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What is your experience with proofreaders (in general)?
Thread poster: Pavlina Veresova
Pavlina Veresova
Czech Republic
English to Czech
Oct 2, 2013

What is your experience with feedback from proofreaders (in general)? Are they fair? Are they professionals? Don't you sometimes get the impression that some of them put translators down 'just for the fun of it'? I mean, like rewriting your whole translation so that they feel important? I was also wondering how they are paid - e.g. per word/standard page or per number of corrections they make?

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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
One bad apple shouldn't spoil the barrel Oct 3, 2013

I don't really think that many proofreaders reviewers put translators down 'just for the fun of it', but I understand how it can seem like they may be "rewriting your whole translation so that they feel important", although they may even be doing it unconsciously.
However, as with most situations, there are good and bad reviewers/proofers. I always try to keep them at arms length anyway, to avoid damaging my own fragile ego.
I don't know how they get paid or how much, but I don't really care either. I charge roughly 25% of my translation rate for what I call revision, which sometimes involves re-writing parts of the text rather than just checking.


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 10:58
English to Polish
+ ...
... Oct 3, 2013

Pavlína Verešová wrote:

What is your experience with feedback from proofreaders (in general)? Are they fair? Are they professionals? Don't you sometimes get the impression that some of them put translators down 'just for the fun of it'? I mean, like rewriting your whole translation so that they feel important? I was also wondering how they are paid - e.g. per word/standard page or per number of corrections they make?


Hourly rates are standard in posh places, otherwise same old word or page.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 10:58
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Just read a few of the other threads in this forum... Oct 3, 2013

Proofreaders, editors, reviewers, paid by the hour or by the word, what is proofreading anyway? You sound as if you mean editing and reviewing!
___________________

You will find all sorts, from respected friends and colleagues to beginners who need some guidance ...
I am sometimes amused by people who assume from my name that I am not a native speaker of English. But as an ex-pat I check an extra time for source interference before I get too furious.

Most of them/us are professionals trying to improve the text and weed out those errors that creep in because in our other roles - as translators - we are only human.

And I humbly have to admit that I have been there and committed most of the sins in the book.

I was lucky when I started out - I had a very sympathetic colleague who proofread my work and showed me how it SHOULD be done.
He also taught me to proofread - as we called it - for others, and they in turn told me what they wanted from a proofreader when we discussed their work. I learnt a lot that way too.
____________________

It is always difficult to give and take criticism.

I don't know which annoys me more - unjustified criticism of my translation (when I know more than the reviewer...) or when they discover some silly error that I should have found myself or never committed!

It is very easy for the reviewer/editor to sound patronising, and often nobody mentions the sections of text that may be excellent. All the red marks draw attention to where it is less than perfect (at least in the reviewer's eyes).

My colleague used to start by saying what impressed him in the text. He always found something I had done right, and that was enormously useful to a beginner. Without positive feedback you never know when you really are doing well and when your suggestion is just about adequate, but there are better ways of doing it.

I was close to tears on occasions after really working on a text, when he gave it back full of red ink. (It was on paper in those days.)
Then he would smile and say 'It was not really bad at all - I liked this bit...'

He taught me to take criticism too.
'Well, now you know you can handle that better another time.'

I owe such a lot to his patience and wise advice.



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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 16:58
Chinese to English
Differences of opinion are inevitable Oct 3, 2013

Proofreaders should only make changes for errors, not for style issues, but there are always going to be disagreements over where to draw that line. I don't think I've ever seen a proofread text of mine that didn't annoy me in some way, because the proofreader's judgment was different to mine. So the question is not have they messed with your text - they always do. The question is have they made constructive edits along the way? Have they caught typos and corrected them with a minimum of fuss? Have they found a mistranslation and worked out the minimum intervention to make it better? Have they demonstrated that they respect the approach you have taken to the text, even if they don't entirely agree with it?
I think proofreading is incredibly hard - do hard that I don't do it - so I'm always very impressed when I see a well proofread text of mine. Of course there are people who do it badly, but there are lots who do it well, and I fear they receive precious little thanks for it!


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:58
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
A professional or an amateure proofreader? Oct 3, 2013

There are always those who believe that only their personal preferences matter when proofreading (rather reviewing) a translation.

However, a professional proofreader will always be objective (or do their best to be), fair and reasonable. Most important is that the reviser (proofer or editor) lay their personal preferences aside.

Constructive criticism should be welcome feedback for every translator. Admittedly, there are some proofreaders who believe that marking as many mistakes as possible will reflect their "professional" abilities. I have come across one like this, but that case is closed.

A "real" proofreader is actually supporting the translator with necessary (and hopefully appreciated) feedback.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:58
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Also depends on what it's for Oct 3, 2013

Phil Hand wrote:
Proofreaders should only make changes for errors, not for style issues, but there are always going to be disagreements over where to draw that line.

I don't often do what translators most often mean by proofreading: checking the target against the source for errors and omissions, as well as checking for typos and other issues in the target text. That dual-text work makes me feel rather sea-sick from constant refocusing. But I do quite often proofread, or edit, monolingual English copy. It might be a translation (from any language) or original copy, and it could have been produced by an L1 or L2 speaker of English. If it's original English copy written by a professional linguist with native-level English, then there shouldn't be too much to do: just correcting typos and other slips. But in all other cases it can be really difficult to know where to draw the line, and that must be the same with bilingual proofreading.

There are always the 50/50 calls. Is that slightly odd adjective an intrusion from the source/native language, eg (an example that I know works for several languages) should that 'important' really be 'main' or 'large'? Is the register rather variable? Has the scientist writing a web page put a marketing slant on the copy or is it rather dry? Does a tourist brochure read well if most sentences are 4+ lines long? Mostly, these won't be 'errors', but a proofreader can certainly improve the copy.

That's why it's so important to know the requirements for the job. If someone's already paid a translator or copy-writer to prepare the text, surely they don't expect to pay someone else to re-write it? Once it's free of actual errors and it doesn't make you wince as you read it, maybe the job's done. But if clients impress upon the proofreader the need for perfection, well, that's what they should get (to the best of our ability, of course).

The only time I ever got back a translation that was absolutely covered in tracked changes, I sent back a copy with a few changes accepted (OK, my work wasn't perfect), a few rejected as they were clearly inferior translations or the proofreader had introduced errors, and the bulk of them left untouched. I apologised for my slips, justified my position and left the client to decide what to do about all the preferential changes. Suffice it so say that they have since sent me other work.

To answer the OP's original questions:
1. Proofreaders are as professional as translators. In other words, some are, others aren't! Some are nitpicking know-it-alls, others are plain lazy, with hopefully the majority being somewhere between the two.
2a. I always refuse to charge by anything other than per hour until I've (a) seen the full text, and (b) heard what the client wants me to do. After that, I'll charge by word, by hour or a total for the job.
2b. It would be crazy and totally unethical to charge per correction. Although you're actually taking account of the quality in 2a. above (i.e. charging more for a text which you know will need a lot of changes), you shouldn't then be paid more for every additional change. You should be paid for doing the best job.


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Texte Style
Local time: 10:58
French to English
It all depends on whether you are in contact or not. Oct 3, 2013

Very often there is no contact between the translator and the proofreader, the PM acts as forwarder.

If you know you have to hand the proofread version back to the translator and justify each of your changes, you think harder before slashing everything with that red pen. When you're dealing with an anonymous translator, you let rip.

When working in-house, I had to ensure that all translations for the same client were produced in the same style. As I was the only native English speaker, that meant all translations had to be in my style. I admit to being somewhat heavy-handed on occasion.

Then we hired another native and we would proofread each other, and I had to learn to let some of her style show through. All in all it was a truly beneficial experience, we both learned heaps from each other.

Some translators would get really uppity if I suggested changes to their translations, like one who translated "Conférence sur le Livre" as "Conference on the Book" and failed to realise what that actually meant. In fact, the conference was about publishing rather than the Bible... His whole translation was littered with clumsy word-for-word things like that.


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Texte Style
Local time: 10:58
French to English
Knowing when to leave well alone is the greater part of the knowledge needed Oct 3, 2013

Sheila Wilson wrote:

2b. It would be crazy and totally unethical to charge per correction. Although you're actually taking account of the quality in 2a. above (i.e. charging more for a text which you know will need a lot of changes), you shouldn't then be paid more for every additional change. You should be paid for doing the best job.


You hit the nail on the head here. Sometimes you need to leave well alone, and knowing when to do so is the greater part of the knowledge needed to revise properly.


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Daniela Zambrini  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 10:58
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
justified and unjustified Oct 3, 2013

Christine Andersen wrote:

It is always difficult to give and take criticism.

I don't know which annoys me more - unjustified criticism of my translation (when I know more than the reviewer...) or when they discover some silly error that I should have found myself or never committed!



While it's nearly always possible to explain why you chose to translate as you did (I have been lucky up to now, because the PMs always requested feedback on the revised text and shared my observations with the proofreader, leaving it up to me - in the end - to accept or refuse a tracked change) it's terribly embarassing, well.. at least for me it is.. to have to admit to having made a mistake!

However, despite my embarassment, my admiration for the proofreader increases when he/she applies a justified correction.

D.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:58
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Professionals vs. non professionals Oct 3, 2013

Pavlína Verešová wrote:
What is your experience with feedback from proofreaders (in general)? Are they fair? Are they professionals? Don't you sometimes get the impression that some of them put translators down 'just for the fun of it'? I mean, like rewriting your whole translation so that they feel important? I was also wondering how they are paid - e.g. per word/standard page or per number of corrections they make?

My experience is that professional proofreaders only change that actual issues, grammar, spelling, formatting or incorrect meanings, and always with a reason. Conversely, non-linguist end customer reviewers change whatever they please, with a reason or without it.

I resent the idea that people who proofread enjoy making a mess of other people's work. When I change a lot of things in someone's translation, it is for a reason, and I would prefer not to have to change anything, since that would save me a lot of time.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:58
English to German
+ ...
A proofreader/editor/reviewer is only as good as his briefing Oct 3, 2013

Unfortunately only very few PMs have the slightest idea how to distinguish between those tasks.

A colleague who was hired to do a "review" will probably dissect any text down to the last molecule.

A colleague who was hired to "proofread" will probably leave the customer disappointed because he only checked for spelling and grammatical errors (Customer: "Oh, we thought that you would turn this translation into some really catchy ad copy...?").


Thayenga wrote:
A "real" proofreader is actually supporting the translator with necessary (and hopefully appreciated) feedback.


I sign this one.


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Mark Benson  Identity Verified

English to Swedish
+ ...
A problem Oct 5, 2013

First of all, let's not forget the existence of a phenomenon sometimes referred to as "malicious proofreading", e.g. in this article: http://www.eng2rus.ru/article12.phtml.

Then there's another problem, namely that translator does not equal "proofreader" (or editor). And another thing; it's not enough to be "just" a proofreader in a number of cases, but specialist knowledge is needed as well.

Like Andrei Gerasimov says, it's a very good idea to always keep in mind that the translation isn't for a proofreader. On the other hand, working with a good editor is necessary as well.

I try to mention these points when I see a thread about proofreading... Read Andrei Gerasimov's article, it's excellent and I think it was originally published here on ProZ.


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dianaft  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:58
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
by time estimate Oct 5, 2013

With direct or new clients, I usually price editing/proofreading jobs on a rough time estimate after seeing the document, taking into account the standard of the language used in general, accuracy of terminology employed and the technical standard of the text. Estimates are not perfect, but a quick glance over the document usually suffices in giving a rough idea.

Then I will take account of particular client requirements - Do I also have to check consistency against other sources? Do I have to explain every change made? Do I have to provide a thorough review? What is the expected time-frame?

I will give the client a brief explanation "the translation is already of a very high standard, I expect to find little to correct" or "Some sentences don't make any sense, there are severe grammatical issues and many literal translations have been used, I would advise a complete re-translation" on the other extreme.

With regular clients, the budget is usually set based on previous feedback received for the translator in question. While they engage me on a regular basis, the translations usually come from different translators.

But in both cases, it is really a rough estimate of the required time for the particular document.

Then, given that the assignment is not of a confidential nature, I sometimes engage a mono-lingual proofreader for my own translations, as I sometimes simply appreciate a second set of eyes. I already know the translation is correct, so this is strictly in mono-lingual format. As I use the same people, I already have a good idea of the total charge, so I don't need an estimate and I find it much easier to simply send a document through. Sometimes, this can really help my workflow, which tends to be along the lines of translation - sleep/do something else - review - do something else - review again - sleep - final changes - send off. I can't translate and review in the same session. I still see what I think I wrote, not what I actually wrote. So now that I have the right people in place I can send a text through at the review stage and thereby cut the break otherwise needed and speed up the delivery by up to a full day.

Finding a good proofreader for each language was a pretty tough task and I have seen everything from mistakes being added to errors being missed, from terminology being exchanged for everyday terms despite the specification that it was a technical document to random changes being implemented for no reason whatsoever.

There are a lot of proofreaders who seem to get nervous, when there are not a lot of corrections to be made and who consequently invent some. There are as many who lack the actual language skills and/or the attention to detail to spot an error in a complex sentence. Equally, somebody who doesn't know how to proofread and simply accepts the job to have a job is more likely to invent errors in order to appear as if he had actually created value in some form.

Now I quite obviously know the language, in which the text is presented. I also know the grammar rules, the audience and the terminology. So when I go through the changes made, I know whether or not these were justified and/or sufficient.

Many PMs do not know the language and therefore they may easily end up with a proofreader/editor that is not up to the task. Do many of them review the reviewer? I leave that question open.

Further, many agencies assign both proofreading and translation tasks to the same person. Somebody low on work may well be tempted to give a more negative review than necessary in order to improve his chances of receiving a larger number of translation assignments.


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Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
Terrible... Oct 6, 2013

My wife is my main proofreader, editor, reviewer, etc... I know I'm in trouble when she starts laughing while reading the text and uses some derogatory term for an anglo-saxon. I keep trying to explain to her that I make silly mistakes on purpose, just to make sure that she's paying attention, but she doesn't believe me.

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