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Wrong definition of proof reading
Thread poster: Philip Lees

Philip Lees  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 13:59
Member (2008)
Greek to English
Jul 15, 2011

For the first time today I came across the completely incorrect definition of proof reading in the ProZ.com wiki:

http://wiki.proz.com/wiki/index.php/Proofreading

"Proofreading means the critical revision of a text."

No it doesn't. "Critical revision" is the last thing a proof reader should be doing. Proof reading, surprisingly enough, means reading proofs, checking them for accuracy against an original text, while also ensuring that any typesetting instructions specific to the publisher and publication have been met.

It is not the proof reader's job to critique or to revise the text. All that has already been done before the proofs are generated.

I'm aware that many agencies use the term "proof reading" when they really mean copy editing or some other form of text checking and correction, but I'm disappointed that ProZ.com would connive at perpetuating such a solecism.

Or is it just me?


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Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:59
English
+ ...
Oh MY! Jul 15, 2011

No, it's not just you. It is completely wrong.

There's a lot of confusion and debate about the difference between proofreading and editing.
On my profile I give my take on it and describe proofreading as "identifying and correcting typographical, spelling, and punctuation errors. Editing involves modifying a text to ensure that it is accurately written and makes sense to the reader. The basic distinction is that proofreading does not involve any rewriting of the text while editing does."

Someone else has said elsewhere, proofreading is usually the last step before a text is published or handed over to the client.

While technically it is correct that proofreading involves checking proofs against the original text, nowadays proofreading has nothing to do with proofs, but means just reading over a text to eliminate any typos and errors in spelling and punctuation. Definitely not anything to do with revising the text or word usage, sentence structure, content logic and writing style.


[Edited at 2011-07-15 22:40 GMT]


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Mailand  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:59
Italian to German
+ ...
Thanks for clarifying Jul 16, 2011

I did a little of one and a little of the other (in some cases they - editing and proofreading - got mixed up) and did wonder about the correct "interpretation" of the terms. It sounds as if thread starter and first commentator really know what they are talking about - thanks again!

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Claudio Nasso  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 12:59
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Do not mix up roles, please! Jul 16, 2011

Dear Philip,

I completely agree with you and I would like to share with you an issue (sometimes) connected to fair rates to be charged to clients/outsourcers.

In general terms, I refer to translator, proof-reader, linguistic reviser and (publishing) editor roles and to the respective and different skills and responsibilities that, from my point of view, should not be mixed up.

  • The translator must translate at best a source original text into the target language required. He/she is accountable, as regards his/her skills, for being acquainted (or even specialized) with the subject matter and for having the proper linguistic mastery to carry out the translation using the terminological consistency and, as regards his/her responsibility, to assure that the translated text: (a) reflects the original text, (b) does not contain spelling, grammar, syntactic mistakes, and (c) is a proper rendering of the original text.


  • The proof-reader (WARNING: this term could have a different meaning) must reread a translated text (but this applies also to original and not translated texts) to spot and amend spelling, grammar and syntactic mistakes (e.g. amend "a housa" with "a house"). His/her skills demand that he/she knows perfectly the target language (it is not required that he/she knows the source language) avoiding dialectal inflections/variants or foreign terms (apart when expressly requested and/or when adopted by the "official" target language, e.g., in Italian a "computer" remains a "computer"). His/her responsibilities request to deliver a text without spelling, grammar and syntactic mistakes.


  • The linguistic reviser must compare the source text with the target translated one to check the formal, contextual, sequential and (when required) formatting (e.g. bold, and/or italics, and/or "bullet/numbered lists") translation correctness. His/her skills demand that he/she knows the source language AND the target one AND the subject matter. His/her responsibilities request to deliver a text reflecting the original layout and to assure the complete, proper, consistent and formal consonance with the source text, checking, in the meantime, the terminological consistency used.


  • The editor (technical, scientific or, in general, a publishing editor) is a role that, somehow, lies outside the real translation job even if, in a technical, scientific, art, narrative, etc. publishing environment dealing with translated texts/essays/articles, this is a very important task. This professional role must have a specialized knowledge of the subject matter and has a "reasonable" power to decide and to operate.
    For example, an Italian art/history of art publishing editor must know that paintings sizes must be quoted in centimetres (cm), in the form "height x width" (and not vice versa), and that drawings and etchings must be quoted in millimetres (mm), and has the right to change them accordingly. Or else, when he/she deals with a painting caption, again for example, he/she must know the difference existing between a depiction of a Latin Madonna with blessing Child and a Greek Mother of God with blessing Child, and amend (or point out to the author) possible problems, suggesting the change of caption or of the image itself. Another example is the ability to "localize" a bibliography to adapt it to the national bibliographic publishing rules (e.g. Italian bibliographic rules differs from US ones).
    An editor must know the subject matter and be able to point out and fix doubts and perplexities, or suggest solutions/advice concerning the material he/she is working on. His/her responsibilities request to deliver a text that complies to the publishing rules required, to point out doubts and advise solutions/suggestions and, finally, to check the overall compliance of the final layout to that defined/approved by the art director of the publishing house.

There is another task that can be associated to the translation: DTP and graphic layout, but we can talk about it in another occasion, as it requires specific professional SWs (e.g. Quark Xpress or Adobe InDesign) and it is a different job.

Said what above, it is clear that they are four distinct roles, each one with different specificity.
No doubt that each task (when expressly required by the client) has its own cost that will contribute to form the final value of the translated text.

Some of the roles here above outlined can be managed by the same person/studio/business entity, provided that they have the skills to do it, and, in any case, any of these tasks is subject to a proper pricing.

Any role/phase of the final release requires specific professional levels and costs that clients/outsourcers must acknowledge (even if, many times, they "pretend not to know it" :huh:).

For example, a translator must make his/her best in translating the text received and he/she is not supposed to be a reviser or an editor (with their specific professional skills and knowledge); a proof-reader is not supposed to be a translator and, in the same way, a linguistic reviser is not supposed to be an editor. But if a person can carry out two or more of the above roles, that’s OK, but it must be clear that this availability (duly proved: we cannot turn ourselves into a role without having right competences) will (or better: must) have an effect on the "finished product" final price.

Concluding, we must not mix up roles/responsibilities, we must not lump everything together trying to offer what we cannot/are not able to do (until one has proof of the contrary). It is not a good bargain neither for our professionalism, nor for our image, nor for the quality of services we are offering.

I think that it's better to limit ourselves to those services we know to “win hands down” and to those we can excel, and, last but not least, we must charge the client/outsourcer (or "teach" them to accept) for additional costs for avery required additional task.

Thank you for sharing your considerations/views.

Claudio


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:59
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
No, it's just you Jul 16, 2011

Philip Lees wrote:
For the first time today I came across the completely incorrect definition of proof reading in the ProZ.com wiki. ... I'm disappointed that ProZ.com would connive at perpetuating such a solecism.


The ProZwiki is a *wiki*, so the people who do the conniving here isn't ProZ.com, but you and I.

Proof reading, surprisingly enough, means reading proofs, checking them for accuracy against an original text, while also ensuring that any typesetting instructions specific to the publisher and publication have been met.


You'll find this phenomenon in all subject fields, namely that a word that has one meaning in one profession has a different meaning in another profession. ProZ.com is a *translators'* site, not a publishers' site. If publishers use a term in one meaning (galley proofs) and translators use it in another meaning (bilingual proofs), the publishers' meaning will not be the one in the wiki.

The term "proofreading" means what clients mean when they use the term. None of my clients have ever used the term in the publishers' sense (i.e. galley proofing, what you refer to). I am certainly asked by clients to do what you call "proofreading", but it is often called something else. My one clients calls is "QM" (for some odd reason). Oother clients call it "post-DTP", or similar terms.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:59
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
It seems that you actually disagree with Philip Jul 16, 2011

Claudio Nasso wrote:
  • The proof-reader must reread a translated text (but this applies also to original and not translated texts) to spot and amend spelling, grammar and syntactic mistakes...


  • If I understand correctly, this is precisely what Philip is saying the definition is *not*. What you have written is the classic translators' meaning (also called a "light edit").

  • The editor (technical, scientific or, in general, a publishing editor) ...


  • From your description of the "editor" is would appear that you have merged tasks of *subeditors* and *publishing editors* into one new role. This highlights the problem with using terms in different fields -- a book has an "editor" and a newspaper has an "editor", but the two editors perform two completely different tasks.

    Said what above, it is clear that they are four distinct roles, each one with different specificity.


    I have aways throught that there are only three roles, namely a person making the translation, a person checking the translation (must be a separate person), and a person checking to conversion of formats (e.g. from a CAT format to a DTP format) (may be a separate person).

    The 4th role that you mention is not part of the translation process -- if an Italian art magazine publishes a text that was translated from English, the magazine's editor should judge the Italian text in the same way as he would judge a text that was originally written in Italian (and duly make corrections if needed), and the fact that it was translated should not come into play.


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    neilmac  Identity Verified
    Spain
    Local time: 12:59
    Spanish to English
    + ...
    Agreement Jul 16, 2011

    Samuel Murray wrote:
    The term "proofreading" means what clients mean when they use the term.


    I totally agree. In the real world of translation in general (I work myself in several fields) there is often an overlapping of terms/meanings. I generally call checking over texts "revision" and my Spanish clients call me "el revisor" or "the reviewer", although the latter is likely a misnomer. I will sometimes describe this activity as "proofing" because to some it may sound more "professional", which seems to be the main criterion for many people (looking and sounding professional). I don't usually waste time splitting hairs about what the job/task/activity is called, rather about getting it done to the best of my abilities.


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    Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
    Netherlands
    Local time: 12:59
    English
    + ...
    It's not splitting hairs; it's accurate job description Jul 16, 2011

    neilmac wrote:

    I don't usually waste time splitting hairs about what the job/task/activity is called, rather about getting it done to the best of my abilities.




    It doesn't take as much time to proofread (identify and correct typos, spelling and punctuation errors) a text as it does to edit (identify and correct typos, spelling and punctuation AND address matters of content, style, grammar, syntax and clarity to render a well-written and comprehensible text).

    Often a client will request "proofing" when actually the text requires editing, and not understand that a proper edit is going to cost more than a "mere" proofreading.

    I think people, especially clients, must be aware that editing and proofreading are two different tasks. To me, it's similar to the difference between washing a car and fixing a car. "Fixing" requires a lot more knowledge, skill, time and experience than does "washing." Consequently, one would expect to pay more for fixing than washing... and therefore, I find it necessary that the task you are going to perform for the client is accurately defined.

    [Edited at 2011-07-16 23:16 GMT]


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    JaneD  Identity Verified
    Sweden
    Local time: 12:59
    Member (2009)
    Swedish to English
    + ...
    Agree as well Jul 16, 2011

    ...with Samuel that in practice in the translation industry, "proofreading" is whatever the client means by the term.

    For example, I have a client who sends me "proofreading" jobs but who actually wants me to check for spelling and punctuation errors but also to smooth out the sometimes rather peculiar English of their - native English - translator. However, this same client recognises that sometimes texts need more work - "editing", for which they pay me accordingly.

    For other clients, and in particular for new ones, I do make the point of explaining exactly what is required by a given text, and whether in my opinion it requires proofreading or editing, together with the price difference.

    However, I do also agree with the OP that the wiki definition needs changing, as I don't feel that "critical revision" should be the default definition of the task.


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    Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
    Spain
    Local time: 11:59
    Member (2007)
    English
    + ...
    A better analogy Jul 16, 2011

    Suzan Hamer wrote:
    To me, it's the difference between washing a car and fixing a car. "Fixing" requires a lot more knowledge, skill, time and experience than does "washing."


    I don't entirely agree with that analogy as I consider proofreading (agreeing with your definition here, Suzan) to be a skilled job requiring a certain knowledge as well as attention to detail, whereas washing cars is more of a chore. I would compare a proofreader's job to that of a decorator who has to apply the supplied paint, wallpaper etc to create a perfect finish, as opposed to an interior designer who must use his/her creative ability to make choices in style, colour and finishings.

    Certainly, if you are going to take on any creative design work (in our case, rewording), then it is bound to take more time, and therefore more money.

    I don't force my clients to use the correct terminology (although I do agree that agencies should be expected to), but I do insist that we agree on the work to be done before the quote is finalised.


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    Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
    Denmark
    Local time: 12:59
    Member (2003)
    Danish to English
    + ...
    In practice the proofreader and editor/revisor are often one and the same person Jul 16, 2011

    I tend to agree with Samuel. In many cases proofreading means doing what needs to be done after the translator has delivered a text, and before it is delivered, possibly via a printer, to the target reader. There is only one person between the translator and the end user.

    As Samuel says, proofreading is what the client says it is.

    Where it is necessary to tidy up punctuation, formatting, consistency in capitalisation of names and titles, omissions etc., most would agree that is proofreading.
    A translation needs a linguistic check for grammar, correct use of idioms, collocations ...
    Of course, it is necessary to check that the translator has actually understood the source correctly, used the correct register and so on.

    By this stage I am definitely getting 'critical' as I understand the word.

    I have seen 20-page texts where there were a couple of typos and a double space or a comma missing. They were excellent renderings of the meaning, in fluent, idiomatic language...
    All that was necessary was a little proofreading. But in principle you do not know until after the event!

    When the translation is less than perfect, the question of examining it 'critically' becomes more important. What do you actually mean by 'critical'?

    Like Neil, I do not spend time defining where proofreading ends and editing begins.

    An expert translator can do his/her own editing and revising, but even then, a second opinion can bring some constructive criticism into play, and the final result will be even better. Or the proofreader can act as a 'safety net' for a less experienced translator. None of us are perfect after all.
    ________________

    So far no one has mentioned the time you can spend (waste?) filling out QA forms and classifying serious errors, non-critical errors and minor errors, or whatever the particular client calls them, and counting the incongruencies or any other grammatical terms you choose to apply.

    IMHO it goes way beyond proofreading and editing. I suspect it does very little to improve quality.

    To get back to the question of the Wiki:
    As I understand, any member of the site may edit it.
    So why not change the definition?
    "Proofreading means checking and possibly editing a text."

    Or any other version you prefer.



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    Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
    Portugal
    Local time: 11:59
    Dutch to English
    + ...
    Hair splitting Jul 16, 2011

    I agree that there is a rather unfortunate tendency in our industry to equate 'proofreading' with 'just do whatever is needed so that we can deliver this job to the end-client' - whether that be proofreading, revision or even retranslating - but trying to accurately define the scope of work that we are actually being asked to perform beforehand, using the correct terminology, should not be dismissed as hair splitting.

    We are supposed to be in the word business, after all.


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    Philip Lees  Identity Verified
    Greece
    Local time: 13:59
    Member (2008)
    Greek to English
    TOPIC STARTER
    Summing up so far Jul 16, 2011

    Thanks for all the input. Let me try and sum up the points made so far, as I understand them. If I've misunderstood something, please correct me.

    1. First and foremost, from all the posts to date I don't see anyone agreeing with the wiki definition of proofreading as "critical revision of the text".

    2. Yes, clients may use the term to mean that, or (more often) copy editing, or whatever they want, and I'm certainly not going to bicker with them about it - but that still doesn't make it right.

    3. Whatever you call the work in question, the most important thing is to agree with the client exactly what work is going to be done and what the charge is going to be.

    4. As linguists, we should perhaps consider it an obligation to insist on the correct use of language, as far as this doesn't compromise our professional activities.

    5. The wiki is maintained by the community, so if we want to change it we can (I knew this, of course, but I decided to poll some opinions before diving in).

    Now some more personal observations.

    - I like Suzan's definitions and I think they could be taken more or less as they are and used to replace the relevant parts of the wiki. I am happy to expand the definition of 'proof' to cover the kind of documents Suzan mentions in there, i.e. anything that has reached a stage of being almost final, prior to being delivered to the printer or the client.

    - For me, any definition of proof reading that doesn't incorporate (or at least imply) a definition of 'proof' just has to be wrong.

    - In my own work as technical editor of a medical journal I'm involved in all three stages - translation, copy editing, proof reading - and in my own mind these are three distinct jobs. I copy edit my own translations (as well as the other manuscripts that are supplied to me in English), send them for typesetting, and then proof read the result (page proofs - we skip the galley stage nowadays).

    - If I'm not allowed to use the term 'copy editing' and have to use 'proof reading' instead, what term shall I then use instead of 'proof reading'? Can somebody suggest one? Or if I have to use the same term for both, how will I then distinguish between these two very different tasks?


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    Laurie Price  Identity Verified
    Mexico
    Spanish to English
    + ...
    Agreed Jul 16, 2011

    Philip, your points and your summary are clear and correct, as far as I'm concerned.

    #4 is an excellent point, one which I've commented on, on other occasions in these forums.

    I think we need to take exactly that kind of care with how/what we call what we do, whether it be translation, re-translation, proofreading, editing and all the myriad possibilities in between. And yes, there are a bunch of them.

    I think most of us agree that it's not so easy to educate clients about what we're actually doing -- and some of those clients are simply not interested in anything more than meeting deadlines at cost. But there are clients who are genuinely interested in knowing what the process is, who does what, why a certain task costs more than another, or why there are different prices for various levels of a task (ie., proofreading vs. copy editing vs. editing), etc.

    However, that's not even the point.

    I think if we can't, amongst ourselves, agree that a correct wiki definition is far more preferable to an erroneous one, then there's little else that we can actually reach any kind of consensus on as a so-called community. Before we can even demand fair rates for the work we do, we have to define what that work actually is.

    I don't think this discussion is splitting hairs. The work we do is definable and important enough to assign specific nouns to. Even moreso because as freelancers it's up to us to define the terms, both the definitions and the contractual ones.


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    Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
    Netherlands
    Local time: 12:59
    Member (2006)
    English to Afrikaans
    + ...
    Two issues here Jul 17, 2011

    Philip Lees wrote:
    1. The wiki is maintained by the community, so if we want to change it we can (I knew this, of course, but I decided to poll some opinions before diving in).
    2. If I'm not allowed to use the term 'copy editing' and have to use 'proof reading' instead, what term shall I then use instead of 'proof reading'?


    I think these are two separate issues, namely (1) what the wiki should say and (2) what your own web site should say (so to speak). As for the wiki, I think that it should say that the term means different things to different people, and then discuss the various meanings.

    As for your own purposes, I think you should choose terms that you feel comfortable with and which you think your clients will not misunderstand when you use them in a quote.

    The problem with the word "copy edit" and "proof reading" is that they contain words that have no meaning to the general public, namely "copy" (jargon for written text) and "proof" (jargon for visual text). Another problem is that the job typesetter has fallen away, so either the copy editor or the proofreader (or even the translator) has to do it.

    Another problem with the word "edit" is that editing a translation is a different from from editing a text that will be used in the language that it was originally written.

    One solution to the wiki problem may be to have a very short page for "proofreading", that explains that there are many uses for the term, and then create separate pages for those uses and choose unique words for them, and then simply link to them from the proofreading page.


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