Guidelines on clients meddling with style?
Thread poster: Martin Roberts

Martin Roberts
Local time: 23:55
Spanish to English
+ ...
Oct 19, 2015

Does anyone know of any published guidelines on clients meddling with style, as opposed to factual content?
I am fed up with wasting time -- and money! -- on clients who stubbornly insist on changing the style of my translated texts, because I then have to spend ages winnowing out the inevitable errors and stilted language. Worse still, this often leads to pointless arguments with clients who are, in effect, asking for unpaid language lessons.
I find that clients are often unwilling to accept the obvious, that if they lack the language skills to do the translation in the first place, then they are in no position to second-guess the translated text, either. It seems they believe that they "own" the text.
While I am inclined to say, "Have it your way, but it's your funeral!", I do have a reputation to maintain as well as taking pride in my work.
In the past, I have suggested that clients take up any doubts with a professional editor, but the invariable answer is that they are unwilling to pay.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 23:55
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Depends what you mean by style... Oct 19, 2015

If you mean the sort of things you can look up in a style guide (Chicago, APA, Oxford, whichever...), either agree in advance with the client on what you are using, or choose your own default.

A somewhat different animal is the kind of style guide issued by newspapers - the Times, the BBC ...
I have just found the Economist Style Guide downloadable as a PDF
https://bordeure.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/the-economist-style-guide.pdf
Fuller versions that you have to pay for may be worth the investment.

There are also the English Usage style guides:
I like Michael Swann, various editions of Sir Ernest Gowers' Plain Words, and for punctuation I find R.L. Trask is very good.
The Longman Guide to English Usage (Greenbaum & Whitcut) is useful, and Godfrey Howard is sometimes worth quoting - with the reservation that he may be slightly last century, although in many cases the language has not changed that much!

Then you can quote chapter and verse if you are familiar enough with at least some of these works to find the appropriate sections, and it pays!
_____________________

See the discussion on French/German quotation marks here
http://www.proz.com/forum/proofreading_editing_reviewing/293335-where_to_place_punctuation_with_french_style_brackets_in_us_english.html

-- if all else fails, register your protest and tell the client it is their funeral.

Chances are, that your name will not be associated with it anyway, so your reputation will not suffer.
_____________________

Some companies do have their own house styles, which you have to respect more or less. They do not want to look or sound like their competitors, so if it is not too painfully WRONG, you may have to live with it and try to comply with it, or else turn down offers of work for that client.
_____________________

It is a fine balance to respect the client's text and let them know you are listening, while at the same time asserting yourself as the professional linguist. They may know the terminology, but you know how to handle the grammar and the inflections.

If you can let clients feel they are not entirely stupid to ask, so that they don't lose face, but show that you actually know better, they should respect your judgement. Getting a second opinion from a good proofreader or agency may help.

Above all, you really want to keep the discussion short and friendly... and, as you say, avoid being dragged into giving free language lessons.



[Edited at 2015-10-19 15:38 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:55
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Have you tried straight talking? Oct 20, 2015

They're commissioning you, the expert, to do the job. You shouldn't be expected to justify every word choice. If they feel the need to do so, you need to question your collaboration, IMHO. When it has happened to me, I've taken care to give detailed explanation at first. You need to boost the client's confidence in you. After that, I've reduced the amount of time I'm willing to spend. If necessary, I've laid it out clearly for them:-

If they want English tuition, then it will be charged at an hourly rate;
If they doubt my competence, then they should consider a different supplier.

Of course, I'm not talking about style that would be covered by a style guide. I get the impression the issue here is with the translator's choice of synonyms, how you choose to structure a sentence etc. Foreign clients often find it difficult to believe that a literal translation that is grammatically correct is not necessarily the best translation.


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 23:55
English to Polish
+ ...
Yo! Oct 20, 2015

Qualified — accommodate them, but charge them.
Not qualified — screw them.


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:55
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
I would just move on Oct 20, 2015

Martin Roberts wrote:
While I am inclined to say, "Have it your way, but it's your funeral!", I do have a reputation to maintain as well as taking pride in my work.

"Have it your own way" is an excellent response, although you may not need to voice it exactly like that, or at all.

There's a difference between taking pride in your work (which you do) and banging your head against a brick wall. I just let clients have their way. If they introduce actual errors, I point those out but I leave all the final decisions to them. Life is too short, really.

I don't think anybody is going to blame you for clients "correcting" your English. In my language pair it's a very well-known and discussed problem.

Regards
Dan


 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:55
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
I guess the OP meant something different to this. Oct 20, 2015

Christine Andersen wrote:

If you mean the sort of things you can look up in a style guide (Chicago, APA, Oxford, whichever...), either agree in advance with the client on what you are using, or choose your own default.

A somewhat different animal is the kind of style guide issued by newspapers - the Times, the BBC ...
I have just found the Economist Style Guide downloadable as a PDF
https://bordeure.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/the-economist-style-guide.pdf
Fuller versions that you have to pay for may be worth the investment.

There are also the English Usage style guides:
I like Michael Swann, various editions of Sir Ernest Gowers' Plain Words, and for punctuation I find R.L. Trask is very good.
The Longman Guide to English Usage (Greenbaum & Whitcut) is useful, and Godfrey Howard is sometimes worth quoting - with the reservation that he may be slightly last century, although in many cases the language has not changed that much!

Then you can quote chapter and verse if you are familiar enough with at least some of these works to find the appropriate sections, and it pays!
_____________________

See the discussion on French/German quotation marks here
http://www.proz.com/forum/proofreading_editing_reviewing/293335-where_to_place_punctuation_with_french_style_brackets_in_us_english.html


I think he meant "stylistic changes".


 

Martin Roberts
Local time: 23:55
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I DID mean stylistic changes. Oct 21, 2015

jyuan_us wrote:

Christine Andersen wrote:

If you mean the sort of things you can look up in a style guide (Chicago, APA, Oxford, whichever...), either agree in advance with the client on what you are using, or choose your own default.

A somewhat different animal is the kind of style guide issued by newspapers - the Times, the BBC ...
I have just found the Economist Style Guide downloadable as a PDF
https://bordeure.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/the-economist-style-guide.pdf
Fuller versions that you have to pay for may be worth the investment.

There are also the English Usage style guides:
I like Michael Swann, various editions of Sir Ernest Gowers' Plain Words, and for punctuation I find R.L. Trask is very good.
The Longman Guide to English Usage (Greenbaum & Whitcut) is useful, and Godfrey Howard is sometimes worth quoting - with the reservation that he may be slightly last century, although in many cases the language has not changed that much!

Then you can quote chapter and verse if you are familiar enough with at least some of these works to find the appropriate sections, and it pays!
_____________________

See the discussion on French/German quotation marks here
http://www.proz.com/forum/proofreading_editing_reviewing/293335-where_to_place_punctuation_with_french_style_brackets_in_us_english.html


I think he meant "stylistic changes".


jyuan_us. I DID mean stylistic changes.
Thanks to all for your helpful suggestions, and it looks like there is no quick and easy answer to this one. I am still wondering if there exist written guidelines saying something like, "Clients who are not native speakers should not attempt to correct translated texts, etc."


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:55
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Yes, there IS a quick and easy answer Oct 21, 2015

Martin Roberts wrote:
Thanks to all for your helpful suggestions, and it looks like there is no quick and easy answer to this one. I am still wondering if there exist written guidelines saying something like, "Clients who are not native speakers should not attempt to correct translated texts, etc."

Why do you need written guidelines? Would they fit the exact circumstances you're dealing with? Write your own response to this particular client. Tell them in black and white what you, as the professional, are willing to do for the money they pay you, and what you're not willing to do. And make it perfectly clear that you are NOT willing to spend time explaining why their suggestions are NOT better than your own - certainly not unpaid time and very probably not even if they pay for that time, as you'd rather be doing something more worthwhile, for someone more appreciative.


 


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