How to deal with proofreaders/proofreading?
Thread poster: Annett Hieber

Annett Hieber  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:06
English to German
Sep 30, 2011

Hi all,

Last week an agency for which I work now and then asked me to do an urgent job, which I did although I was very busy. I delivered on time and all was good. Two days later I received an email from this agency stating that the proofreading resulted in "considerable changes". The sent me the revised files as well and asked for my comments.

Actually, there were several typos (e.g. d. h. instead of d.h., and instead of an) and one serious omission. Plus, the proofreader made several suggestions with regard to style which I could accept (it is surely easier to work on style issues with an already finished text and with enough time available). Then, the proofreader changed several issues wrongly (definitively). But the largest part of the changes he/she made were simply replacements of words, terms of phrases by completely equal words, terms or phrases!

In my opinion it is a proofreader's task to check a text for apparent mistakes, such as punctuation, spelling, choice of (specialist) words and even to make suggestions with regard to style when apparent to him/her - but not to substitute each and every word with something completely equal.

I completed the lists with my comments, apologized for the actual mistakes (due to the narrow deadline) and gave him my point of view on the other issues.

What would you do in such a situation?

Annett

[Edited at 2011-09-30 09:52 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:06
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Swallow it Sep 30, 2011

If my text was perfect in all senses, i.e. no typos, no terms which are completely out of the way, no lost information or meaning, I would probably spend some time defending my terminology choices with references to undisputed sources of information.

However, if my text contained clear issues, no matter how severe and whether it was many things or just a few minor things, I would simply keep my comments for myself, send a sincere apology, and learn from the experience (maybe never do urgent an job without a second person reading it before delivery).


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 22:06
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Ask him to justify his changes Sep 30, 2011

When I proofread, I normally send a file with tracked changes and only comment if I feel the changes are not self-explanatory.

I regard it as a waste of time to count typos like an/and, of/or and the rest ...

But if the text is not actually wrong or unnecessarily difficult to read and unidiomatic, I leave well alone. And this IMHO is what a proofreader should do.

It should still be the translator's text at the end, not the proofreader's. Otherwise it is very easy to end up with a patchy, inconsistent result.
If I do try to make adjustments, I sometimes find it impossible to make any changes without altering the meaning. The translator may already have found the best possible solution, even if it is not ideal.

You have two options:
1. Take up the battle and ask for an explanation of WHY the proofreader thought his expression better than yours.
You may not get a satisfactory answer, but if you are at risk of not getting paid, it might be necessary.

2. As you have explained your point of view, simply ignore this person and do not waste any more time on it. But bear it in mind if you are asked to do a similar job for the same client - and plan in advance how to handle a repeat performance!

Have a nice weekend!


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Maria Popova  Identity Verified
Bulgaria
Local time: 23:06
Member (2011)
German to Bulgarian
+ ...
The agency value your opinion Sep 30, 2011

Dear Anett,

To me the fact that the agency returned the corrected work to you shows that they mistrust the proofreader. Normally the proofread text is supposed to be sent to the client.

Kind Regards


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:06
Spanish to English
+ ...
Take the money and run Sep 30, 2011

Failing that, I find that a good slap (physical or verbal) sorts out uppity "proofers". But then again, I'm from Glasgow.

No, seriously, for me the most annoying thing about this sort of thing is when they send it back to you again and ask you to justify or comment on the changes made, which, if you take it to heart, can take ages.

If I can afford it, I try to dump this kind of client (usually agencies, as I've never had problems with my direct clients, many of whom are quite able to judge the translation quality themselves).

Can't believe I just logged back in just to add a comma after "which", which now looks odd too... TGIF!

[Edited at 2011-09-30 10:58 GMT]


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Susan van den Ende  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:06
English to Dutch
+ ...
Agency trusts you Sep 30, 2011

I'd say that if they ask you to comment on the changes, they value your opinion. There's no need to comment on each and every single change: the agency just needs to know what exactly they are dealing with and they trust you to tell the truth and not lie to them (which would be easy if they do not read your target language).

So, the simple summary you gave here would work nicely, perhaps with an offer to finalise the text in the best possible way: "Thanks for sending this on, I really appreciate that! I had a look at the changes and they fall into the following categories: typos, preferential changes, and some mistakes (e.g. ...). I'm sorry about the typos! If you wish to redeliver the file to your client, just let me know and I'll accept the changes that improve the text and reject the ones that don't."

It might very well be that they delivered your text and the proofreader is actually the client, who complained that he had to revise a lot. The agency would then need your help to give the client a knowledgeable answer. I'd say asking for your opinion so that they can adequately deal with it is better than shoving on the complaint to you or demanding a reduction. But again, no need to comment on each and every issue I think.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 22:06
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Good style requires good time Sep 30, 2011

How come the proofreader has time for niceties when the translator doesn't?

You have to accept that a rushed job may be less than perfect. As far as I can see, that is not the problem. The proofreader should not introduce new errors!

But put it down to experience. Then if possible make sure your work is not sent to the same proofreader next time!

Agencies do well to let the translator have as much time as possible before calling in a proofreader - it is far easier to get things right first time than to patch them up (as opposed to messing them up) afterwards.



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elere  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:06
English to Spanish
some proofreaders and agencies do not know their trade Sep 30, 2011

Hi Annet
I share your feeling. I have to say that in recent times, since quality assurance has been widely adopted, I have had translations corrected (wrongly!!!) by proofreaders who could not make out a passive from an active voice and who are totally ignorant of vocabulary and grammar issues in their own language (not to speak about the source language...). My theory is that these proofreaders (probably because of their lack of knowledge) feel they have to justify their role by changing as many words as possible and they even go as far as pointing out mistakes that are not such. I have sent back to an agency a list of non existent mistakes explanaining why they are no mistakes at all, quoting relevant examples and even copying text from grammar books to argument my case, but some agencies do not want to know anything about it, they do not care (in this case, they didn't even bother to answer back). On top of it, this agency pays according to the score given by their proofreaders, so this is not just an issue of professional pride, it reflects on your earnings.
Another situation is when they do not give you a style guide (for a test translation) and get back to you saying such and such vocabulary option is wrong and suggest another one with exactly the same meaning (a question of style or taste, but certainly not a mistake). An offensive excuse to say they already filled the vacancy.
I think it all comes down to lack of professionalism on the side of both agencies' and bad or unexperienced (but daring as only ignorants can be) translators.
God help us in these times of extreme greed and competitiveness.
ALl the best
elena


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gad
United States
Local time: 16:06
Member
French to English
I disagree with keeping the comments to yourself Sep 30, 2011

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

However, if my text contained clear issues, no matter how severe and whether it was many things or just a few minor things, I would simply keep my comments for myself, send a sincere apology, and learn from the experience (maybe never do urgent an job without a second person reading it before delivery).


I disagree with this part in bold. I think that if someone is going to tear apart a translation, the translator has a right to respond. I do agree with of course admitting the actual errors and apologizing, but if you say nothing regarding unnecessary and/or incorrect edits then they are going to see those as actual errors when they probably are not. A translator always has the right to defend his/her work, even if s/he makes a typo or something.

But I personally would then be highly unlikely to work with such an agency again. I actually had one agency that sent me back a "corrected" document, full of spelling mistakes (that one could even see from the feature in Word that kind of highlights spelling mistakes!!), not to mention that the so-called "corrections" actually changed my U.S. English to UK English when that was not the target language! And if the agency doesn't even KNOW that, then why would I want to work with them ever again? But that's just me...

[Edited at 2011-10-01 22:38 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:06
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
What would you do in such a situation? Sep 30, 2011

Hello Annett,

Annett Hieber wrote:
I completed the lists with my comments, apologized for the actual mistakes (due to the narrow deadline) and gave him my point of view on the other issues.


I would do exactly the same. As has already been said, the agency was obviously surprised and will probably take your comments seriously.

Sheila


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 22:06
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Different proofreaders have different views Sep 30, 2011

Annett Hieber wrote:
In my opinion it is a proofreader's task to check a text for apparent mistakes, such as punctuation, spelling, choice of (specialist) words and even to make suggestions with regard to style when apparent to him/her - but not to substitute each and every word with something completely equal.


It depends on what the proofreader thinks his job is. Some people believe a proofreader should correct only errors that he can prove to be errors. This may result in a text that is technically flawless but potentially still the worst possible text ever seen in print. Others believe that the proofreader should improve the text to the best that it can be. This will result in many edits that the translator might feel is subjective or simply preferential. Still others seek some kind of middle way.

In your case, if the proofreader made many errors, I would simply tell the client that, without trying to re-fix the text (unless I get paid for it). If the proofreader made only a few mistakes, I would re-fix them. In both cases I would accept the genuine errors that were fixed by the proofreader, and I would "accept" the other changes while telling the client that they are all subjective or preferential.


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