Qualifications for proofreaders / copy editors / copywriters, etc.
Thread poster: 784512

784512
Germany
Local time: 12:26
German to English
+ ...
Feb 20, 2011

Hi all

I researched this but have not yet come up with anything conclusive.

Are there any particular exams we can do to prove our accuracy in our target (native) language?

My situation is that I do a lot of voluntary monolingual proofreading - of texts written by a native speaker, texts that were written by a native speaker of a language I understand well (German or Dutch), and texts that were written by a native speaker of a language that I do not speak (Spanish).

The first is the easiest, and the second is pretty simple too - since I can 'backtrack' some of the writer's thought process, whilst the latter is the hardest. I am aware that in many cases, a proofreader who speaks the native language of the writer will do the best job.

I think this skill is something we translators offer far and above mere monolingual proofreaders.

However, as I am sure we are all well aware, not all translators can write properly in their source language.

Are there any qualifications available that are related to writing and proofreading skills in one's native language?

I already have an A-level and Advanced Extension Award in English, and a BA from a British university. Is there something specific to proofreading that I could take? I found a variety of courses, but many were too basic for most translators - involving the basics of grammar and running a business.

Realistically speaking, I would just like to have a piece of paper to certify my abilities.

I ask this because I am moving to the Netherlands later this year and I thought it may be a shrewd business move to invest/specialise in the monolingual editing of English text written by Dutch native speakers. I already proofread for some Dutch voluntary organisations, so could already list some experience.

Any thoughts?

[Edited at 2011-02-20 19:37 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-02-20 20:32 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:26
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
My problem: How to prove something is wrong? Feb 20, 2011

Hello,

I'm not particularly concerned by qualifications so I hope someone else will address that. But I do find there are some very specific problems in proofreading that are really difficult to resolve.

When you are translating, you normally only have to prove (if only for your own satisfaction but also if/when challenged) that a particular word or phrasing exists in the target language and that the source term is used in similar contexts. In other words, find it in a dictionary or on the internet (on dependable sites, of course) and you're home and dry.

In proofreading, the onus is on you to prove that a term or expression doesn't exist or at least is incorrect within the context. This is the problem that atheists have. Believers can simply point to current and past thinking, whereas how can an atheist prove beyond all questionable doubt that God does not exist?

An example (proofreading not religion):

I've run a workshop in France for many years now, helping job-seekers find jobs on the international scene i.e. in English. I always tell them that the English version of the "lettre de motivation" is the cover letter (American), covering letter (British) or letter of application.

I also do a lot of proofreading for a Polish agency, monolingual proofreading as I don't even know which way up to hold a Polish text. Last week there was an HR text including the words "motivational letter". I grimaced and went to change it. But I like to be sure I'm right - one hears a lot on ProZ about evil proofreaders who change everything and introduce errors and I don't want to be one! Guess what my research found? Many hits from supposedly reliable .co.uk sites! In the end I decided I had to leave it because (a) it's understandable and (b) I can't prove it's wrong, in fact the translator can "prove" it's correct!

How's that for dragging the rug out from under the well-meaning proofreader's feet? With zillions of non-native speakers of English out there, this is only going to get worse. What do you do about it?

P.S. I don't think I've hijacked your thread, Rose, but stamp on it if you think I'm poaching.


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cranium
French to English
+ ...
Society for Editors and Proofreaders accreditation Feb 20, 2011

http://www.sfep.org.uk/pub/quals/Accred_prospectus.asp

I am also thinking of taking this set of courses but would love to hear from an alumnus before taking the plunge.


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Laurie Price  Identity Verified
Mexico
Spanish to English
+ ...
pervasive misconception Feb 20, 2011

Without going into enormous detail, because I was only going to take a moment's break from another task --

I think you've confused proofreader with copy editor.

A proofreader is the last pair of eyes to view a text before it goes to print, traditionally, and is not particularly concerned with sense or meaning. Their job is correcting punctuation, formatting, alignment, consistency, and visual appearance (e.g., orphans and widows), etc.

A native speaker of the language does this best, and by the way, the best way to do it, in English, is right to left, comparing an original against an edited or changed text, or against itself -- you're less likely to get caught up in the meaning of the words if you're reading right to left.

The copy editor is the one who corrects grammar and flow, and must justify changes in style, etc. Any question should be researched. Any! No issue is too small and yes, usage & terminology can change in a heartbeat, so look it up before you mark it up.

No doubt someone else will confirm what I'm saying and add to it, but I wanted to get this much said, at the least.

As for qualifications .... there are organizations that run courses, and there's always something to learn. I used to teach 24-hour courses that were both general & industry specific, and believe me, there is always more to learn and find out about, in terms of reference books, etc. than you might imagine.

Good Luck!


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784512
Germany
Local time: 12:26
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
No, not hijacking, but a relevant point Feb 20, 2011

Sheila Wilson wrote:
P.S. I don't think I've hijacked your thread, Rose, but stamp on it if you think I'm poaching.


No, you're right. Translation skill is a little bit hard to quantify. Whilst it is easier in certain fields (e.g. IT and contractual law), it is harder in more creative areas like literary translation (which I steer clear from, largely due to the fact that I like to know I am right, which probably tells you something about my personality...). With proofreading, however, it can be even harder.

RE: Letter of motivation. When I applied for my course at a Dutch university, I had to write one of those. I think, however, that I had to write one when I applied for university in the UK. It's one of those dodgy areas in translation/proofreading, where a word CAN be used, but the boundaries are different to those perceived by non-native speakers. e.g. for work applications, it should be called a cover(ing) letter.

Back to the point.

Any qualification surely could not encompass all of the important work that a good proofreader does. That is to say, all of the edits and improvements in style.

I had a look at a test piece on a site that was advertising a proofreading course. The errors were mostly spelling, typos, homophones, and very few of the type that is most common - inappropriate use of words (verbs in particular). The example I noted was "This theory was founded on..." or similar. Those sort of errors, whilst a fellow expert will agree, are hard to quantify. Back to the original point, the skill in correcting such errors is probably even harder to qualify.

That said, a piece of paper to say I write good quality English, at the very least, may be helpful...

Although, Sheila, if I may ask, what has been your experience of providing such (monolingual) services in your source country?


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784512
Germany
Local time: 12:26
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Proofreader / Copy Editor / Copywriter Feb 20, 2011

Laurie Price wrote:

Without going into enormous detail, because I was only going to take a moment's break from another task --

I think you've confused proofreader with copy editor.

A proofreader is the last pair of eyes to view a text before it goes to print, traditionally, and is not particularly concerned with sense or meaning. Their job is correcting punctuation, formatting, alignment, consistency, and visual appearance (e.g., orphans and widows), etc.

A native speaker of the language does this best, and by the way, the best way to do it, in English, is right to left, comparing an original against an edited or changed text, or against itself -- you're less likely to get caught up in the meaning of the words if you're reading right to left.

The copy editor is the one who corrects grammar and flow, and must justify changes in style, etc. Any question should be researched. Any! No issue is too small and yes, usage & terminology can change in a heartbeat, so look it up before you mark it up.


Quite right... Although a copywriter once told me that their editing is much more significant than what I do, arguing that what I do is instead merely thorough monolingual proofreading. I was told a copywriter will literally transform every sentence - researching every field and adding and removing details. That said, I also research every field, though am less willing to add or remove details. I will however make suggestions of such a nature to the original author.

It's a bit of a blurred line, it seems.


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Anna Rioland  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:26
Member (2010)
English to Russian
+ ...
Qualifications available in the UK Feb 20, 2011

Hello Rose,

If you are looking at formal qualifications, the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) offers courses:

ihttp://www.sfep.org.uk/

[Edited at 2011-02-20 20:40 GMT]


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Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:26
English
+ ...
There's a difference between a proofreader and a copy editor, and a copyeditor and a copywriter. Feb 20, 2011

Rose Newell wrote:

Laurie Price wrote:

....I think you've confused proofreader with copy editor.

A proofreader is the last pair of eyes to view a text before it goes to print, traditionally, and is not particularly concerned with sense or meaning. Their job is correcting punctuation, formatting, alignment, consistency, and visual appearance (e.g., orphans and widows), etc.

.....

The copy editor is the one who corrects grammar and flow, and must justify changes in style, etc. Any question should be researched. Any! No issue is too small and yes, usage & terminology can change in a heartbeat, so look it up before you mark it up.


Quite right... Although a copywriter once told me that their editing is much more significant than what I do, arguing that what I do is instead merely thorough monolingual proofreading. I was told a copywriter will literally transform every sentence - researching every field and adding and removing details. That said, I also research every field, though am less willing to add or remove details. I will however make suggestions of such a nature to the original author.

It's a bit of a blurred line, it seems.



You're right, Rose, it is a blurred line. I agree with Laurie that you have confused proofreader with copyeditor, and now, copyeditor with copywriter.

A copywriter WRITES copy (text) not edits it. A copyeditor, as Laurie said, corrects grammar and flow, and checks for consistency and corrects ambiguity among other things.

On my profile page I've attempted to explain the distinction between proofreading and (copy) editing. A proofreader is the last to see a text, and reads it after it has been copyedited. And a copyeditor doesn't necessarily transform every sentence (unless it is necessary). The idea behind copyediting is to make sure the English is grammatically correct and crystal clear without interfering with the author's voice.

[Edited at 2011-02-20 20:59 GMT]


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784512
Germany
Local time: 12:26
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks :-) Feb 20, 2011

Suzan Hamer wrote:

Rose Newell wrote:

Laurie Price wrote:

....I think you've confused proofreader with copy editor.

A proofreader is the last pair of eyes to view a text before it goes to print, traditionally, and is not particularly concerned with sense or meaning. Their job is correcting punctuation, formatting, alignment, consistency, and visual appearance (e.g., orphans and widows), etc.

.....

The copy editor is the one who corrects grammar and flow, and must justify changes in style, etc. Any question should be researched. Any! No issue is too small and yes, usage & terminology can change in a heartbeat, so look it up before you mark it up.


Quite right... Although a copywriter once told me that their editing is much more significant than what I do, arguing that what I do is instead merely thorough monolingual proofreading. I was told a copywriter will literally transform every sentence - researching every field and adding and removing details. That said, I also research every field, though am less willing to add or remove details. I will however make suggestions of such a nature to the original author.

It's a bit of a blurred line, it seems.



You're right, Rose, it is a blurred line. I agree with Laurie that you have confused proofreader with copyeditor, and now, copyeditor with copywriter.

A copywriter WRITES copy (text) not edits it. A copyeditor, as Laurie said, corrects grammar and flow, and checks for consistency and corrects ambiguity among other things.

On my profile page I've attempted to explain the distinction between proofreading and (copy) editing. A proofreader is the last to see a text, and reads it after it has been copyedited. And a copyeditor doesn't necessarily transform every sentence (unless it is necessary). The idea behind copyediting is to make sure the English is grammatically correct and crystal clear without interfering with the author's voice.

[Edited at 2011-02-20 20:59 GMT]


I think my confusion stems from knowing a few copy editors / writers in my time. I think I did once, funnily enough, have the definitions right in my head... But one or more monolingual editors have been a bit snooty about the ability of translators to do the same work as them in general. One editor in fact insisted that proofreading or editing was "an exaggeration" of what I do - but I certainly don't know what else it would be called. He said that "a real proofreader or editor" is a master of their native tongue, and does not "pollute" it with other languages. He also claimed the editing I do would not be on the same level as his. He had never, incidentally, ever seen my work....

I think we have now settled, however, that it would be copy editing qualifications that I am interested in, since proofreading is probably a little bit of a simplification of what we do.


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Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:26
English
+ ...
This might be of use: Feb 20, 2011

http://www.sfep.org.uk/ (The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), a professional organisation based in the UK for editors and proofreaders – the people who strive to make text accurate and readable.)

[Edited at 2011-02-20 23:07 GMT]


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ilehmann  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:26
English to German
Bookhouse training centre Feb 21, 2011

Hi Rose

The Bookhouse training centre, which now seems to be called the Publishing training centre, also offers courses in proofreading/editing. I once (hmm, about 12 years ago) took a course in proofreading and was happy with the quality.

http://www.train4publishing.co.uk/elearning/proofedit

Regards, Ilona


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Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 12:26
English to Russian
+ ...
A different approach exists, too Feb 21, 2011

I guess I belong to a different translation subculture, as I am somewhat surprised by the very issues described by Rose and Sheila. Throughout my professional life, the editor has almost invariably had the definitive authority over the text, and no obligation to prove anything to the translator or the client. Essentially, editors have usually been recruited from senior translators with lots of experience in the given field and a good sense of style in the target language. In other words, the editor should be able to translate the given text much better than the translator; the latter does the initial rough work just to save the former's time. Accordingly, the quality of translator's work is judged by the time the editor needs to brush it up. Under my own criteria, a translation is good if it takes 4-5 times less editor's time to edit than to translate the text from scratch; if it takes 10 times less, it's excellent; 2 times less or worse would disqualify the translator from any further work (at least in this field).

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784512
Germany
Local time: 12:26
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
We are talking about monolingual editing Mar 3, 2011

Anton Konashenok wrote:

I guess I belong to a different translation subculture, as I am somewhat surprised by the very issues described by Rose and Sheila. Throughout my professional life, the editor has almost invariably had the definitive authority over the text, and no obligation to prove anything to the translator or the client. Essentially, editors have usually been recruited from senior translators with lots of experience in the given field and a good sense of style in the target language. In other words, the editor should be able to translate the given text much better than the translator; the latter does the initial rough work just to save the former's time. Accordingly, the quality of translator's work is judged by the time the editor needs to brush it up. Under my own criteria, a translation is good if it takes 4-5 times less editor's time to edit than to translate the text from scratch; if it takes 10 times less, it's excellent; 2 times less or worse would disqualify the translator from any further work (at least in this field).


Hi Anton

We are talking about monolingual editing here. Editing of a text that was originally written in the native language of the editor (or proofreader, etc.).

I quite agree that in an ideal world, the proofreader should always be the most qualified translator.


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