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How can you proofread your own work to avoid mistakes?
Thread poster: Rosemary Harvey

Rosemary Harvey
Local time: 03:40
French to English
Dec 6, 2005

I recently became a freelance translator and am concerned about how to check my work properly for errors. I go over my output for the day and compare it to the source text. At the end of a job I print out the translation and read through it again for the quality of the English/typos etc. However, as it is not always possible to leave a day or so before completing this stage, I'm worried that I simply don't notice mistakes. Even a small typo is important if the translation is going to appear on a website for example. What do other people do? How can I minimize errors?


Laura Gentili  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:40
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Have you read this? Dec 6, 2005

Have you read this:

It's a good starting point.


Ricki Farn
Local time: 04:40
Member (2005)
English to German
Read against the grain Dec 6, 2005

What I do for German is, I read my own texts (both translations and stuff I have written myself) silently with a "French accent" - I mean, putting the stress on the last syllable of each word. That's because I have found that most of my typos are at the end of words, especially as German has a lot of declensions and conjugations at the end of words. Also, by reading with a totally wrong rhythm, I can kind of persuade my brain that the text is "new" and can be read with fresh eyes.

I don't know how I would proofread French (I mean because it has a French accent already) but in whatever situation, I would read against the grain. I have heard that it helps to read a text backward or sentence-wise from the last to the first sentence (it's also mentioned in Laura's link), but I haven't tried that.

Secondly, I set the screen fonts as huge as possible whenever I work, as I find that it helps me see my mistakes both while translating and while proofreading.

And thirdly, I take a lot of breaks - actually I always interleave one "computer" task and one "household" task: a few sentences of proofreading, some clothes onto the line, a few sentences, the rice into the pot... it looks really weird, but it creates a lot of extra serendipity and "echoes in the brain" (i.e. going over sentences again mentally, but with the distance of not actually looking at them at that point).

All the best,


Nina Khmielnitzky  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:40
Member (2004)
English to French
If time is a luxury you have Dec 6, 2005

If you have the luxury to leave your text for a day or so, come back to it afterwards, typos and mistakes will jump out the page, as you will read your translation with "new eyes". Otherwise, you're so used to see your text, that you know what you wanted to write and your eyes are convinced they read what you wanted to write, but in fact, you don't see the mistakes you left.


GoodWords  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:40
Spanish to English
+ ...
More tips Dec 6, 2005

Although these are mentioned in the above article, I'd like to emphasize them here because they're the most useful ones for me:

Work from the end to the beginning. Start with the last paragraph in the document and read paragraph by paragraph backwards to the beginning.

Increase the view size. In an attempt to reduce paper use, I've found this to be an effective way to make proofreading on the computer screen as productive as proofreading from hard copy. For another fresh view, change to a different font (only on the working copy, of course).

Read out loud. (Also in combination with the above ideas.)

[Edited at 2005-12-06 20:35]


Ian Lumpitt-Hawes (X)
Local time: 03:40
French to English
Sympathy! Dec 6, 2005

You have verbalized exactly my feelings. Sometimes you have sao much work, so urgent that it has to go - even when you tell them it's not been properly checked. Maybe we should proofread for each other!


Local time: 13:40
Italian to English
+ ...
Backwards reading is always a good tool Dec 6, 2005

It's what Newspaper editor's do (or at least they used to).
It's amazing what can be found by doing this!



Lucinda Hollenberg  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:40
Dutch to English
+ ...
Rosemary, Dec 7, 2005

There are already so many good tips. I second the one about reading backwards. I do it each time one sentence back. The huge font is also something that I do, especially because I often get technical docs/manuals in impossible tiny fonts - you might have guessed, the old eyes are not what they used to be.

I read the text aloud too (have not thought about the different accent yet, but great idea!).

And you have to try (I know, it does not always work out) to put in a buffer time so that you can put it aside for a while.

My three assorted sheperd-breed dogs (German Shepherd, Belgian Shepherd and mixed Shepherd-Rhodesian Ridgeback) always 'work' with me. They sit/sleep in different spots around my desk. So when I proofread, I frequently move away to scratch behind an ear, assorted necks, etc, give out hugs, accept 'paw shakes' (doggie equivalent of a handshake) you name it and then look back at the work. Refreshes immediately.

Take a dog or more to run around the house, through a frizbee, etc. I am very lucky to have a nice-sized yard.

An aquarium is very relaxing too. Cannot have one, though, the dogs would give the fish a nervous breakdown, I think.

Good luck!


Stephen Rifkind  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:40
Member (2004)
French to English
+ ...
Admit your weaknesses Dec 7, 2005

The idea of reading the text in reverse order sounds good. I plan to try it. However, on longer texts, 2000 words or so, unless you have the rare luxury of many days to let it sleep, you cannot see some of the mistakes. I have learned to accept a loss of 20% of my revenue and give to another translator to check, if my confidence in my translation is less than 100%, or a target language editor, to catch the stupid errors and clean up the language. My short term revenue loss is more than made up by the confidence I show to the client that I did everything humanly possible to proof my work and hopefully the further work I will receive from the said client. Find yourself a good editor, an entirely different type of person from a translator.

Stephen Rifkind


Sven Petersson  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:40
English to Swedish
+ ...
Use a Pro! Dec 7, 2005

Increase your rates with 50% and pay a professional proofreader to do the proofreding.


Richard Payne (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:40
Spanish to English
A Stringent Quality Control Procedure Dec 7, 2005



I. Prepare the first draft of the translation, carrying out the necessary research and resolving any terminological or other issues at this stage. When available reference works have been exhausted, if any terms or expressions remain unresolved consult reliable on-line terminology banks in order to trace suitable renderings. In the case of any ambiguities or obvious errors in the source text, raise only essential Translator’s Notes in the target text.

II. Check the draft translation against the source text, preferably in a CAT format comparing corresponding blocks of text between source and target, in order to ensure a precise interpretation of the source text and an accurate rendering in the target language. Check that all figures, names, addresses and references have been correctly rendered and that telephone and fax numbers are in the correct format.

III. Edit and polish the translation, eliminating any false friends or incongruous source-language cultural expressions so that the target text does not appear to be a translation. In the case of highly specialised or particularly complex texts, carry out a second edit to ensure a correct interpretation of the source text and an accurate rendering in the target language.

IV. Carry out an initial proof read of the revised translation, correcting any errors that might have been introduced during the editing process and gone unnoticed, ensuring that the syntax is correct and that the text flows well.

V. Carry out a final critical proof read of the translation text in its own right, as if it had been created in the target language, making appropriate final polishing changes to achieve an unstilted rendering that reads naturally.

VI. Invoke an electronic spelling check and make any necessary adjustments.

VII. Perform a final visual check to ensure correct formatting prior to uploading the translation to the translation agency via electronic mail.

My experience has shown that these quality-control steps are of paramountimportance in order to guarantee translations of a consistently high standard


Rosemary Harvey
Local time: 03:40
French to English
Thanks!! Dec 7, 2005

Wow, I didn't think I'd get so much good advice! I'm going to complete quite a long translation today so I'll be able to try some of the tips to see how I get on with them. I think they'll be very useful and they'll certainly make me feel more confident.


Jo Macdonald  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:40
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
I agree, and going over it several times is faster. Dec 7, 2005

Richard Payne wrote:



This is what I do:
1. Use a Cat to apply a TM and termbase
2. Go through the doc with Search/Replace looking for common terms and other things I can change, word order, and also to have a uniform terminology use in the doc. This gives me a very rough and partial translation with some parts still in the source language.
3. Do the draft translation using the Cat, which means working on one segment at a time with the original always present for reference. I check every segment unless I know I've created a 100% match in the present doc. I don't trust so-called 100 matches.
4. Proofread the whole thing looking for anything I missed before, viewing the doc in print layout (not Normal layout).
5. Spell-check and grammar check
6. Final visual check.

Some parts of this process can merge into others, and although it sounds long, I find it's very quick and accurate.


Larissa Dinsley  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:40
Member (2003)
English to Russian
+ ...
an outsider can be very helpful Dec 7, 2005

I always ask my husband or my son to look through my translaitons - when and if I can (and, of course, when and if they are availableicon_smile.gif). They are great at pointing out silly mistakes or passages that just "do not read right" which you may not notice because you have read them so many times they now seem perfectly OK to you!


Pablo Roufogalis (X)
Local time: 22:40
English to Spanish
Praying the document Dec 7, 2005

Larissa Dinsley wrote:

I always ask my husband or my son to look through my translaitons - when and if I can (and, of course, when and if they are availableicon_smile.gif). They are great at pointing out silly mistakes or passages that just "do not read right" which you may not notice because you have read them so many times they now seem perfectly OK to you!

With non-technical subjects and if short, I ask my wife to "pray" the document. She reads it in low voice so it sounds as if she's praying.

Tangential: Have you ever done it right the first time?

I once tried to do a document very, very carefully in the first draft, to check if DIRTFT is a pipe dream in translations. I decided that it is, as I haad almost as much "perfectibles" when reviewing.

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