kind of thing, filled with microbiology and microscopy terms. You can imagine all the research I did to make it accurate – I even asked a MD to check and see if it’s o-kay.

After a time I called the person that had given me the project. She said that, from her point of view as a specialist (she was also MD), the translation was perfect, but that the proofreader / editor (who had studied journalism and didn’t know a thing about medicine) said it wasn’t “newspaper style”, so we wouldn’t continue our collaboration.

Since what I had translated was a newspaper article (very “newspaper style”), I still wonder how any translation could have been anything else... especially since they didn’t do me the courtesy of showing me the proofread version.

My point is: It all depends on the proofreader’s training. You don’t know how well prepared your proofreader was. If it wasn’t a technical translation, but one that needed a certain artistic sense, you probably should try to deduce the proofreader's style, like Samuel says... If not, then it’s probably not even worth it.


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Katherine Zei  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 03:54
Italian to English
+ ...
Protect yourself! May 4, 2004

Claire Titchmarsh wrote:

While I'm quite happy to accept that there may be the occasional mistake in terminology, and it's usually helpful to have your work reviewed by someone else, do we really have to accept unfounded, subjective amendments?

I appreciate that there's probably limited mileage in arguing your case, because unless there's a technical error you're just arguing about style and you could spend all day debating the point, but I do resent having my work labelled "unsatisfactory" just because someone else would have used a different adjective.
I'd be very interested to hear anyone else's opinions on proof-reading. ciao!


Hi Claire. I have made heavy amendments to a translation while checking and proofreading, but I've never rejected anyone's work outright because I always think it's better to take the time to correct terms as much as possible. However, I specialise in economics and banking, and the terminology in this sector is quite precise. Though it's difficult, I always try to hold myself back from over-correcting because it's really not fair to the translator. I just try to limit myself to things that are actually really grammatically or terminologically wrong, not the phrases or words that sound dumb to me. Because language is very subjective, you’re absolutely right. Unfortunately, there are many people (who also call themselves linguists) who are language snobs, and are blinded by their own—often idiosyncratic and dogmatic—preferences, mistaking these preferences for the rule. I have become open-minded to the point of fault regarding these matters, but I too was once

If you want to protect yourself, I recommend you buy the New York Public Library's Writer's Guide to Style and Usage and study it profusely. Even if you're a Brit, it lays down English grammatical and usage laws—from the basics to the obscure—in a clear (if not concise; the book runs to 500+ pages) manner, and is very handy for reference as well as for improving upon your own grasp of the English language. However, many elements regarding things like typographic conventions and page setting that, though interesting, you probably don’t need. But buy it anyways. Good train reading!

There are also many online proofreading courses: I took one through Ryerson University in Toronto that was fantastic (and I took it while living in Italy) though a bit pricey. Well worth it in every sense, however, since I improved my writing (and therefore translating) abilities a great deal.

The firmer your handle on the language, the better you can argue your case if you fall into the proofreader’s trap again. It’s not always your word against theirs—even regarding style, unless the agency specifically told you not to use specific phrases or terms—though you have to present your case in a gentle and easy manner, otherwise you’ll scare them away and they won’t call you to give you jobs anymore. At any rate, try not to get bullied around. (And if you want a second opinion, there are always us Proz that are ready to help you out, or at least give an unbiased look.) Ciao, Katy.


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Katherine Zei  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 03:54
Italian to English
+ ...
Bravissima! May 4, 2004

Claire Titchmarsh wrote:
I didn't take it lying down and sent the revisions back saying (as politely as possible) what I thought. They acknowledged receipt but completely ignored my comments.
I'll be plying my trade elsewhere in future!!


Right on!! Or, as my 50-something WASP wannabe mom would say, "You go girl!"

Here is the link for the Ryerson copy editing course I mentioned above:

http://ce-online.ryerson.ca/ce/calendar/default.asp?section=course&type=dist&sub=alternative&mode=course&ccode=CDPB102

Copy'n'paste the link into your web browser.
There is a second level of the course that I didn't take, but I'm sure it's excellent:

http://ce-online.ryerson.ca/ce/calendar/default.asp?section=course&type=dist&sub=alternative&mode=course&ccode=CDPB202

All prices are in Canadian dollars, so try not to freak out!
ciao,
Katy


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