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Client refuses to pay full sum ... because of formatting
Thread poster: Constance Mannshardt

Constance Mannshardt  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:09
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Nov 9, 2006

I did a quite big job for a client I already have worked for several times in the last 2 years. He always sends his several colorful word-files with all kind of different text-formattings, photos, text-boxes, diagrams and so on, and I used to do the job in word (stressy!). This time he sent me 4 files, (about) 10.000 words and asked for a little discount in avance, uponwhich I agreed, because he has no idea of Trados and I knew this document would be very alike the last ones I translated for him. So we agreed on a fix price.
After translating in Tag-Editor I did some little arrangements were text boxes were obviously too small or to big or overlapping, made a little list of changes that should be made that I personally wasn't able to, and sent it back to him. A very stressful week followed, as he kept on mailing/phoning me, telling me how much time he was spending on my work to get the layout done. I listened that for 2-3 days and finally told him that, although I had made some arrangements in the word-file, my job was the translation and it had been years I did no more really bother with layout.
Today he finally called to tell me he wasn't happy with the qualitiy of my work, he had spent too much time correcting the layout (only 1 translation mistake was found in more than 10.000 words) and he wanted to pay only 60% from the price agreed upon.
If he told me there where lots of translation mistakes, I would agree promptly, but in this case I really don't know what to do.
I've never experienced something like this over my over almost 20 years as a translator and don't know what to do. Should I agree in a discount of 40% because of layout arrangements in a word-file (I actually made some "obvious corrections", but that wasn't really my concern)?


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Patrick Panifous
Local time: 18:09
English to French
+ ...
This client is a crook Nov 9, 2006

Dear Constance,

I'm sorry, but that client is a crook. When translating a file with Trados, it's obvious that the translated document won't look like a finished file. Your client hired you to translate a document, not to do the DTP and deliver a document ready to go to the client (well, I suppose).

I'm sure he very well knows that fact and he is just trying to reduce the money he owes you. Maybe he didn't take into account when accepting the job for his client that he would have some DTP to do on the document and that this DTP has a price. He would like to take the money he owes you to pay the DTP person.

From what you are saying, I would say that it's not a professional attitude from your client.


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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 18:09
French to Dutch
+ ...
Did you quote a supplementary fee for formatting? Nov 9, 2006

Did you quote a supplementary fee for formatting?
If so: the client is right, but he can only deduct the formatting part.
If not: the client has to pay all translation costs.

Stay firm, or next time your client will expect that formatting is included in your price (and, why not, DTP, photocopies and breakfast coffee).

[Edited at 2006-11-09 10:33]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:09
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
I sympathise with the client, but... Nov 9, 2006

Constance Mannshardt wrote:
Today he finally called to tell me he wasn't happy with the qualitiy of my work, he had spent too much time correcting the layout (only 1 translation mistake was found in more than 10.000 words) and he wanted to pay only 60% from the price agreed upon.


Microsoft Word is not a DTP program. Even if it were, when you translate the text, the formatting is usually also affected. My sympathies to the client, and I know how me must feel, but he can't expect the translator to retain 100% formatting. And he shouldn't use Microsoft Word as if it were a DTP program either.


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Claudia Iglesias  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 13:09
Member (2002)
Spanish to French
+ ...
Isn't it a rule to deliver translations looking like originals? Nov 9, 2006

When I read the previous answers I'm surprised to see that MSWord seems to be considered a format for which it's difficult to keep the layout.

In general I offer translations with the same layout than the original except when the original document is a PDF or fax, and I state in the P.O. that the layout will not be identical but similar. No extra fee is charged for MSWord. I do charge a little bit more for PowerPoint.

Isn't it a rule to deliver translations looking like originals?

Claudia


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:09
German to English
+ ...
Client refuses to pay full sum ... because of formatting Nov 9, 2006

Claudia Iglesias wrote:

Isn't it a rule to deliver translations looking like originals?


I would describe it as a convention, not a rule.

It is also hard to talk about "looking like" where electronic texts are concerned. Quite often, the text may appear quite different on the translator's screen simply because it contains fonts which the translator does not possess. The fonts can be left unchanged and the font appearance will then be the same to the customer/author, even though the translator may never have "seen" it in this way. This is just one example, though; a different font means that the text has a different physical length, which in turn affects page breaks, etc.

To guarantee that a translation has exactly the same appearance as the original, the translator's system would have to be exactly the same as of the customer's/author's: not just the same programs installed, but identical versions; the same fonts available; the same configurations; to some extent, the same hardware (the printer may affect the permissible margin sizes, for instance). The use of CAT tools in any shape or form would of course be entirely out of the question.

It goes without saying that this is utopian. Translation is only part of the documentation process, and it is logical that final layouting should be downstream of it. Translated text is therefore inevitably going to require some further work, although if the process is handled properly this work can be kept to a minimum. Professional layouters/DTP experts understand this fact and for this reason often favour giving the translator text with a minimum of formatting in the form of "stories" which they (the DTP experts) can import into the DTP application. The alternative of expecting the translator to work in the DTP program is the equivalent of expecting a DTP expert to do the translation. Translating text for publication in Microsoft Word is essentially the worst of both worlds.

Marc


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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 18:09
French to Dutch
+ ...
Answer Nov 9, 2006

Claudia Iglesias wrote:

When I read the previous answers I'm surprised to see that MSWord seems to be considered a format for which it's difficult to keep the layout.

You can't imagine what clients do in Word. They paste photographs, graphics, pie charts created with a non compatible program, images and entire PDFs.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:09
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Basic formatting is easy in MS Word Nov 9, 2006

Claudia Iglesias wrote:
When I read the previous answers I'm surprised to see that MSWord seems to be considered a format for which it's difficult to keep the layout.


I consider it a very difficult program to use when it comes to formatting (even inline formatting is cumbersome) (but then, I'm an old WordPerfect 5.1 kind of guy).

But even if inline formatting is straight-forward, there's also positioning, text boxes, graphics, columns, tables of various kinds, field codes, bookmarks, mumbo-jumbo and then you start getting the picture.

It gets especially hard if the client had used complex formatting in the original, and expects the translation to just magically fit perfectly into the holes.

Isn't it a rule to deliver translations looking like originals?


It's common sense to approximate to the best of your ability (and time constraints) the formatting of the original (with certain notable exceptions, eg translation-for-DTP), but certainly not a rule.


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Claudia Iglesias  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 13:09
Member (2002)
Spanish to French
+ ...
Thanks for your answers Nov 9, 2006

First of all, thanks Marc because you used the right terminology for what I meant. I was thinking of "convention" more than "rule", and thanks to all those who explained what more precisely Constance was referring to.

Claudia


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Sergei Tumanov  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:09
English to Russian
+ ...
what are the terms listed in the purchase order? Nov 9, 2006

it is difficult to give any useful comment without knowing what is in the PO/

If there is only work of "translation" in it, what formatting the client speaks about?



[Edited at 2006-11-09 13:13]


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Constance Mannshardt  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:09
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
It's good Proz exists! Nov 9, 2006

Thank you all for your opinions and support. I really felt bad this morning, since there has NEVER been any complaint about my work.
When he called complaining about the extra-work he was having formatting the word-document, I tried to explain that it had been several years I did translations really concerned (focused, also) in the final layout of the document. I told him that at that time very frequently my clients used to send me the originals in paper, and I had more work copying/scanning, cutting, collating and recopying the originals for to build the e-version for my clients, but I used to charge apart for this work.
I really don't believe he's trying to pay me less - I think he really believes he has a reason and is right doing so - and I could also notice that he has no idea of DTP programs, he's naiv, but not malicious or nasty.
Worse of all, he is a good client, he has interesting projects and pays quickly and fair rates.
Maybe I should ask him to have a look at this post?

P.S. It's sooooooooo difficult (for me) to write in English, please apologize mistakes and things like that...


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Constance Mannshardt  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:09
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Sorry, Sergej, I didn't answer your question Nov 9, 2006

I was told to do the translation - no word about layout!
I tried to keep the original look as much as possible and was able to do (time matter, also).


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:09
German to English
+ ...
Client refuses to pay full sum ... because of formatting Nov 9, 2006

Claudia Iglesias wrote:

... I state in the P.O. that the layout will not be identical but similar.


... and I agree with you Claudia that this is reasonable.

Marc


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Henrik Pipoyan  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:09
Member (2004)
English to Armenian
Let's develop a common policy Nov 9, 2006

Translators are often held responsible for insufficient formatting, using incorrect scripts, calculation mistakes, etc., or are expected to do translation + editing + proofreading + formatting, and all this is called just "translation". I think we should define here, for the ProZ.com community, what “basic formatting” is, what it includes and what it doesn't, and in general, what the service called “translation” should include. We can discuss it, vote and adopt a common policy on the leading translator site. For example, just a decade ago computer literacy was not necessary for a translator, while today it’s a must. Computer is something that is really needed, but who knows what we'll have to face tomorrow. All computer programs develop; new features and possibilities are introduced, sometimes they can be linked to graphic software, spreadsheets, databases, etc. If we don’t determine the limits of our responsibilities by accepting definitions and publishing them on such popular locations, to which we can always refer our clients, we cannot protect ourselves, and we’ll have to become expert graphic designers + programmers + accountants + ... instead of translating. Of course in each case the translator and the client will decide what the assignment should include, but in case of such conflicts translators will have at least a resource to somehow protect their rights.

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Claudia Iglesias  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 13:09
Member (2002)
Spanish to French
+ ...
Good idea, let's focus just on formatting here Nov 9, 2006

My opinion:

With PowerPoint, formatting is compulsory. It implies changing the font size or moving images in order to avoid having them hiding the translated text.

In MSWord, It implies keeping the fonts, the colours, bold, italics, underlines...
I had to translate recently an announcement. The fonts were very large because it was going to be put on a wall. The translation needed two pages instead of one. I asked the client whether he preferred to keep the size or the format in a single page. He preferred a single page and I reduced the size of the fonts.

For PDFs and faxes it's impossible to produce an identical product, but I bought ABBYFineReader and I'm happy with what it allows me to do. If I didn't have it I'd have to refuse some jobs or spend a lot of time. For this kind of documents I charge a little bit extra because I use a software which is an investment and because I spend time preparing the document.

When we know that it's impossible to keep the layout we should always specify it in the Purchase Order.

Looking forward to reading other opinions

Claudia


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