Defining formatting
Thread poster: Mario Chavez

Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:16
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jan 9

Recently I remembered a long-lost topic: proofreading marks (you can find the thread under Still using a fax machine?). In book publishing and typesetting, proofreading marks are standard practice. In the pre-Internet era, we used a red pen or pencil to make those marks on galleys. The typesetter then would sit at his Mac to input the changes, correct hyphens and rearrange sentences or paragraphs, then print a final set of galleys. That second set required a final proofing step before publishing.

Now, translators and proofreaders of translation don't usually know about the above, and they just make notes on a PDF file. That's what they've learned to do as proofreading.

Now, over the years I've noticed that project managers and others use the word “formatting” to mean text format and text layout, two different concepts. Beguiled by an incomplete and mostly obsolete sense of translation faithfulness to the original, PMs and others insist
we translators keep the original formatting, period. There's confusion afoot because a) the original layout should be preserved, especially in professionally designed documents such as forms (not the ones 'designed' in Word or MS Publisher, please), posters and webpages, and b) aspects of the wordface (the visible text) are bound to be translated by the translator, and should be translated. Having learned that bold has one function, italics another and underline yet another, I sensibly change that format in the translations I write.

I also understand that different languages have different text format requirements. For instance, Burmese has no uppercase or lowercase text, boldface or italics. Different languages have different conventions or traditions to start and end a large unit of meaning, such as a paragraph, a sequence of instructions, headings and so on.

Some may object to my parsing formatting into these two different concepts. Some translators don't even want to bother with the formatting or layout thing: if there is a 3-line heading, they keep it at 3 lines; if a subheading like ATTENTION is uppercase, double underlined, boldfaced and in italics, they keep it like that in the target language. Yet I'm interested in hearing different experiences when you had to make a judgment call like I have.


 

TranslationPanacea TranslationPanacea
India
Local time: 10:46
translation and typesetting are two different tasks Jan 13

I agree with you. Translator's job is to translate well. We at TranslationPanacea, keep these two things separate, because the translator is not expected to spend time on formatting.
Also, as you rightly said, all the languages do not have capital and small letters, or have such other script peculiarities. In that case, we communicate with the client about it, and what we are going to do about it and how it would look. Usually this satisfies them and the process is smooth.


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 02:16
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Translation and DTP are different jobs Jan 13

Translation is all about taking TEXT from language A to language B. Anything else is additional.

A hotel is all about providing a room with a bed to sleep, and a bathroom to care for personal hygiene. It's easy to see that most hotels everywhere go far beyond that, and their rates are proportional to what they offer.

The problem in translation is when a 'desperado tranzlater' decides to offer a Las Vegas resort service for the price of a B&B in Albania. They get a complex PDF file - developed with a high-end DTP app - to translate, convert it into a DOC, translate it, and then burn the midnight oil trying to rebuild that intricate layout using MS Word... charging a (low!) per-word rate and nothing else.

Mario Chavez wrote:
Some may object to my parsing formatting into these two different concepts. Some translators don't even want to bother with the formatting or layout thing: if there is a 3-line heading, they keep it at 3 lines; if a subheading like ATTENTION is uppercase, double underlined, boldfaced and in italics, they keep it like that in the target language. Yet I'm interested in hearing different experiences when you had to make a judgment call like I have.

Easier said than done. The word DANGER (EN) gets translated into PELIGRO (ES), PERIGO (PT), PERICOLO (IT), and remains unchanged as DANGER (FR), no big deal. However when it becomes NIEBEZPIECZEŃSTWO (PL), the entire layout becomes cockeyed.

It is a mere matter of courtesy when a translator preserves the bolds, italics, underscores, as well as fonts and their sizes while translating. Most CAT tools allow doing it without any considerable extra effort. It's like the B&B offering free self-serve coffee & crackers for guests at the front desk or nearby.

Of course, many translators - yours truly included - offer extra services, like adjusting the layout after the text has unavoidably swollen or shrunk during translation. This may happen on MS Word files, but also on PPT, PDF, or even DTP-app proprietary formats, and it should be charged extra, accordingly, as they involve additional WORK, on top of translation.

Hotels are not different. You can have the plain room rate, and different rates including a specified number of meals, perhaps at different levels of restaurants, if they have several. Many still have the additional option of meals being served at the guest's room.

There is no reason why translation - as a business, not a hobby - should be different from any other line of business.

I advocate for transparency in my work. If I'm requested to translate a PPT file, I ask the client whether they want me to adjust the post-translation layout. If they do, I'll surcharge them 30% of the translation cost, since the work will be proportional to the quantity of text. Yet they have the option. One client told me, Just translate the text, and leave it as messy as it comes out. I've spent a bundle in PPT courses for my secretary. She'll fix it all in no time!"


 

Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:16
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Text is not just glyphs and spaces Jan 13

José,

There's another problem: defining text. To some translators, text is just the words and the spaces separating them, and how those sentences and paragraphs are organized. Things like underlining, numbering, bullets and margins are something else, part of what they consider “formatting” of a text.

But that's a confusing definition. We've been led to assume the definition of text formatting because we're computer users. On a word processor, format and formatting deal with the appearance of text. Like I said, aspects like numbering, boldface and italicizing text are part of text, not layout. As such, they are susceptible of being translated into appearances that make sense in the target language.


It is a mere matter of courtesy when a translator preserves the bolds, italics, underscores, as well as fonts and their sizes while translating. Most CAT tools allow doing it without any considerable extra effort.


I don't see it as a matter of courtesy, but as part of doing my job as a translator. Texts are not simply dressed up in bold, italic, underscores; these items fulfill a function and a competent translation uses similar items in the target language that fulfill a similar or approximate function. This sometimes means replacing an elipsis for a semicolon and changing a semicolon into a full stop (period).


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 02:16
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Different generations Jan 13

Mario Chavez wrote:

There's another problem: defining text. To some translators, text is just the words and the spaces separating them, and how those sentences and paragraphs are organized. Things like underlining, numbering, bullets and margins are something else, part of what they consider “formatting” of a text.


It is a mere matter of courtesy when a translator preserves the bolds, italics, underscores, as well as fonts and their sizes while translating. Most CAT tools allow doing it without any considerable extra effort.


I don't see it as a matter of courtesy, but as part of doing my job as a translator. Texts are not simply dressed up in bold, italic, underscores; these items fulfill a function and a competent translation uses similar items in the target language that fulfill a similar or approximate function. This sometimes means replacing an elipsis for a semicolon and changing a semicolon into a full stop (period).


Maybe you began translating in the computer age already.

When I started out, in 1973, my translations of technical catalogs and manuals were delivered in typewritten TEXT, and the ensuing steps were pretty much like what is described at http://commfaculty.fullerton.edu/woverbeck/dtr5.htm.

When PageMaker came up, it followed closely that process, so that at last I was able to single-handedly do what it used to take all those people to do. While I still can quickly and neatly format any piece of plain TXT into any assigned space using PageMaker or Infix (directly on PDF), this is often an uphill battle using Microsoft Word - and that's why I insist in ranking it as an extremely bad piece of software, though heavy investments in marketing turned it into the one-and-only market standard.

This is why I stick to WordFast Classic, in spite of its $19.99-shareware look and feel: it preserves text formatting in the worst-to-format word processor.

As translators, we are NOT expected to create a new layout. In the worst case, i.e. a scanned PDF (or hard copy) original, we might have to re-create the original layout.

On a word processor file we'll be expected to PRESERVE the existing layout as much as possible. If the translated text gets "swollen" or otherwise messed up, we are entitled to charge for the work - if required - of making it fit into the available space again. If we have to rebuild or otherwise adjust the layout, this applies too.

Changing punctuation, itemization, paragraphs, register, etc. are parts of TRANSLATION, whose output is TEXT. Anything else is part of the DTP work. This is the original setup. In the old days, the Art Director wasn't supposed to know much grammar; the Translator had no idea of what were serifs, picas, points, kerning, etc. Nowadays, one guy/gal does it all.

As I tell my clients, I try my best to convince them to have me doing only what is really necessary, nothing beyond that, however I charge them for everything I do.


 

Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:16
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Part of the confusion Jan 13

José, we're talking from two different experiences.

Formatting in terms of layout is one thing. Formatting (boldface, italics, underlining, making bullets, etc.) in terms of the text makeup is another. In the past, with old technologies (I visited that webpage you indicated, thank you), those text changes (boldface, italics, etc.) were part of the DTP work. They still are.

However…

Those wordface modifications (boldface, italics, numbering of phrases or applying bullets to them) are part of text because they convey meaning. Here's a real-world excerpt in English, how it was given me in the original form, and in Spanish, how I decided to render it:

INFERTILITY: 40% IS MALE
factor-related. Yet, many men delay
the first and most important step in
male fertility evaluation - obtaining a
comprehensive and accurate semen
analysis - because it is awkward and
inconvenient.

EL 40 % DE LA ESTERILIDAD
TIENE QUE VER CON EL HOMBRE

Aún así, muchos hombres demoran el
primer paso, el más importante, para
evaluar la fecundidad masculina:
obtener un espermatograma completo
y preciso porque es cuestión delicada
e incómoda.

If I had kept the original “formatting” (uppercase and boldface) in the English, I would have rendered my translation as:
EL 40 % DE LA ESTERILIDAD tiene que ver con el HOMBRE

In my view, translators need to update their concept of what text is and what textual elements have a function in building meaning.


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 02:16
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Of course! Jan 15

Mario Chavez wrote:

Formatting in terms of layout is one thing. Formatting (boldface, italics, underlining, making bullets, etc.) in terms of the text makeup is another. In the past, with old technologies (I visited that webpage you indicated, thank you), those text changes (boldface, italics, etc.) were part of the DTP work. They still are.


This is pretty obvious, since we entered computer age. For many years already, every program has those B, I, U buttons (plus maybe a few others, like ALL CAPS, subscript, superscript, etc.) for formatting text, and it is expected that a translator will use them accordingly, just as the original author did.

These are definitely part of the text now. Missing them is equivalent to typos.


 

Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:16
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Remember the two spaces after a period? Jan 15

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

Mario Chavez wrote:

Formatting in terms of layout is one thing. Formatting (boldface, italics, underlining, making bullets, etc.) in terms of the text makeup is another. In the past, with old technologies (I visited that webpage you indicated, thank you), those text changes (boldface, italics, etc.) were part of the DTP work. They still are.


This is pretty obvious, since we entered computer age. For many years already, every program has those B, I, U buttons (plus maybe a few others, like ALL CAPS, subscript, superscript, etc.) for formatting text, and it is expected that a translator will use them accordingly, just as the original author did.

These are definitely part of the text now. Missing them is equivalent to typos.


Allow me a brief time travel here. You probably have encountered the two spaces after a period. That comes from the old mechanographic or typesetting practice with monospace fonts. In most typing machines, the characters were evenly spaced, whether there was i or m. Back in the day, typists added a second space after a period because one period wasn't visually enough.

Fonts devised for computer use didn't have that problem unless we used a specifically monospaced font. These new fonts (thank you, Macintosh computers!) had the proper kerning so there was no longer a need to add the two spaces after a period. However, I've seen countless Spanish translations reproducing the two spaces. That is incorrect.

As I said before, each option (boldface, italics, underline, etc.) has a function. Many texts in English, particularly technical texts, are not usually well written or formatted. Example: the superfluous use of underline as an emphasizing tool when we have boldface or italics for that. That's what I mean by adapting that kind of formatting to the proper use in the target language. Do we replicate the half a dozen exclamation points in a marketing brochure? No, we don't (or we shouldn't anyways).


 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

Moderator(s) of this forum
Laureana Pavon[Call to this topic]

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Defining formatting

Advanced search






BaccS – Business Accounting Software
Modern desktop project management for freelance translators

BaccS makes it easy for translators to manage their projects, schedule tasks, create invoices, and view highly customizable reports. User-friendly, ProZ.com integration, community-driven development – a few reasons BaccS is trusted by translators!

More info »
PerfectIt consistency checker
Faster Checking, Greater Accuracy

PerfectIt helps deliver error-free documents. It improves consistency, ensures quality and helps to enforce style guides. It’s a powerful tool for pro users, and comes with the assurance of a 30-day money back guarantee.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search