Translator word count and client word count disagreements
Thread poster: xxxLia Fail

xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:45
Spanish to English
+ ...
Apr 11, 2002

I have just had a query from a client with regard to a number of recent invoices and the corresponding word counts.

For example, a typical text of theirs would include the following:


Authors\' names and institutions

The body of the text



I was informed, at some point in the distant past, that a translator \'is responsible for ALL\' that appears in a text. I also had it confirmed that the bibliography is normally included (I believe I may have posted a question here about this particular point a year or so ago).

My client claims that I should not include the title, normally in English, nor the authors/institution, nor the bibliography, not the acknowledgements (this was deduced on the basis of their own word count).

Moreover, the body of the queried texts contained the occasional paragraph in English that I had translated in previous texts.

I examined the most recent text and the figures are as follows:

Client count = 1979

My count 2589 words of which:

Previously translated English = 381

Title, acknowledgements, bibliography = 210

(approx.; I don\'t know where the discrepancy comes from).

To date, I have always included everything in the word count, including the English, becuase:

A. I always review the bibliography, title, institutional name and acknowledgements. Obviously less work than translating, but I have always considered that it would compensate for tables, figures etc that do not enter the word count and which I have never charged but always translated or corrected.

B. The previously translated English, to date, has never seemed to be a significant part of the text (on at least one occasion, I did had a text from the same institution that contained a substantial amount of English, and in this case I did indeeed exclude it from the word count).

Note taht in the example given above, the previously translated words represented 19% of the final total of the text body, which does indeed seem a lot (but obviously doesn\'t take account of the work described in Point B).

C. I didn\'t want to set a precedent that might put me in a situation where the job of excluding the \'translated\' text from the \'untranslated\' text might become an onerous one (e.g. lots of single sentences, and many paragraphs in English), in other words, it is not entirely logical that anyone would end up spending extra time, on the one hand, taht would, on the other hand, reduce their bill (effectively representing a double charge on one\'s time).

D. Sometimes the English has to be adapted to be slotted into the text and thus requires a bit of reworking. In any case, it still has to be read with attention to be sure that it does indeed follow on from, and lead into, previous and subsequent sentences.

My own opinion in respect of the various sections is as follows:

If the client wishes to exclude the bibliography, acknowledgements (a standard piece of writing) and author name/institution, that\'s fine by me, on the basis that if these are not included, then they are not my responsibility.

I would insist on the title remaining, as sometimes it\'s necessary to adapt it, and it is also an important element for focus.

The most contentious issue is the previously translated English, and I tend to be of the opinion that, within reason, it should be included. If it is to be excluded from the word count (but not, obviously, from the text) then I think the onus should be on the client to make the word count, which the translator may or may not check as preferred.

I would like to hear your opinions on this subject, and also of experiences and practices in Spain and in other countries.



lcmolinari  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:45
French to English
+ ...
Clients shouldn't send what they don't want translated/reviewed Apr 11, 2002

Ailish, I have yet to run into this myself but here\'s my thought: if you don\'t want it reviewed or translated, don\'t send it to me. If we have to weed through documents, pick out sentences/paragraphs that have been done before (this obviously does not include jobs where it was agreed CAT tool would be used), find those translations, plug them in, etc. then we should be compensated for our time. If the client wants to save money by not having things translated twice, they should do that and send the document minus these sections.

About bibliographies, if I get sent them, I always review them as well because often there are spelling mistakes/typos, etc. However, I would not include this in my word count if there is no translation whatsoever to be done. Bibliographies are usually not so long and only take a few minutes to review. This is somewhat of a \"freebie\" to clients but mostly it\'s because in the end, whether I compiled the bibliography or not, my name is on that translation and it will be assumed that any errors in it were mine (not by client but by those who read the doc).

That\'s my two cents. Good luck


Trudy Peters  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:45
German to English
+ ...
Ailish Apr 11, 2002

Tell your client that you will simply omit the parts they\'re not willing to pay for and to include them themselves! icon_smile.gif

That goes for lists of numbers, too, when you receive a hard copy to translate.




Erika Pavelka  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:45
French to English
Penny pinchers... Apr 11, 2002

Hi Ailish,

Sigh... When will clients realize they\'re paying for a service and not word assembly? If they didn\'t want you to touch the title, bibliography and acknowledgements, they should have taken them out of the text before sending it to you.

In this case, I would point out that you did spend time on them, and perhaps as a gesture of goodwill, charge an hourly rate for the time you spent checking over those parts. However, I\'d be weary of doing another job from that client. The thought of going through that every time...

Good luck and let us know how it turns out.


[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-04-11 22:13 ]


Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 17:45
German to English
+ ...
Comments Apr 11, 2002

1. It would have been your client\'s duty to set out the terms and conditions in clear language. Coming back to you after the fact (possibly, even several weeks or months later) is unprofessional and outright wrong.

2. Bibliographies are a tough nut to crack: even if you can leave most of the entries the way they are, there will be many small details that will have to be changed (for example, references to volume no., \"pp.100-150\", city names, etc.). This takes up a lot of time - YOUR TIME - for which you deserve to be compensated.

3. Putting aside previously translated text or text that is already in English is comparable to that issue of \"fuzzy matches\" when using CAT software. Again, working around such passages, and making sure that everyting fits together nicely, takes a lot of time ==> compensation!!!

4. Erika is absolutely right: we are not \"word assemblers\", but top-of-the-line service providers. If your client had needed someone to simply \"assemble\" bits and pieces of text, they should have hired a layouter (but he/she would probably charge more than even professional translators icon_lol.gif).

We are always screaming about cheap unprofessional translators undercutting our rates, etc., but, perhaps, all those editors, proofreaders and layouters should get together and start complaining about this practice of their jobs being outsourced to translators because it\'s cheaper that way icon_lol.gif.


xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:45
Spanish to English
+ ...
Ailish comments re. comments Apr 11, 2002

Thanks for your replies.

I must point out that they are excellent clients, supportive and also my longest-standing ones, and I don\'t think (in fact I wouldn\'t even dream of accusing them of it) it\'s a case of penny-pinching, I think it\'s a slight lack of comprehension about what the job of translation involves.

Seen from the inside, we translators know what we do, how we feel about what we do, how we rate what are paid, etc. Most of us are also very much aware of how under-rated the profession is.

I think Erika\'s reference to \'word assembly\' versus \'service\' is a good one.

I still would like to hear of more practical cases of what people have experienced in the past and what rules they apply.

Thanks in advance.


jccantrell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:45
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
my way of handling it Apr 11, 2002

I have worked with clients who have sent me material that had some English (NOT translated by me) in it. When I encountered the English, I called and asked what was to be done.

Some clients did not want it included. My response was for them to mark up a NEW copy of the job with any bits THEY did not want translated. The customer appreciated it that they did not have to pay for work that had already been done, and I had their explicit directions as to what to translate and what not.

When the client makes trouble with tables of numbers, I will just cut and paste if electronic, or leave blank if not. The customer can then figure out how to insert the figures, change the commas to dots, etc.

As others have mentioned, clarify EVERYTHING with your customer BEFORE you start working on the job. If the customer can\'t be bothered, perhaps you shouldn\'t be, either.


Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 17:45
German to English
+ ...
Practical advice: always get everything in writing beforehand Apr 12, 2002

Clarify everything with your client. Anything strange you may encounter as you make your way through the document should be reported to the client immediately.

But the bottom-line is: cover your bases, and also make sure that your client knows that everything is final as soon as your invoice has gone out.


Local time: 23:45
German to French
+ ...
An old answer to an old issue Apr 12, 2002


As far as I can remember, word count has been an issue for translators. Imho, there is no final answer to it and it all comes down to an average hourly wage: I\'ve been working XXX hours this month (all oveheads included) and I\'ve been earning that much. I am, I am not happy.

In your specific case, my reaction would be: do I want to keep that customer. If yes, I try to find some agreement. If no, I also try to find some agrement but once payed, I don\'t take any more jobs from him.

Best regards,



orietta l'abbate
Local time: 23:45
English to Italian
+ ...
Clarify first Apr 12, 2002

Sorry you run into this problem. I tend to agree that the client should have at least marked the parts he did not want translated.

When I receive a job and befoe starting trabslating. I do a word count and send the client a note spceifying:Tile, Intro, Acknowledgments and bibliografy count.

When they ok it, or amend, then I feel safer.

However in your present situation, I would consider if the client is worth my negotiating or no in view of future jobs.

Hope next time will be a better experience.

Orietta -


Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:45
German to English
+ ...
Line rate vs. hourly depending on the case Apr 12, 2002

Hi Ailish,

I think you are in the right in this case because you can\'t very well decide for yourself that you are going to ignore something in a text sent to you (if you do, that will inevitably be the part they wanted looked over!) icon_smile.gif

If receive a file with previously translated sections of a text, I charge the regular line rate to compensate me for the extra reviewing time. After all, there could be changes in there compared to the new source text that the client has \"forgotten\" about. It happens all the time (\"Oh, yes, so and so did look through and make some changes...\") I would not assume that parts that are said to be \"exactly the same as before\" really are. However, if I am given a file that has changes clearly marked, then I charge an hourly rate because I can go through and only do those parts rather than comparing the whole thing word for word (and I say that that is what I am doing).

As a compromise, perhaps you could tell your client (since you said you like them) that you will accept their count this time, but then lay down the rules for future jobs in writing and have them sign off on them. Sometimes I think it\'s not worth fighting every small battle, but more important to win the war. Absorbing the 610 word difference might be worth it in the long run.




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