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What's a word when quoting?
Thread poster: Stuart Dykes

Stuart Dykes
Local time: 17:34
German to English
Jul 31, 2007

Hi everybody,

I've just become a member here so I'm still finding my feet.

This question has probably been asked before but a quick search of the forums has not produced an answer.

I've been asked to quote on a job based on the number of words. The thing is, in thirteen years of working as a translator in Germany I've only ever had to quote on a line basis (50-55 characters per line of target text) and have no idea what my standard rates equate to per word.

According to the client the source text has approx. 1,500 words. This is confirmed when I use the word count feature in MS Word. Yet when I count it with my text count software I get around 2,000 words! I would have to set the length of word to 17 characters to arrive at a similar figure to the client :/

Now I know the word count feature in Word is not reliable, but that's ridiculous.

So, what's the proper definition of a word when quoting (German to English)? As things stand I've quoted a total price for the finished job based on a reasonably accurate estimate, but I'd still like to know how to quote per word.

Cheers,

Stuart


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:34
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Ask a typist Jul 31, 2007

Stuart Dykes wrote:
I've been asked to quote on a job based on the number of words. The thing is, in thirteen years of working as a translator in Germany I've only ever had to quote on a line basis (50-55 characters per line of target text) and have no idea what my standard rates equate to per word.


Ask a local typist how many keypresses there are in a "word". Here in ZA, and elsewhere in the world, AFAIK, there are 5 keypresses in a word. Therefore, simply divide your per-line rate by 10.

Okay, it aint that simple, but why make things complicated? Quoting per anything else than "hour" is simply an estimate anyway.


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Sergei Tumanov  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:34
English to Russian
+ ...
it depends on your agreement with a client Jul 31, 2007

Do not hesitate to contact your client with this question.
If client is ready to pay for wordcount as per MS Word statistics only, it will be his/her decision. You take it or leave it.
If you are successful to convince your client to use the wordcount by your software it is even better.

Everything is negotiable....

[Edited at 2007-07-31 20:38]


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Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 17:34
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
Who says the word count feature in Word is not reliable? Jul 31, 2007

Hi Stuart,

Who says the word count feature in Word is not reliable? The results are always the same.

I'd suggest you download and use Complete Word Count from http://www.shaunakelly.com/word/CompleteWordCount/index.html

Complete Word Count does the count in Word, just like most of our clients do, but includes headers, footers, textboxes, autoshapes and the like. This free small template is a true lifesafer when you have to count all the words in a text with the additional advantage of alerting you about any textboxes etc. that you could miss otherwise. Complete Word Count counts Word-words only, not Word-characters, but for your present job it's perfect.

Simplify your client's decision by counting the Microsoft way with Complete Word Count. Count the way you always do and devide the lump sum by the amount of words found by Complete Word Count. That's your source word tariff.

Wordfast, Trados and several professional word counting applications will report different word counts, but most (direct) clients prefer to count in Word. Let them.

Regards,
Gerard


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Anne Patteet  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:34
English to French
+ ...
absolutely! Aug 1, 2007

Gerard de Noord wrote:

Count the way you always do and devide the lump sum by the amount of words found by Complete Word Count. That's your source word tariff.

Wordfast, Trados and several professional word counting applications will report different word counts, but most (direct) clients prefer to count in Word. Let them.

Regards,
Gerard



That's the way: use ''your language" to count and know how much you need to earn for that job, and then translate your amount in "his language".


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:34
German to English
+ ...
Word/line count in Word and elsewhere Aug 1, 2007

Several hot chestnuts rolled into one question here:

1. MS Word has its blind spots
It doesn't count content in text boxes, headers and footers, for example. Depending on how the document is formatted, your text count program may in fact be more accurate in this case - and you may actually lose out by counting in Word.
I have 3 options for counting, and use them as I feel appropriate in individual cases:
- Word (normally in the target text) for simple texts without the above pitfalls. (Word is easiest to explain to clients).
- PractiCount if there are any complications in the document (see above).
- DVX if I only have to translate parts of a document or if matches from previous jobs for the client need to be taken into account.

2. Word or line?
In your language combination (German-English), the word count is just a complicated form of roulette:
- The same text of the same length will have about 30% fewer words in German (so you need to be very careful whether the fee is based on source or target - if you get it wrong, you may be several hundred pounds out of pocket).
- Complicated texts (in either language) have longer words, so texts of the same length will actually have fewer words. So you lose out twice (the complicated text takes longer because of the more difficult subject matter and syntax, and for your pains you then get paid even less because the "invoicing units" are bigger).
So I always try to base my fees on the line count rather than the word count (normally no problem because I work almost exclusively for German clients).

3. Converting word/line rates
I have a general rule of thumb: one line of 55 keystrokes is roughly equivalent to 9 English words or 7.5 German words on average (based on a couple of my own texts which I compared). But this will vary depending on the actual type of texts you work on (and from one job to another), so you should do your own comparison. And when clients insist on a quote per word, I round up the result, just to be on the safe side.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:34
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Word count vs MS Word count Aug 1, 2007

Stuart Dykes wrote:
According to the client the source text has approx. 1,500 words. This is confirmed when I use the word count feature in MS Word. Yet when I count it with my text count software I get around 2,000 words! I would have to set the length of word to 17 characters to arrive at a similar figure to the client :/


After I've seen the replies by the others, I realised that there may be more to your question than just the length of a word.

Well, there is a reason why MS Word miscounts your text -- MS Word doesn't count words. It counts English word breaks. So its definition of a "word" is something that starts and ends with an English word breaking character, eg a space.

* MS Word does not regard a hyphen as a word break, probably because in English hyphens are generally used for things other than joining words. For languages like Afrikaans this would turn a "long text" into a "few words".

* MS Word also doesn't regard an apostrophe as a word break, which is bad for French translators with their definite articles.

* MS Word only regards a fullstop as a word break if it is followed by a space or a space-like break, meaning abbreviations like "w.r.t." are counted as one word in MS Word.

* MS Word can't see long chemical names as individual words, therefore 3,7,12-trioxocholan-24-etc-etc-etc is one word to MS Word. The same goes for long, complex numbers, where most languages don't use spaces as separators, eg $187,867,133.09. MS Word says one word.

* MS Word can't recognise dashes, be it en-dashes or em-dashes. If the dash is written without spaces, the two words on either side of it are counted as one word, but if the dash is written with spaces, then the dash itself is also counted as a word, in MS Word.

[Edited at 2007-08-01 07:33]


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Stuart Dykes
Local time: 17:34
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks... Aug 1, 2007

...to everyone who's replied so far, especially Victor, who understands the problem from my German perspective. Quoting by standard line seems so much easier.

As Samuel points out, Word is extremely unreliable for determining a word count, or even a character count for that matter, which is why I stopped using it for this purpose years ago. Using my Text Count software has never been an issue with clients.

I suppose I shall just carry on as before, i.e. whenever a colleague works for me I either clarify exactly what they mean by a word before they start the job or they agree to work on a line basis. It's just that when someone lists their rates in their profile - i.e. EUR 0.10 per word - it doesn't really mean that much to me.

As for the job I had to quote for: I didn't get it, of course, too expensive!

[Edited at 2007-08-01 08:46]


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Ken Cox  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:34
German to English
+ ...
and for the trivia freaks... Aug 1, 2007

Word (at least W2000) ignores en dashes in its word count, but it does count isolated hyphens as words. The logic of this escapes me, but it means that if you are getting paid by target word and you pretty up tables by converting hyphens used as 'n/a' indications to en dashes (good English typographic practice), you won't get paid for your trouble.

Of course, you can compensate by formatting strings of periods in leaders (such as in tables of contents) using alternating periods and spaces instead of tabs with automatic leaders. Not worth the trouble if you have to do it manually, but if you copy and paste text from PDF, you get them for free. You can easily pick up a few hundred 'words' this way, but your clients might not be happy if they notice it. And don't tell them I suggested it...

Just thought you'd like to know.

[Edited at 2007-08-01 19:36]


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