Using proofreading to your advantage?
Thread poster: LucyPatterso (X)

LucyPatterso (X)
Jun 27, 2008

Although we are all colleagues we are also competitors if working with the same language pairs.

Do you ever over-correct translations you have been asked to proofread and make very harsh, critical comments about the quality so that the agency gets the impression that the translator is poor and you are better?


Daniel Šebesta  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 17:28
Member (2007)
English to Czech
+ ...
I do protect my clients Jun 27, 2008

LucyPatterson wrote:
Do you ever over-correct translations you have been asked to proofread and make very harsh, critical comments about the quality so that the agency gets the impression that the translator is poor and you are better?

I often make very critical comments about the poor quality of translations that I am asked to proofread. I definitely do NOT do it to get rid of competitors and to take over their work since I am mostly overloaded myself. I do it to protect my clients' reputation from unrealiable freelance providers when I see that the work delivered isn't of acceptable quality. In such cases, I tell my clients not to ask me to proofread another translation by that particular translator. I know of several cases when cooperation was stopped with unreliable providers based on my evaluation.


Anna Sylvia Villegas Carvallo
Local time: 10:28
English to Spanish
Nope, I don't Jun 27, 2008

As a professional editor, one should know when it is a matter of style or a grammar or misspelling error.

When I find a translator using a writing style different from mine, I don't even bother; that is, I don't force the text my way and simply let it go. That's his/her style and you have to be respectful towards the translator.

Generally, I don't make critical comments unless translation has been obviously done through a translation machine (or seems like).

I only edit or translate into Spanish, since I'm not fluent in English (as you can see).



Alexey Ivanov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 18:28
English to Russian
I don't either, and I try not to comment Jun 27, 2008

I believe there are proofreaders who try to serve their own agenda by over-criticizing the translation they have been given to proofread. But I also believe it unlikely that they do it with the intention of undercutting the competition. The more likely reason is that they want to make impression on their employers. I do a lot of editing/proofreading, in fact probably more than translation these days. But I avoid making any sort of comment on the translation at all, unless it is especially poor. In my books it is when I have to change more than 10% of the text. I have come to believe that PMs really do not want to know the details as soon as they are sure that you got it right. So, I am not sure those proofreaders who find too many faults in every translation achieve their goal. PMs may get tired reading their lengthy comments and may try to check if they have any substance to their accusations by giving the translation and the comments to someone else for an opinion. And imagine if your complaint and comments on the translation land on the desk of a similarly minded proofreader, who in his turn will try to prove that he is worth his salt! That will be the day!


Margreet Logmans (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:28
English to Dutch
+ ...
Hmmmm... Jun 27, 2008

What about ethics?

If the translation needs a lot of corrections, I let the track-changes feature speak for itself. But in my opinion, harsh and critical comments without references/details/explanations only make you 'bitchy', not better than anyone else. (This is generally speaking, no-one specific in mind).

Also, I've had my share of trouble with over-zealous proofreaders - most of the time they were wrong... so this little scheme may backfire, and hurt really, really bad.

I agree 100% with Tadzio (except that I'm definitely not fluent in Spanishicon_smile.gif )


Daniel Šebesta  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 17:28
Member (2007)
English to Czech
+ ...
Examples and explanations Jun 27, 2008

Margreet Logmans wrote:
But in my opinion, harsh and critical comments without references/details/explanations only make you 'bitchy', not better than anyone else.

I absolutely agree. I wouldn't criticize without giving examples (and explanations unless the errors are obvious).

Just as I wish to receive feedback on my translations, I evaluate translations done by other translators. I make highly positive comments too, when appropriate.


Eleftherios Kritikakis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:28
Member (2003)
Greek to English
+ ...
Documented Editing Jun 27, 2008

Editing without documentation (explanation for changes, references, resources, etc) is not professional editing, it's just another opinion.

Editing without documentation is another example of the general sloppiness and amateurism in our industry and the overall elementary school mentalities.

Trying to create bad impressions without very serious reason is something that makes project managers very suspicious nowadays. Project managers do not like negative people or people who are trying to "steal" clients. In most cases, they send your corrections back to the translator (everyone should be doing that, it's an excellent business practice - I know that the children will not agree with me, but many agencies already do that and the results are great!).

Do your job in a professional manner: document any changes you may have, avoid unecessary stylistic changes that increase the project's cost (try to increase the project's cost just to create impressions as if you' re in high school, and the client will never send any jobs to you again).

Do not forget: what goes around, comes around.


Paola Dentifrigi  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:28
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
No, at the advantage of Italian Jun 27, 2008

I basically agree with Daniel.
I give references for my corrections (dictionaries, web pages, grammar rules etc.).
This is of the utmost importance when the client is a foreigner agency and cannot understand Italian: how can they know if the translator's Italian was good?
On the other side, when I read a brilliant translation, I send my positive comments to the agency.



ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:28
English to French
+ ...
Who pays you? Jun 27, 2008

If your client asked you to review or proofread somebody else's translation, then you have to serve the client's interests. The client ultimately wants a quality translation and you should work toward that goal. If this means biting your tongue when you don't like the style or register, so be it. If this means telling your client that the translation was very poor and you would rather not review or proofread that person't work again, so be it.

I am against tracked changes because these often make a rather good translation look bad. I never use tracked changes - I use ApSic Comparator, which is also a great timesaver and much more efficient as well. When I have a list of sentences I would edit, I don't start editing all of them - I mention the problem and the suggested correction for the first occurrence of an error, and for each subsequent occurrence, I just point out that it is a repeat error. Once I am done, I go back to the beginning of the document and add comments such as "please correct this term THROUGHOUT the document", so I don't have to underline each occurrence separately. I don't like it when people over-edit me, but I also don't like to make a good translator look bad. However, when I come across a bad translation, I tell the client. If I don't, they will get a bad translation, and I will have contributed to their failure by not telling them.

However, when I find that a translation is great, or when I find that the person who edited my work did a good job, I also tell the client. I actually ask them to have me work with that person more often. This is great, because it helps me to do good teamwork, but also because it helps the client to appreciate those who do good work and helps them filter out the not so good ones. However, let's not forget that we all make arrors on all jobs, and repetitively using that one wrong term doesn't make you a bad translator - this is true for all of us. The only exception to this is grammar errors - I personally find they are unforgivable.

At the end of the day, it is really about offering the service you were paid for. The client wants a quality translation - you help them achieve that, even if it means redlining a copy. They pay you for this, so personal interest has nothing to do with this.

If I ever proofread or review your work and it is substandard, I will tell on you. If you did a great job, I'll also tell on you.icon_wink.gif But I will never make you seem better or worse than you are, because then I wouldn't be serving my client's interests.

[Edited at 2008-06-27 17:42]


Celia Recarey  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:28
English to Spanish
+ ...
Absolutely not Jun 27, 2008

And, to be honest, I don't think most editors/proofreaders do.

These days I only review translations for this one agency specializing in book translations and my revisions always go back to the translator so that she/he can accept or reject any change I have made, so I always justify my changes (except for the obvious ones, like accents and non-compliance to the style guide provided by the agency), provide references and even make suggestions about style whenever I feel the text would read better changing an adjective here or a verb there. I suppose I sometimes make more changes than strictly necessary, but I do so only because I know the translator will have the chance to reject any of them.

The same happens when I translate for this client (and I would be sooo happy if every client did that!): I always get the chance to check any changes introduced by the reviewer, reject them if I feel they are wrong and explain my reasons to stick to my options. And even if I have rejected some changes introduced by reviewers, so far I have never had the feeling that they were trying to make me or my work look bad. I just assume the reviewer suggests changes because he/she truely thinks her/his suggestion is better. Sometimes they are right, sometimes they are wrong, just like me when I am in that position. And sometimes is not even a matter of "right" or "wrong", but of taste.

But then again, I have never received any harsh comments along with an edited/proofread translation...


Sarah Downing  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:28
German to English
+ ...
No way, Hosea! Jun 27, 2008

I, like many translators, have also suffered from harsh and unjust meddling of certain proofreaders. To be honest, it has mostly been non native speakers who thought they could teach me how to write my own native language English.

In my opinion, using this tactic would be extremely unprofessional. As several people have mentioned, everyone has a different writing style and so it's best to change a translation only as much as is necessary. Furthermore, if you want to gain more customers, you should do so by delivering good work and making a name for yourself. These days, I get a lot of work from recommendations and don't have to do much to advertise my services. Slagging off someone else's services in the hope that you can win over the customer is childish, dishonest and, frankly, pretty desperate. If you're seriously considering using this tactic, you might want to consider improving your reputation instead. In the end, it'll be more satisfying as it's positive and you're not acting like a politician by stabbing the "opponents" in the back.

In addition, once you get to a certain point in your career, you may find that you start to regard your "competitors" more as your colleagues. I have several really good colleagues and we pass on work to each other and help each other out with terms. That can be very rewarding.

I apologise if any of this sounds overly harsh. I realise that you may merely be asking this question out of curiosity. At any rate, it makes for a good discussion.




Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:28
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Thai language translation Jun 28, 2008

LucyPatterson wrote:
Although we are all colleagues we are also competitors if working with the same language pairs.
Do you ever over-correct translations you have been asked to proofread and make very harsh, critical comments about the quality so that the agency gets the impression that the translator is poor and you are better?

I observe what you are writing in Thai language translations. Some [dishonest] clients whom I have been working for many years or new clients criticize my translation violently. Translations were quite reasonable e.g. by using Translation Memory supplied by clients.
I asked for evidence of my bad translation. After so many days, comments came back without obvious mistakes except all stylistic or idomatic change, even in legal documents.

I happened to find that one proofreader is good as cooking lessons but the client hired her to check for prenuptial agreement! What a joking.
I also happened to find that another proofreader was the one I evaluated as "fair" in translation/editing in another English-Thai translation test of my one old client.
I happened to find those proofreaders due to some evidences remained in the proofread version of translation.

There is seldom standard education to be a translator for Thai. This translation marketplace is badly affected to the ones who are elderly and extensive translators like me.

Soonthon L.


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