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Dispute over keystroke count in Word documents - how to count correctly?
Thread poster: roadnotes
roadnotes
Germany
Local time: 13:19
German to English
Dec 19, 2006

I have been charging a client a rate per 55 keystroke line (his idea); he now says that WORD's count of keystrokes (characters plus spaces) is too high and includes many other spaces - I guess to do with formatting - can anyone tell me how to count the keystrokes in a text correctly?

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2006-12-19 14:56]


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Erik Hansson  Identity Verified
Germany
Member (2002)
Swedish
+ ...
Special software Dec 19, 2006

Hi "roadnotes",

I would say that the Word feature even counts some characters less than most of the special text-counting software on the market, so as a matter of fact it's for the client's benefit.

Why don't you try out a special software which you can set up just as you need it (numbers of characters per line etc). You will also get a proper protocol which you can send to your client together with the invoice.

This often puts an end to useless discussions about the length of the text.

Regards
Erik


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Claudia Krysztofiak  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:19
English to German
+ ...
What tool does your client suggest? Dec 19, 2006

As far as I know, there are discussions regarding what is counted as a word, and there you have to agree with your customer, what tool to use in advance. For example, Trados often has a higher word count than MS Word for the texts I translate.
Since this does not affect the amount of work you put into a translation, you have to adjust your rate according to these counts (if there is a big difference).

Regarding character count: I never heard of this before, but am always willing to learn.

If your client is afraid, Word counts any formatting characters or stuff like that, you can always save your word file as a plain text file and look again at the character count. But maybe your client can tell you what exactly his fears are based upon and what tool for counting he would prefer? Then you can check how much difference it would make and perhaps why.

After all, it seems you did not agree on a special counting tool before and if your client expected a Word file it is only natural that the character count is done with Word.

Word does not count paragraph signs as characters, but of course it counts double blanks as two characters. IMHO, this is only of your concern if you are charging for the target text. (Otherwise you should have agreed on the total character count in advance. Always nice to say afterwards... )

You could make sure to replace all double spaces by single ones and remove all blanks before paragraph characters and before full stops and commas (search and replace). Depending on how long the text is, this could make a little difference, but I doubt it.
This is as far as I would go.

I hope this is just a misunderstanding and not some method of your customer not to pay for your services.

[Bearbeitet am 2006-12-19 15:52]


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 13:19
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
How much is "too high"? Dec 19, 2006

he now says that WORD's count of keystrokes (characters plus spaces) is too high ...


In conflict cases like this one it makes sense to delimit, ie to quantify the minefield. 10%? 25%?

You can also go and replace multiple blanks by single blanks and count again(*)

I would assume that the client feels he should be getting a better price. So he's beating on the count bush instead of addressing his issues directly.

regards

PS: My Tristram Shandy streak kicking in: Eventually throwing out all blanks and newlines could be rather instructive. Next comes letter e - there' so many one could save to cut costs -.

And to keep the relationship going, you could give the client two files at no cost - one with blanks and one with all the e letters. For free. No charge.

So, bottom line, everything would be just dandy...


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roadnotes
Germany
Local time: 13:19
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
next steps Dec 19, 2006

Thanks to everyone for the very helpful replies. I suspect the client is looking for an argument to reduce the price after the work has been done. I think my best option (for the future anyway) will be to agree on a particular word counting software with the client in advance of any new work.

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wolmix
English to French
Ask your customer which software he uses Dec 19, 2006

roadnotes wrote:

I have been charging a client a rate per 55 keystroke line (his idea); he now says that WORD's count of keystrokes (characters plus spaces) is too high and includes many other spaces - I guess to do with formatting - can anyone tell me how to count the keystrokes in a text correctly?

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2006-12-19 14:56]


If Word counts too much stokes, ask him which software he trusts to count them. You can also not count the spaces and send the file without spaces. He will have to do it himself.

A tip for counting words as in Word, with a list and much quicker:

http://www.surefiresoftware.com/totalassistant/demonstration.php

[Edited at 2006-12-20 14:01]


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shfranke  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:19
English to Arabic
+ ...
Perhaps try another business practice for financial details Dec 25, 2006

Greetings.

With all due respect, this discussion about using the count of keystrokes as the basis for budgetting & payment of a translator for services provided seems counterproductive, if not contentious, viz. those claims and complaints by that agency cited in the original post.

One perhaps might try another business method for establishing such "financials" that is both more effective and more efficient, such as (1) a flat per-page rate (with added factor for variance in additional or fewer pages of the target-language product) or (2) an hourly-performance rate.

Engineers are engaged and paid for designing, building and delivering a quality house, not just by the number of bricks, boards and nails used in the construction.

Ditto for lawyers, who are paid for knowing how to think about a situation and then to produce competent legal opinions and documents. Lawyers usually bill clients by the hour for their professional time.

"Good, quick and cheap... you can only get any two of those at the same time..."

Hope this helps.

Regards,

Stephen H. Franke
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
(ex San Pedro, California)

[Edited at 2006-12-25 04:50]

[Edited at 2006-12-25 04:51]


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Manuel Aburto M
Nicaragua
Local time: 06:19
English to Spanish
+ ...
So the Word Counting Command doesn´t work correctly? Dec 27, 2006

Greetings,

According to what read in this section I see that the word count command does't work correctly, since it counts blank spaces as a character.

Usually when a client sends me a document in word format I just do the counting through this command, but as I read it is not so reliable.

Is there any free software that could be used for said task?

Rergads


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Claudia Krysztofiak  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:19
English to German
+ ...
Actually a blank is a character Dec 27, 2006



According to what read in this section I see that the word count command does't work correctly, since it counts blank spaces as a character.



The word count command works just like it should. It shows you the number of words. There is just a difference in the interpretation of what is a word and what is no word. For example some programs count
"three-dimensional"
as one word and other count it as two words. So it is always wise to agree on the method of counting in advance.

What you may have confused here is that in character counting (not in counting words!) MS Word also counts blanks as characters which is perfectly alright, since they actually are characters, just blank ones. They require the same amount of attention and work from you as any other character, so I do not understand, why they should not be counted.

Anyway, MS Word also offers the amount of characters without blanks, so you can choose for yourself, which one to take.

I prefer my texts with blanks and, as far as I can see, my customers do so, too.


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Kirill Semenov  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 14:19
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
A real life story Dec 27, 2006

It reminds me a real story when a fellow translator was told by a client that they don't take spaces into account (after the work was done). So the lady removed all the spaces in the document by Find & Replace and sent the document like this - no spaces.)

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Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 10:19
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Keystroke Count Dec 29, 2006

My practice has always been to charge per target character including spaces (actually per "lauda" of 1300 characters - the "lauda" is a kind of official page and is the standard unit used by translators in Brazil, although the definition of a "lauda" does vary between translators) - although some clients prefer a set price.
I know that in Word, the wordcount feature has two options "including spaces" and "not including spaces", so if the client feels uneasy about paying for spaces you could quote the "not including spaces" figure. As for "three-dimensional", I would count it as one word only.


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Darin Fitzpatrick  Identity Verified
United States
Member (2006)
German to English
Stick to standards Jan 4, 2007

The standard for German translations is the 55 character line, including spaces. All of the agencies that I work with in Germany use this standard. The basis for our calculation is the Word count of "Characters (with spaces)".

I assume that the dispute is not about 1 or 2 Euros, but a significant difference in expectations. It's hard to imagine how the choice of a different counting tool would affect the count that significantly.

If the client's file had, for instance, a whole page of nothing but blank spaces (due to poor formatting on their part), then I would give them the benefit of removing the large chunks of blanks. Otherwise, I would insist on the "characters (with spaces)" count, unless they specified something else in advance.

I also agree that source word or character counts make the most sense, as there is no dispute about the count. Target counts are subject to nit-picking by misguided clients.


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roadnotes
Germany
Local time: 13:19
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Sticking to standards Jan 4, 2007

Darin Fitzpatrick wrote:

The standard for German translations is the 55 character line, including spaces. All of the agencies that I work with in Germany use this standard. The basis for our calculation is the Word count of "Characters (with spaces)".
.



Thanks for the helpful reply Darin. For some reason the client is coming up with 20% lower price now, and I suspect that is the result of deleting as many spaces as possible (although I don't quite see how he has done it). Yes, a rate based on 55 characters in the source text, including spaces, is a pretty sound basis to work from.


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