Proof-reading - what are the skills?
Thread poster: Sian Cooper

Sian Cooper  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:11
French to English
+ ...
May 24, 2012

Hi all. Setting up as a translator, I am also considering what other skills I could reasonably offer without specific experience in them.

I see proof-reading in the translation context as a two-fold thing (am I right?) - validation of the quality of the target text/spelling/punctuation/layout etc.; and perhaps validation of the quality/ correctness of the translation.

I am a natural sharp-eyed reader, constantly mentally correcting what I read and deeply irritated by the number of errors one encounters; so I have always been tempted by proof-reading as a job. I am aware here are standard proof-reading symbols and practices - but I don't know them; and I don't know what they might be in a soft-copy situation; and I don't know if that is really publisher-level proofing, and not what agencies require in a translation context.

Also, I don't know how you'd charge: if it is only target text validation, that is just standard proofing; if you are also validating the translation, that is far more.

Not knowing all that... well, I would appreciate feedback and advice, and also to know how to learn the relevant skills if I definitely require more.

Thanks!


 

Gabriel Luis  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:11
Member (2008)
German to Spanish
+ ...
Supporting your arguments May 25, 2012

Hola Sian,

from my personal point of view, a fundamental skill of a proof-reader (actually can be applied to a translator too), is being able to reason and support your decisions and/or changes in a given project. Why "handover" and not "transference"? Why "casillero" and not "apartado de correos"?
Unfortunately, the hurry of a lot of projects does not allow to establish a dialogue, but the skill of supporting your translational options is a a-priori feature every linguist should provide.
An academic background in translation may provide some help too: Juliane House has been dealing with translation quality assement (TQA) for more than 10 years and here:

http://anglogermanica.uv.es:8080/Journal/Viewer.aspx?Year=2007&ID=calvo.pdf

you can get a dive into her views.

Salud(os)!


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:11
English to German
+ ...
Self-discipline and a detached point of view May 25, 2012

Those are critical skills in professional proofreading and editing. The text you are working on is not YOUR text.

Proofreading means to perform a monolingual check on the translated file. You will look for spelling errors and grammatical errors. You are not supposed to change the writing style of the document.

Editing means to perform a bilingual check by comparing the source document to the translation. You will check if any information was omitted, if the terminology is correct and of course you will fix any errors in grammar and spelling. You are not supposed to change the writing style of the document.

Reviewing means to perform a monolingual check of the translation. You will check if the information is correct, if the terminology is correct and up-to-date and of course you will fix any errors in grammar and spelling. You will check if the writing style is appropriate for the readership and target group and the purpose of the text and make adjustments as necessary.

Proofing means to check the first print-out, usually delivered as a PDF, after the typesetting process of a translated file has been finished. You will check for proper hyphenation, widows, orphans and the likes and you will perform the final round of proofreading before the document goes into print.

Proofreading, editing, reviewing and proofing have different rates, of which reviewing is the most expensive.

Common mistakes made by proofreaders and editors:

- Trying to implement your own, your preferred or any other writing style that you picked up somewhere else into the document.
- Trying to mark as much text as possible as faulty to proudly show your client what a cool and hard-working proofreader/editor you are and, boy!, that you are REALLY worth your money.
- Apologizing because you couldn't find any errors and that the client please, please, should not think that you were lazy.

Clients may be insecure because they don't speak the target language, but in the end you leave them behind with a completely new and rewritten text -- that has not been proofread yet. It can cost them money and a client.


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:11
English to German
+ ...
I also agree with Gabriel May 25, 2012

Gabriel Luis wrote:
from my personal point of view, a fundamental skill of a proof-reader (actually can be applied to a translator too), is being able to reason and support your decisions and/or changes in a given project. Why "handover" and not "transference"? Why "casillero" and not "apartado de correos"?



At all times you must be able to justify your edits. "I like this phrasing better / it sounds better" won't do, and any personal preferences, quirks and attitudes always cost everyone involved a lot of money.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:11
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
A couple of other things May 25, 2012

To add to what others have said so well.

S_Cooper wrote:
I am aware here are standard proof-reading symbols and practices - but I don't know them; and I don't know what they might be in a soft-copy situation

I've never been asked to use anything specific, except for sometimes categorising errors according to a given list (syntax, omission, etc). I always use Word's track changes option, although I really need to get to grips with proofreading in PDFs.

Also, I don't know how you'd charge: if it is only target text validation, that is just standard proofing; if you are also validating the translation, that is far more.

I'm sure you have already figured out that proofreading time is like a length of string. Take two texts translated from the same source, with identical proofreading requirements, and one could take three times longer than the other to complete. Everything depends on the competence of the translator. Of course, the same thing applies to monolingual proofreading - texts can be written by native speakers who are accomplished writers or intermediate-level language learners who don't have a good writing style in their native language.

For that reason, most translators quote an hourly rate. Of course the client will probably insist on at least a ballpark figure, and many insist on a per-word rate. The only safe way to arrive at that is to examine EACH & EVERY text carefully - either all of it or random pages. Do NOT be fooled by the first page of a 20-page text: it's amazing how often people start well then lose concentration, or another translator/writer takes over. With a little experience, you can estimate how fast you will be able to work and thereby arrive at a per-word rate. Newbies should time themselves proofreading a chunk to calculate the rate. Do NOT be pushed into quoting a fixed rate per word and learn how to say "NO - this needs to be re-translated". You'll discover in the pages of this forum that many (most?) translators hate and refuse proofreading due to dreadful, costly experience.

Anyway, I hope you will be one of the few who find it stimulating and interesting, as I do.

Sheila

P.S. Give my love to the south of France, especially to Montpellier - I'm not missing it yet but it is a lovely placeicon_smile.gif


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:11
English to German
+ ...
How to charge May 26, 2012

Sheila has made an excellent point in regard to charging hourly rates.

Personally, and because I am very picky about any proofreading / editing projects and because in most cases translator and editor know each other, I prefer to charge per word. The word count is based on the translation, not the source text, and my editing rate is about 40% of my translation rate. The translators that I take editing jobs from already made sure that no translation will leave their office without being thoroughly checked. Which leaves me with hardly any work to do, and by taking on such tasks, I am able to earn skyrocketing daily rates. Plus, it is a pleasure to read top-notch work.


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 08:11
Chinese to English
Terminology varies; symbols are easy May 26, 2012

Many agencies and clients don't use terms like review, proofread, check, QA, etc. with any level of consistency, so always check exactly what you're being asked to do.

With soft-copy editing, usually editing directly in Word is fine. You can track changes or generate a comparison version afterwards (I hate looking at a redline document, I can never read them smoothly enough).

For hard copy editing, there are only 20 or 30 proofreaders marks in common use, and you'll pick them up very quickly over the course of a job or two.

I personally find proofreading (here I mean checking against the source text) very very difficult. For me, the biggest part of a translator's job is thoroughly understanding the source text; and with proofreading you have not one by two texts to understand. It's twice the work for half the money! But if you can find good translators to proofread, like Nicole suggests, and it's something you enjoy, then I'm sure it can be great work.


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:11
English to German
+ ...
It's all about synergy May 26, 2012

Phil Hand wrote:

Many agencies and clients don't use terms like review, proofread, check, QA, etc. with any level of consistency, so always check exactly what you're being asked to do.


True. Way too many young PMs can't tell proofreading from editing, but those are also the ones who send you a magazine print ad for translation and call it "flyer" because it's only one page... icon_smile.gif

But if you can find good translators to proofread, like Nicole suggests, and it's something you enjoy, then I'm sure it can be great work.


Good (!) agencies also use serious editing projects to train new translators on a particular account, which means training them on terminology, style guides, established phrasing in terms of corporate identity, a.s.o.


 

Germaine  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:11
English to French
+ ...
Thank you! May 26, 2012

Nicole Schnell wrote:
Proofreading means... Editing means... Reviewing means... Proofing means...


Nicole, it's always a pleasure to read you, but really, to me, this is worth printing and framing!


 

Sian Cooper  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:11
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Fantastic May 26, 2012

Guys, thank you all so much for your comments. Really, this thread is a gem. Is there some way the advice can be merged and turned into a sticky somewhere?

I don't want to single out Nicole only - all of you have given some really helpful advice, so thank you:

Nicole: objectivity; and yes, your definitions are an eye-opener! Never again shall I use 'proofing' as an abbreviation for 'proof-reading'!

Gabriel: support your decisions

Sheila: don't be afraid to say NO

Phil: symbols; agencies do not always use the terms correctly

Nicole and Sheila: charging and translator competency.

I am looking to start the Bristol MA in Translation later this year, since I believe that qualifications are useful (especially when dealing with the French); I also believe I will learn things! Gabriel's suggestion has given me the idea that this area could be a good personal-study subject. (I was considering audio-visual translation). I will certainly follow that link, Gabriel, too.

I just have to say, I have been blushing because I say
"I am aware here are standard proof-reading symbols"

- my own auto-correction process failed, it should read "there" not "here". This has been so bugging me!!! So really, even if others avoid it, I think it is a good direction for me.

Sheila, Montpellier says hi back icon_smile.gif. Right now I am in the wonderful Pyrenées with my family; you can't beat it!


 

christela (X)
Compliments to Nicole May 26, 2012

Just another remark: serious proofreading (etc.) is VERY time-consuming.

As a proofreader, I seldomly see well-translated documents. In general, when the client wants a document to be proofread, this is either because he wants to test a new translator, either because he suspects something.

Last point, technically, proofreading always happens in the soft way nowadays: in Word (with tracking changes)/PPT/Excel, or in the bilingual CAT-file, or on the already prepared PDF-file (in this case, you are expected to insert remarks). In some rare cases the client asks you to put your comments in a separate file. In the last years I only corrected one paper copy, a printed book which had been send to me by snail mail (!).


 

Anne R
Italy
Local time: 01:11
English to French
+ ...
So useful May 27, 2012

Nicole Schnell wrote:
Proofreading means ...
Editing means
Reviewing means
Proofing means ....


Just wanted to add I found your post so useful. I will save so as to be able to get back to it!
Anne


 


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