Formatting prior to translation
Thread poster: Heinrich Pesch

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:56
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Nov 12, 2007

Do you realise how often you could make your work easier by preformatting the document prior to translation. Translators generally tend to think, that they have to preserve the original formatting, but this is not always the case.
The most common case are those superfluous line breaks and hyphons generated when converting a pdf to a doc. You probably will remove these using search and replace function, if the customer has left them in the doc.
But equally cumbersome are the "manual bullets" many documents show in lists. Where the original document had these bullets, every line starts with a sign for a fat point. I have learned to remove these and use the listing function to put the bullets back. Then the CAT tool will recognise them and not include them in the segment.

But there are sometimes cases, where its best to format the complete document by selecting All and applying a font and size that is easy to read. Also the orientation of the text is best to change at this step to left-bound instead of left-right.
A few months ago I had to translate two huge product catalogues, which were formatted be many different people during the case of many years. The customer only asked for respecting the tab-marks and the line-breaks. But I nonetheless converted these files straight into idt for SDLX and tried to produce an exact copy of the original. Only later I realised that I should have reformatted these rtfs completely prior to conversion. I would have probably saved a week or two of work, because this proved to be a very arduous task.
So I have learned the hard way to watch out for badly formatted docs and preformat them to make my life easier.

I wish you all a pleasant week.


Vito Smolej
Local time: 03:56
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
My experience with formatting Nov 12, 2007

Hi Heinrich:

First, you're absolutely right. BUT - it's not my text, it's the customer's: I could just as well let the spellchcker run over the source to make better use of my terminology vault (g). It's even such invisible corrections like changing hardcoded breaks to new lines ("... well, it does no show, does it? ...") that caused me now and again problems with the agency - the found SO MANY untranslated segments in the material (Of course, they took the bilingual file or TM and then applied it to the original, unchanged source).


So, it makes sense - if the agency agrees to it. Possibly they may even pay for it.


Jerzy Czopik  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:56
Member (2003)
Polish to German
+ ...
Never got paid extra for that, but do reformatting all the time Nov 12, 2007

However, I do not reformat the text prior to translation, unless I see superfluous hard line breaks. All other issues are reformatted as I work (either in Word or Tageditor).
I will never accept a reclamation based on that I removed line breaks.
The customer - whoever he is - must understand, that in my target language translating broken segments will end in a disaster. Just start to imagine the following situation:
I have to translate "hexagon screw" and "hexagon nut" in one document. These words are separated by a line break. So the text looks like that:


Now I start translating and have
Śruba z łbem


This - as you see - leads to a translation of "hexagon" in two completly different ways, and both ways do not have anything in common with the real meaning of this word. I could give you numerous examples of such situations - when the hard line break will not be removed, the translation of such "segment" does not correspond with this segment itself, but with what the segment before said. This is inacceptable.

I am the one who's responsible for the translation and I will be the one who'll be blamed, when they then take the TM and do pretranslation with a file, send me only the rest, produce the translation afterwards with TM and my part and deliver that to the customer. So either they have to accept what is necessary because of the specific of my language or we have to stop the cooperation. This is something about understanding the needs of each other - if they don't understand what I need or will not pay attention to what I say, I have to quit.



Paul Betts  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:56
French to English
Clearing out word formatting debris... Nov 12, 2007

One of the most important thing I found whilst handling many, many Word documents - especially translating CVs into required formats for EU bid contracts - is in respect of cleaning out formatting debris in Word. Very often when you get a CV or report, it has a history of defined headings, column spacings, body-text, paragraph distances and whatever the history of editors have defined.
Instead of battling with the minutiae, competencies and foibles of the previous editors to squeeze the document into the correct format, I have a simple act that makes my life a lot easier and my work much more efficient. I select and copy all the text and then paste it into a '.txt' file. I then freshly select and copy all the text from the .txt file and paste it into the template or new Word document. All prior formatting is then 'history', and I start to apply the presentational format that is required.
Hope that is useful, not too away from topic, and I haven't stated the obvious that EVERYBODY already knows. Cheers.


Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:56
English to French
Important step when working with CAT tools Nov 12, 2007

Heinrich Pesch wrote:
Do you realise how often you could make your work easier by preformatting the document prior to translation. ...
I handle mostly line breaks and exotic fonts.

Apart from converted text from pdfs, it reveals how few people know about the subtleties of simple word processing (soft breaks, non breakable spaces, styles, table formatting, contents, tabs, etc.).

However the balance between time saved on the job and time spent reformatting needs to be assessed. No need to spend ages on something if you don't get any measurable return, time- or quality-wise.

Vito, what kind of agency would run an updated TM on an original file when they have the bilingual? It leads to the problems you mention if you fiddle with the formatting, and if you don't fiddle with the formatting, you get nonsense in target texts if you have table headers such as the hexagon example from Jerzy.
To me it would just mean that the agency don't know how CAT tools work. Disturbing...

Happy translating,


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