Editing/proofreading: what can you change and what not?
Thread poster: Lenah Susianty

Lenah Susianty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:37
Member (2004)
English to Indonesian
+ ...
May 25, 2008

I am just wondering if there are any specific standard rule for editing/proofreading, i.e. what can you change and what not.

Usually when I do editing/proofreading, I try to follow this golden rule: not to be an itchy finger (i.e, corrects everything), so when the translation is accurate and the flow of the sentence is fine, I wouldn't touch anything. I usually try to avoid changing someone else's writing style as long as the translation is accurate.

However, I found that one of my translations has been 'butchered' heavily by an editor. When I read thoroughly again all the correction made, I found that my translation was actually fine, what has been changed was the writing style and the spelling. For example, when I use an active voice, then the sentence would be changed into passive voice and vice versa. Or something like that which in my opinion is pointless.

So, I am just wondering if this is a common practice which I miss? Can anyone shed a light?

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2008-05-25 21:50]

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2008-05-25 21:59]


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Spencer Allman
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:37
Finnish to English
Un rofessional to make unncessary changes May 25, 2008

Hi Lenah

No one should make unncessary changes when revising a translation. It all depends, however, on what is 'unncessary'. For example, the editor of a magazine publishing your translation can do what he/she wants with it, though in this case he/she must not introduce errors and, additionally, there is usually nothing more for you to do regarding the translation in such cases except await payment.

There may be stylistic changes that need making sometimes but it depends on so many factors that it is impossible to give a simple answer.

Some revisers make corrections for the fun of it or to be seen to be doing their job: they are afraid of turning in a revised text with no changes made to it. This happens in a very well-known instituion, which, of course, shall remain nameless.

I wrote my dissertation on translation revision and you are free to contact me and I can send you a copy of it.


best

spencer


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Els Spin  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:37
Dutch to English
+ ...
Some of them... May 25, 2008

Hi Lenah,

I try to do my proofreading the same as you: only make changes when things are absolutely wrong. I am certainly not looking for extra work!

I actually had an argument about this with a translator once. (I am an outsourcer too.) I had a text translated by an expert in the field. I then asked this other guy to proofread/revise/screen it quickly. It was 1,500 words, which wouldn't have taken me more than 3 quarters of an hour, but he was a beginner - it was sort of a test - so I reckoned it would take him an hour and a half, perhaps two.
I sent him the texts around 10 am and waited and waited. By the end of the day, he emailed me that it was taking him longer than expected and that he would probably need two extra days to finish it!
So I called him and asked him what on earth he was up to. He claimed it was a terrible translation. But I had the text in front of me, I couldn't at all see what he was on about. I further explained to him the value of meeting deadlines and earning money - how on earth was he going to make a living on rates per word if it took him so long? But he actually told me he didn't care about that.
I got angry and asked him to return the work he had done so far to me immediately, and found that he had only done one-third (500 words in one day!) and had changed every word.
In fact, it had apparently taken him hours and hours to re-translate two paragraphs of a perfectly acceptable translation. Ridiculous, from whatever viewpoint.

In the end, it took me half an hour. I found 3 typos and 1 mistake.
He never did send me an invoice, but needless to say, I wouldn't have paid him anyway!

You see, outsourcers aren't always too happy about unnecessary work either...

As for your translation, you only have a problem if they won't pay you, so try not to lose any sleep over it!

With kind regards,
Els


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Lenah Susianty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:37
Member (2004)
English to Indonesian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
would like to read your dissertation May 25, 2008

"wrote my dissertation on translation revision and you are free to contact me and I can send you a copy of it."

I am very interested reading your dissertation Spence, how can I get hold of it? thanks! I think I will need professional back-up (theory, etc) to complain about this butchered translation.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Lenah Susianty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:37
Member (2004)
English to Indonesian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
it's the editor, the client is happy May 25, 2008

"In fact, it had apparently taken him hours and hours to re-translate two paragraphs of a perfectly acceptable translation. Ridiculous, from whatever viewpoint."

That's exactly what happened to my translation. Very very pointless. The client is happy with my translation, and usually I am the who who do editing for them, but this time since it is a very important document, they want me to translate it and ask someone else to do the editing. But really now I have to clean all the track changes (one by one), and it is taking so much time to do it!

Lenah


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
proofreading/revising/editing May 25, 2008

Spencer Allman wrote:

There may be stylistic changes that need making sometimes but it depends on so many factors that it is impossible to give a simple answer.



This statement is really at the core of this question. Certain types of writing demand certain stylistic "adjustments," but that has to be determined on a case-by-case basis. You wouldn't want a "user's manual" to read like a García Marquez novel, would you?

But certainly, there are lots of itchy fingers out there, and I fear I'm one of them. A light touch is worth a lot in this business. There's no excuse for crushing someone's ego. But these decisions are very subjective. So, in short, there's no easy answer.

Also, did you see the thread earlier in the week that attempts to clarify these labels? (Sorry, I don't have a link.) Translators who are checking that a translation doesn't have omissions or outright errors are really "checking" or "reviewing" the translation. Editing is done to a text with a focus on the target language and its rules, and (some in that thread argued) can be done by a monolingual speaker. Proofreading is really a whole other ballgame: It involves catching typos and formatting errors in proofs.

In any case, I applaud you for "going lightly" when you review other people's work. Don't be discouraged that someone with less talent or less experience butchered your translation.

Best,
Patricia


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Vittorio Ferretti  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:37
English to German
+ ...
A very delicate matter indeed! May 25, 2008

By my experience there is a high percentage of proof readings which are "worsening improvements": for every corrected mistake they introduce several errors or departures form the source text. Therefore, when I receive such a proof reading for a translation done by me, I invest in a „proof reading of the proof reading“ feedback, classifying in a listing each change made as „real correction“, „superfluous change (pure synonym change)„ or as „worsening change“.
Vittorio


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Lenah Susianty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:37
Member (2004)
English to Indonesian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
someone else checking it too May 25, 2008

" I invest in a „proof reading of the proof reading“ feedback, classifying in a listing each change made as „real correction“, „superfluous change (pure synonym change)„ or as „worsening change“.
Vittorio [/quote]"

this is what I am doing at the moment. I sent the corrected translation to two other fellow translators who both agree that the editor had 'damaged' my translation. I might propose to the client to have another person to review it.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Elena Robles Sanjuan  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:37
English to Spanish
There is no right or wrong here May 26, 2008

Hi Lenah,

I believe that, in practice, there is no such thing as corrections that should or should not be made. We can try and apply expert considerations to translation and determine what is right and what is wrong when we proofread. Unfortunately, though, it depends a great deal on what the end client wants as a finished product.

I recently discovered that one of my clients is shifting from a pure translation agency to a marketing-oriented company. When I started proofreading for them, I tended to ban completely free translations, as the source texts were either journalistic or technical, not literary. To my surprise, one day they "asked" me to allow for free translations, regardless of the nature of the text, because they wanted imaginative, creative translations; and the farthest from the original, the better.
Does it matter now what I think is right or wrong?. Certainly not.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Lenah Susianty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:37
Member (2004)
English to Indonesian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
not free style May 26, 2008

"I believe that, in practice, there is no such thing as corrections that should or should not be made. We can try and apply expert considerations to translation and determine what is right and what is wrong when we proofread. Unfortunately, though, it depends a great deal on what the end client wants as a finished product."

Hi Elena,
I understand that however my translation is more on legal/human rights issue which has a lot of legal terminologies and in a way it does not give too much room for free style.
The reviser did not either make it freer or stricter, but most of the time only swapping places for example verb +adverb now has become adverb+verb, and also changed most of my diction (including terminologies! which ruined the consistency of the content!)

That's why when I saw it I literally almost wept!:(


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Maria-Carmen
Local time: 11:37
English
The translator should have the last word May 26, 2008

Hi Lenah,

The only positive point about your experience was that the you had the chance to see the proofread translation before it was sent to the client. That doesn't always happen due to time restraints, and unfortunately agencies sometimes have to accept the changes of the editor and send the text to the client right away in order to meet the agreed deadline.

As a PM I always try to allow for the translator to have a final look and accept/reject the reviewer's changes -because ultimately it is the translator who is more familiar with the text and who has invested more energy in the project.

The problem with proofreaders making "stylistic changes" is indeed a thorny one: especially if you have to act as an intermediary between translator and editor - indeed the only solution here is finding an independent proofreader who can provide a second opinion. In my experience I have noticed that it's better not to ask a certain proofreader to edit a certain translator's work, as they will always disagree. And that is simply because their styles are different, though they could probably be both right.

Good luck with sorting this matter out soon!
Carmen


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:37
Italian to English
+ ...
Dissenting voice May 26, 2008

First, I should clarify that my comments refer to editing - proofreading is a completely different kettle of fish which should ONLY address typos and the like.

I started out with the idea that editing should be done with a light touch, changing only the necessary and trying to avoid interfering with the translator's natural style. I have to say that as my experience as a translator and reviser has grown, so my translations have grown freer (i.e. less literal) and my revisions more heavy-handed.

OK, so maybe you've all been lucky enough to revise translations which were decent in the first place - on occasion it's happened to me too. But I've also revised many which were stilted, dull and obviously literal translations of the original. That's not what translation's about, surely? Faithful to the original, yes, but rendered in language and terms actually used in the target language. If it reads like a translation, it's not good enough.

It's also worth bearing in mind that the register must reflect the original - if the original is chatty in style, then so should the target be. I've had to take apart a translation which took a highly informal, promotional leaflet written in the second person and turned it into a stilted discourse in the passive voice... not what the client had in mind, I'm sure.
But on the other hand, the translator should be prepared to change what's needed - just because the Italian uses the present tense in minutes of meetings, that doesn't mean the English translation should too!

I've also had indirect feedback that my approach is the right one. I was asked by an agency to have a look at a translation they'd done and proofread which was rejected by the client. I had to say the client was right – the translation was grammatically correct and an accurate translation of the original, but it was dull, dull, dull. The text – again – was promotional material for a small-scale producer of organic foods, but the English version certainly wouldn’t have had me rushing out to buy the product.

So I have to dissent from the “change as little as possible” approach. My advice when editing is “don’t be afraid to change what you think is necessary”, especially with promotional and marketing material. Of course, you need to be careful not to change what isn’t necessary!
But if your translation comes back “butchered” following editing, take a look at it without track changes on (in the “show final” view) and ask yourself honestly if it isn’t better as it stands than it was before, even if the differences are only stylistic.


[Edited at 2008-05-26 15:14]


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
Too abstract May 26, 2008

This discussion really is too abstract to be of any use. Unfortunately we don't have the same language combinations. If it were into English and you were to paste your translation and the proofread one, we could give you an opinion (just what you wanted I bet), otherwise everthing is rather abstract. I do think though, having been a PM and having sent out the same test piece to quite a few translators, that good translations tend to converge.

It doesn't seem like the agency is trying to get a reduction on the price of your translation, so try to take it philosophically, in that the proofreader had to appear to have done some work. Tell the agent that the proofreader has swung a few sentences around and that you prefer your own version.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxGloria-123
English to Chinese
strange Jun 20, 2008

It is a problem when you finished a proofreading, you thought it was perfect. But when you read it maybe two days later, you would found some errors or vices which you thought it was ok before. Everytime you reviewed your article, you would found something unavailable, and more over the things you thought was perfect didn't match the others' taste, it's really strange and annoying.

Direct link Reply with quote
 


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


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

Editing/proofreading: what can you change and what not?

Advanced search







WordFinder
The words you want Anywhere, Anytime

WordFinder is the market's fastest and easiest way of finding the right word, term, translation or synonym in one or more dictionaries. In our assortment you can choose among more than 120 dictionaries in 15 languages from leading publishers.

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