Crossed out parts - could I get in trouble?
Thread poster: mike316
Nov 21, 2012


I have a client that has given me a document, and asked me to not translate certain parts. He has crossed out 2 sentences in a paragraph so I don't translate them. And then one sentence in another paragraph is crossed out. and then an entire paragraph is crossed out.

This translation is supposed to be used for legal purposes. So usually, when I translate, I will print a copy of the original + a copy of the translation and attach them together. but this time I dont want to do that because the original looks ugly. I thought it would look kind of unprofessional and messy to print the documents with the crossed out parts, so I used image editing software to alter the originals and get rid of those parts. So now the originals that I will be attaching look more "clean" with no crossed out parts. but they are "altered" so that sounds like a crime to me.

If the client is trying to commit some type of fraud by omitting things, can I get in trouble for assisting him?


Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:41
German to English
+ ...
Don't alter Nov 21, 2012

You should not alter originals. Attach the original, but where you have been asked to omit the translation, put a note in square brackets [redacted in original document], or something similar. That's the best answer I can come up with without knowing what the "legal purpose" is or why you suspect fraud. There could be many legitimate reasons a client only needs parts of a document translated.

[Edited at 2012-11-21 04:11 GMT]


Allison Wright  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:41
German to English
+ ...
Keep the ugly original Nov 21, 2012

Indicate in your translation where text in the original has not been translated at the request of the client: [Sentence not translated at the request of the client.].

How "original" is the original? Since you received "the original" electronically, one could argue that it is not an "original", but a copy.

In the old days, if something was "for legal purposes", or the translation required certification, translators used to insist on having sight of the original documents, even if we worked from photocopies, so as not to damage the originals.

I don't know what standard practice is now, since I have not done this type of work since about 1995. I cannot think that it has changed much. Perhaps others can confirm.


Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:41
Problems upon problems Nov 21, 2012

Hi "mike316",
I see problems everywhere I look.

1. You give absolutely no information about what countries are involved, and your profile does not even say what country you are based in or what languages might be involved. Legal subjects are always affected by the jurisdictions which are involved, so any opinions we express involve a large amount of guesswork.
2. What does the phrase "supposed to be used for legal purposes" mean? If it means that the document will be used in a court of law, then my feeling is that ...
3. You are already in deep trouble, irrespective of whether the client is playing a fraud game or not. By playing Photoshop games (or manual cut & paste games) with a legal document, you would in effect be presenting the court with a forgery. So even if the client is completely honest, honourable and fair, you will look like a crook.

The open way to do your job is to state in a footnote to your translation that it is a translation of extracts from the text, and that the sentences crossed out in the attached copy of the original have been omitted. Then you could insert a small visual clue such as [...] for each omission.
As Daina says, there can be many legitimate reasons for this procedure. For example, I occasionally have to translate court divorce rulings, and these rulings often include lengthy explanations of how the pension entitlements of the parties are to be handled. This stuff is not relevant in cases where all that is needed is documentation of the divorce itself because one of the parties wants to remarry. In such cases, I often omit these passages (by arrangement with the client) and merely insert a one-liner stating what they deal with. The full text is there in the copy of the original, and my translation is openly declared to be an extract.

I would suggest that you clarify this with your client before completing the work. If your client objects to this procedure and wants you to pretend that the crossed-out sentences were not in the original document, my suggestion would be that you walk away from the job because it conflicts with your professional standards, however plausible the client's explanations may sound.

The alternative, of course, would be to do what your client wants, close your eyes and hope for the best. If you are found out, this route could land you in prison. If you are not found out, it still raises the question of how you will feel when you look in the mirror for the foreseeable future.


David Wright  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:41
German to English
+ ...
Unaltered original Nov 21, 2012

I think you would be guilty of aiding and abetting if you deliberately concealed the fact that bits have not been translated and edited the original document so as not to show them, and it turned out that the client was up to no good.

At the very least you must state that bits have not been translated at teh request of the client, but most sworn translators I know would refuse to do this and insist on translating the bits crossed out followed by "Text deleted" in brackets. A sworn translation is a legal document and any jiggery-pokery a serious offence (you might use your status as sworn translator, you might get sued by the ultimate victim of the fraud, yourself be charged with aiding and abetting fraud, etc...).

And I agree entirely with Victor, who has put it it much better than I have

[Edited at 2012-11-21 08:59 GMT]


Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:41
Italian to English
Sworn? Nov 21, 2012

Surely the key issue here is whether you are being employed as a Sworn Translator or have been asked to have the document notarised.

If not, your only duty is to respect the client's wishes in my opinion. Why send back the original?

The translation might simply be for information, for a company's legal department, for example.


Daniel Bird  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:41
German to English
How do you know... Nov 21, 2012

...where to draw the line on the extent your alterations?
Simple sanity check - what did you agree to under your contract for the job?
If alterations were included then make the alterations you agreed to.
If none were included, perhaps spend your creative time designing an especially decorative invoice instead.
Good luck


Inge Luus  Identity Verified
South Africa
Local time: 10:41
Member (2008)
German to English
+ ...
Alterations part of translation? Nov 21, 2012

Daniel Bird wrote:

...where to draw the line on the extent your alterations?
Simple sanity check - what did you agree to under your contract for the job?
If alterations were included then make the alterations you agreed to.
If none were included, perhaps spend your creative time designing an especially decorative invoice instead.
Good luck

@Daniel - whilst I understand what you mean about agreeing the scope of the work to be done with your client, I don't believe that translators should even be thinking about treading the slippery slope of alterations - particularly for legal documents and even more so for sworn or certified translations. It is a translator's job to translate the given document not amend, alter or in any other way tamper with the original. Victor puts his position very well.

Otherwise, why do attorneys spend so much effort in faxing through so many legal docs for translation rendering them as UNalterable PDFs?


Translation is for immigration purposes Nov 21, 2012

Hi guys
I tried to make a second post to provide more info, but it never posted.
so here it is again. I know this won't change the answer, and I decided to not use the altered version. but for those of you who are wondering, this is USA and the document will be used for immigration purposes. It will be a certified translation with my signature.
It is just a letter from the ministry of justice of a country in the middle east, saying that someone was the victim of a violent act. I don't really suspect that the client is up to no good, I am simply trying to protect myself just in case.


Koen Speetjens  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:41
English to Dutch
+ ...
Why? Nov 21, 2012

Why on earth would you want to deliver an altered original? Just to make it look prettier?? If you want to send back a hard copy of the original (why?), just send back the unclean original. That's it.

Originals with alterations are very common. E.g. texts for submission to the European Medicine Agency are changed all the time. Sometimes because the EMA wants some edits, or maybe there are some new findings that has to be implemented.

If the client doesn't ask you to deliver a clean, neat, good looking original (but why would they...) you don't have to do that.


LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:41
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Crossed out parts Nov 21, 2012

A solution I use in Word for your situation is to replace the omitted text with a series of x's: (ex: "xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx") equal to the length of the crossed out or omitted text. Then, use the highlight feature to highlight these x's in black. They will look like redacted sentences or paragraphs.

Of course, if the client wants the crossed-out text translated, simply use the strike-through font.


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Crossed out parts - could I get in trouble?

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