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Is it possible to proofread 2000 (source) words per hour?
Thread poster: Li-Hsiang Hsu

Li-Hsiang Hsu  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:54
French to Chinese
+ ...
Mar 14

An agency tells me that their proofreading rate is set on the basis of 2000 source words to proofread per hour. And their revision checklist of 15 points to check includes checking consistency with glossary and reference materials, layout and formatting, etc.

I am very surprised to know that, because 2000 source words to proofread per hour, that means we have to read more than 4000 words (source text + target text) per hour because the words in the target text are usually more numerous than the source text.

And although the average reading rate of an adult is about 300 wpm, that means we can read up to more than 18 000 wph. But proofreading is not reading after all. Because we have to slow down our reading rate to make sure that there's no issue in the text proofread while revising a text.

So my standard proofread rate is based on about 800-900 source words per hour for a translation of descent quality, without big style, grammatical and meaning issues. A proofreading rate of 2000 wph is for me impossible to reach even when reading only the target text.

How about you? What do you think about a normal proofreading rate in number of words per hour?


 

Vladimir Pochinov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 07:54
Member (2002)
English to Russian
Proofreading - throughput per hour Mar 14

A generally accepted standard for proofreading is 1,000 words per hour. However, you should not mix up proofreading and editing/reviewing, which are very different things. For the former task, a proofreader does not need the source text. An editor/reviewer needs to check terminology, mistranslations, omissions, etc. The actual throughput would depend on the quality of the translation. The worst-case scenario is a useless product that requires complete re-translation from scratch.

I do accept editing jobs based on the "1,000 words per hour" approach, provided that the translation was done by one of my trusted partners. And I don't generally accept editing/reviewing jobs involving third-party translations. Moreover, I don't accept proofreading/editing/reviewing jobs where the client wants you to complete an arm-long checklist justifying each and every suggested change.


 

Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:54
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Proofreading vs. Revision Mar 14

It is possible to proofread 2000 words per hour, provided it is proofreading only which requires only the target text.

You are referring to revision, requiring both source and target texts. This results in less than 2K words per minute because the eye needs a few seconds every time it moves from one text to another.

Although checking references and glossaries as well as fixing possible formatting issues could be considered to be part of the revision process, they do have to be paid for extra because they reduce those 2K words of target text quite a bit. And I agree that proofreading is not like regular reading, e.g . a book or newspaper.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 07:54
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
No, it is not possible Mar 14

If you are expected to check against a glossary and the source text, then it is absolutely impossible to do more than just read the texts. You cannot proofread (or whatever you call it) for more than an hour or so, possibly less, without a break. It is very hard to concentrate for more than three or four hours a day, so you have to do something else in between.

If you actually have to mark and correct anything, this takes time - far more than many people realise, even experienced proofreaders!

And if you are asked to fill in one of those forms analysing the type and severity of the errors... That alone takes me longer than some of these agencies have budgeted on for the whole job!

It varies with the language and the quality of the text, but some colleagues say they charge between a quarter and a third of the translation rate for the job, and others say about half their translation rate. Your estimate of 800-900 source words per hour sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

Can you use a 'track changes' feature that registers the time when you make changes?
This would indicate when you worked on the document, although if you print out and work on paper, it does not take that time into account.

I have reached a point where I only proofread/revise/edit for clients I know well. It is a pity, because you can learn a lot from proofreading a good translation, and someone has to do it. You have to live, however, and you should be paid a realistic rate for your work.


 

Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:54
Member
English to Italian
"Per hour"... Mar 14

Li-Hsiang Hsu wrote:

An agency tells me that their proofreading rate is set on the basis of 2000 source words to proofread per hour.


I agree with the others about the (un)feasibility of 2k per hour for editing/revision, but I wanted to add that I also believe the approach so many outsourcers have about "per hour" rates is totally unfair and misleading. A per hour rate is useful for tasks such as editing precisely because you don't know how much time it will take you to complete, so the per word rate is not adequate/fair (unless it's the same as the translation rate...). A client that agrees on an hourly rate and then tells you how many words you are supposed to complete in that hour (or how many hours it should take you to complete the project) is basically imposing you a per word rate, which totally defeats the purpose of having a per hour rate...

How about you? What do you think about a normal proofreading rate in number of words per hour?


It all depends on the quality of the text you're working on and on the specific project instructions/requirements. Personally, after working as a reviewer on a very big project with a team of about 10 translators and very articulated guidelines, glossaries, "rules", style guides, etc. I decided it was not worth it and basically stopped accepting review/editing projects.

At any rate, even in the best case scenario (i.e. the translation quality is very good), my estimate doesn't go beyond 700 words per hour for this type of work.


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 06:54
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
No Mar 14

I prefer translating to proof-reading/revision/editing (or whatever clients call it). I do both, but I’m very picky with the jobs I accept. Translation it's not nearly as stressful and pays substantially more. I have very very occasionally proof-read 2,000 words per hour, but this is the exception not the rule. The rule for me is around 1,000 words per hour, unless as others have said I have to justify every change, check glossaries and fill out endless forms (this seems to be a recent “trend”)…

 

Vladimir Pochinov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 07:54
Member (2002)
English to Russian
Editing/Reviewing - 2,000 words per hour - Unrealistic expectations of the client Mar 14

@Christine Andersen: +1 on all points

 

Li-Hsiang Hsu  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:54
French to Chinese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Mar 14

I feel assured when reading your replies because it is just not possible for me to review a translation against the source text at a rate of 2000 source words per hour, let alone those with reference materials and glossaries. After all, reviewing, proofreading, or editing a text is more than just reading it. And it is not unusual that we are interrupted time to time by some terms or sentences, because we have to evaluate or double check the correctness, accuracy, justness or suitability of them. So I set my standard review rate of about 800-900 wph for a decent translation done by a professional translator worthy of this title and I have never doubt of it until recently an agency sent me a revision checklist, by specifying that their standard review rate is on the basis of 2000 words per hour, which is 5-6 times of my translating rate in wph!

And actually, given that some or maybe many agencies tend to pay too little the proofreading/review/editing job and that there are too many bad translations in the market to be reviewed and improved through proofreading/editing/review process, I accept very rarely to review translations except for those of good quality from trusted clients. For me, reviewing a translation with numerous style, grammatical or semantical issues generally takes as much time as translating it all over again, and while the translation quality is really too bad, it takes even more time to review. So if a client comes to me with a translation with many issues or because of quality claims from end clients, I recommend in general to give up, if possible, the original translation and have the whole translation done by another translator of his trust, since in the end, it is more economical in terms of time, efforts and money to fix the issues. Fixing issues of a bad translation is just like having your printer repaired by the manufacturer – it costs more to you than buying a new one!


 

Daniel Frisano
Switzerland
Local time: 07:54
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
Sounds reasonable Mar 14

When proofreading, I have the target text read out by TextAloud while following the source. Then I make an extra pass following the target, again with TextAloud.

If the translation is at least decent, I can do approx. 2500-3000 word per hour, including both passes. Some extreme cases, perhaps with a 3rd pass needed, may slow it down to 1500.

All in all, 2000 w/h seems like a reasonable estimation on average, provided that the translator has already proofread his/her work.


 

Li-Hsiang Hsu  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:54
French to Chinese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Amazing! Mar 14

Daniel,
It's amazing that you are able to proofread at that rate! I don't use TextAloud for proofreading, and I didn't think of using it for that purpose. But it can be worthy to try if I am capable of focusing on two texts at once and do the proofreading job as well as when paying attention to source and target texts sequentially.

[Edited at 2018-03-14 15:13 GMT]


 

Daniel Frisano
Switzerland
Local time: 07:54
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
@Li-Hsiang Hsu Mar 14

I hope it doesn't sound like bragging. My comment was only intended to demonstrate the results of tons of practice, and the luck of working between languages (usually English to Italian) that do not differ too much in their flow. After all, I have been studying and applying English for some 35 years now.

It gets to the point that I actually translate anew the source document in my head and check my mental translation against what I hear from TextAloud. I'd be curious to know if anyone else follows the same scheme.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 07:54
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
You cannot at the same time check against the glossary and check formatting Mar 14

Daniel Frisano wrote:

When proofreading, I have the target text read out by TextAloud while following the source. Then I make an extra pass following the target, again with TextAloud.

If the translation is at least decent, I can do approx. 2500-3000 word per hour, including both passes. Some extreme cases, perhaps with a 3rd pass needed, may slow it down to 1500.

All in all, 2000 w/h seems like a reasonable estimation on average, provided that the translator has already proofread his/her work.


You are strictly proofreading an already proofread text, and you allow yourself very little time to actually correct anything.

Many years ago, I worked at a printer's, where we proofread monolingual texts more or less the same way: we worked in pairs, one reading the 'copy' = source or manuscript aloud, and one correcting the printed proofs.
We went through each proof several times, checking for different things, and I doubt very much whether we could read more than a couple of thousand words an hour, though we did not count that way.
There was no question of inconsistency or checking glossaries etc. We simply checked for typos and formatting, and anything else that was not strictly 'as copy'. It was a much simpler job than the processes that Li-Hsiang Hsu is being asked to perform.

Even with TextAloud, I still doubt whether it is possible to work that fast with two languages as different as Chinese and French.


 

Daniel Frisano
Switzerland
Local time: 07:54
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
Thanks for the reality check! Mar 15

Christine Andersen wrote:
You cannot at the same time check against the glossary and check formatting


Funny because I have been doing it for years. Turns out I was dreaming the whole time?!?


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 07:54
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Impressive Mar 15

@ Daniel Frisano
OK, I'm impressed.
However, most of us do not work in the same way as you do, and would not be able to do so.

I cannot handle the visual and audio checks cognitively at that speed, with one eye and one ear on each language.

You said yourself you were lucky to have two related languages. Interesting. There is perhaps a similar relationship between my languages - the Scandinavian element is the 'other side' of English from the Latin-French roots. But my cognitive limitations simply would not allow me to work as you do. I can translate fast if necessary, with less guarantee for quality than wen I have plenty of time. But I certainly cannot multi-task as you do when checking/editing.

It sounds as if you would be good at PEMT?

While I know nothing of Chinese, I do know some French, and I am pretty sure there is no such relationship between the original poster's languages.
The formatting in Chinese would be very different from formatting in a European language. I suspect there is far more to check...

Anyway, over and out from me, and thanks for an interesting discussion.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:54
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Li Mar 15

Li-Hsiang Hsu wrote:
An agency tells me that their proofreading rate is set on the basis of 2000 source words to proofread per hour. And their revision checklist of 15 points to check includes checking consistency with glossary and reference materials, layout and formatting, etc.


2000 words is a figure I often encounter, yes. But I suspect that the checklists get designed by a different committee from the one that decides on the words per hour.

The checklists are meaningless anyway -- particularly in automated systems, you can't deliver the job without checking all the boxes, so even if you told the client in advance e.g. "I don't check glossaries" you have to check that box anyway, otherwise you can't deliver the job.

The checklists are for some kind of ISO requirement but from a translator's perspective it is nothing more than yet another meaninless hurdle to cross before delivery.

Proofreading 2000 words per hour is impossible unless you take shortcuts, and it is my opinion that if a client specifies 2000 words per hour, they should expect translators to adjust their precision accordingly. (I'm talking about translation agencies here -- not ignorant end-clients with unrealistic expectations.) The proposed speed determines the required accuracy.

Here's a clue: an oft quoted rule is that proofreading/editing is charged at 1/3 the price of translation, so if the average translation speed is 250-350 words per hour, shouldn't the average proofreading speed be 750-1100 words per hour? But not all agencies implement that rule -- for example, one of my biggest clients offers 1/9 of the translation rate for proofreading.

Daniel's comment is also relevant here:
All in all, 2000 w/h seems like a reasonable estimation on average, provided that the translator has already proofread his/her work.

In other words, speeds of 2000 words per hour are for checking text that already have a high degree of purity. If it's an unknown translator, 2000 words per hour would only be possible if you're lucky enough to get a translator who has proofread his own work already.


[Edited at 2018-03-15 09:10 GMT]


 
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