how many words can you proofread per hour?
Thread poster: Bruno Depascale

Bruno Depascale  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 23:51
Member (2009)
English to Italian
+ ...
May 31, 2016

Hi everybody,
I'd like to know if there is a standard or commonly accepted number of words a reviewer can edit per hour. In my personal experience, the average number of words that I can edit in the medical field is about 1000 words (when the translation quality is acceptable). Have you also set a limit like this with your clients?


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 17:51
Member (2008)
French to English
It depends... May 31, 2016

...very much on the quality of the translation. It can be 1/4 to 1/3 the time required for the translation, or it could require re-translating the entire document. I had the latter scenario just last week - fortunately the client accepted to pay for re-translation. I think the end client had tried to save money by translating the document themselves and sending it out just for "proofreading" - but their in-house translator was evidently not a native of the target and the translation was hopeless.

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Mirja Maletzki  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:51
Korean to German
+ ...
Depends May 31, 2016

It totally depends on the quality but I had a company tell me once that they usually calculate 8000 words/day when they assign proofreading jobs.


That would make sense with what you said about 1000 words per hour/8 working hours per day.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 23:51
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
I can manage 1000 words an hour, but not 8000 words a day May 31, 2016

I can concentrate for an hour or two, and perhaps a couple of hours more after a break, but I am always surprised at how I get distracted and simply cannot proofread for a whole day at a time.

With coffee breaks, breathers and fresh air at intervals, I can translate for more than eight hours a day, even ten at a pinch for a day or two, but then I really need to unwind.

I often quote a thousand words per hour for editing/proofreading, and avoid taking on longer texts, but it depends a great deal what you are expected to do.

Checking terminology can send the time consumption through the roof in a subject area the proofreader is not absolutely famililar with. Here I try to insist that it should be the translator's responsibility, but I often find I am the more experienced translator and have niggling doubts, so I have to check anyway.

I would strongly resist setting any standard or 'commonly accepted number of words per hour'. It depends so much on the type of text, how qualified the translator is and how familiar the proofreader is with the subject.

When I started working in-house, I was asked as a rookie to proofread the work of highly experienced but non-native colleagues. In fact I was playing devil's advocate - reading the translation without the source at the first pass, to see if it made sense to someone who had not seen the source, and to catch typos and similar minor technical glitches.

Then I checked against the source for omissions and anything else I might find, and I could get through both readings of a couple of thousand words in an hour on occasions. I emphasise that these were top-quality translations, already checked by the translator, where there was practically nothing to correct, and certainly no terminology to check.
As soon as it is actually necessary to take action, editing and reviewing take a lot longer, because the rhythm of reading is interrupted, and a third check is probably necessary. Checking formatting - or not - is another factor, especially if tags are involved.

Working with tracked changes in Word is MUCH quicker than playing about with yellow stickers in a PDF... Other purely technical factors affect the speed too.

I have seen assignments where it takes longer to fill in the agency's checklist than to do the actual proofreading... and often these agencies pay an unrealistically low rate. A lot of work needs to be done to explain to some clients what is actually involved in proofreading, editing and reviewing. IMHO a standard rate per hour is even more meaningless than a standard number of words per hour in translation.


[Edited at 2016-05-31 23:42 GMT]


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Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 16:51
German to English
+ ...
How well or badly has it been translated / written? May 31, 2016

That is the determining factor. I.e. there is no one answer.

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Madeleine Chevassus  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:51
Member (2010)
English to French
is it possible to have a 12 000 words quite complex text proofred in 6 hours. Jun 1, 2016

hi

I had a problem with proofreading a 12 000 words EN>FR translation

I priced by hour but didn't give an estimation;

the translation (IT Marketing brochure) was technically and promotionnally poor though made by a "graduated" translator.", and I have a large experience in this field.

I needed 12 hours (which seems normal vs your previous answers, thanks).

When I finished I told it to the PM who was very angry and then sent me a PO with a "maximum of 6 hours" mention. (He didn't speak of that before)

I was upset because I didn't receive that PO since the beginning with this 6 hours limit, I wouldn't have accepted to do the job.

It's clear that I had to rephrase many sentences which where not acceptable in an IT Marketing Brochure.

The result for me is I was paid for 6 hours only, and very late.............................

If I invoiced the 12 hours I would not have been paid at all.

This agency is quoted as friendly by other colleagues..

What do you suggest?

Anyway thanks to all of you for the average 1 000 words/hour estimation which will be very helpful.

Is there an official estimation of that speed by ATA or other Translation Body?

Have a good day - Madeleine


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Graeme Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:51
Member (2015)
French to English
+ ...
Proofreading - words per hour Jun 2, 2016

This question is often discussed in (monolingual) editing forums - and the answer is usually the same: it depends (just as the others have said). Here is the difficulty. Agencies - and publishing houses - almost certainly have a budget to work to for every stage of the process and if they exceed that, then someone else loses out. So, is 1,000 words per hour a good average? It probably is - depending on the domain, the quality of original translation etc. As for the accuracy of averages - how many 'average' people do you know? How many of our friends and colleagues are exactly average height and weight - and age? So, if you accept an average, you need to expect that some pieces of work will conform to the average and others (probably most) will not: they will either take longer or shorter. Next it comes down to the type of work you get from any particular agency - does it genuinely vary around the average or does it tend always to work to an average that is too challenging? If you have an agency that sends work that varies around the average, then, over time, you will earn your average rate... if not, you won't.

All of that isn't terribly helpful. So, what do you do? The best answer is that you ask to see/review the proposed piece of work first and you estimate whether you can do it within the average rate that is being offered. Many online translation sites upload the proposed work so you can do just that. If yours doesn't, then ask them. And especially if it is a significant piece of work - 12,000 words for example. If you have real concerns about meeting the average then go back with a counter offer. If that doesn't work, then you have to decide whether you still want the work or not. And you might well do, because:
- it might be work that is a great credential for you and help you get other similar work from different clients
- your financial position might be such that you just need the cashflow now
- you might want the experience

There is also your relationship with the agency in question. Do you do a lot of work for them or is it a one-off? Is it an agency you really want a lot of future work from too? These will detemine whether you want to invest in the relationship - and you might have to take a financial hit one time, if it is going to mean a better future with them. At any rate, you need to tell them that the work you have done has taken much longer than your budget would normally allow. Next time, they need to let you see the work first, etc. etc. Or you may decide that this particular agency is not going to change its rate - so then you decide whether to stay with them, or only accept small bits of work up to a particular size etc.

But seeing the work first is still the best option.


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Alexander Chisholm  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:51
Italian to English
+ ...
1000 per hour - depending ..... Jun 2, 2016

The quality of the text has a massive effect. Good translations, then 1000 per hour just to be on the safe side. But I've been asked to proofread documents which were very badly translated and to be honest it would have been better to retranslate. In that case best to contact the client as soon as they send you the documents. Unfortunately, many agencies ask fior an estimate before they send you anything ...

However, many of my clients expect much more than 1000 per hour. Avoid them if you can.

HTH


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Georgie Scott  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:51
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
1,000 Jun 2, 2016

1,000 words an hour. If it's significantly less than that I don't consider it proofreading and either negotiate a different rate or send it back to the translator to have a second look at. If it's more than that I consider it a good day and buy slightly more expensive cheese.

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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 23:51
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Out of respect for the client's budget Jun 2, 2016

I ask to see the text, and then look it over and especially check for eye-catching standard errors and source-language influence, so I have an idea of whether it its above or below average. I make a quote based on how long I think it will take + 10 per cent, or + 20 per cent for longer texts. I promise that this is a maximum, and I will invoice for the actual time taken.

Either the client runs away screaming, because their budget is unrealistic, or they accept the quote on those terms. When I deliver the files, I almost always deduct at least a symbolic amount, unless it really was a one-page job.

That works quite effectively.


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Madeleine Chevassus  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:51
Member (2010)
English to French
@MortonJones Jun 3, 2016

Hi again,, and thank you for recommending to receive the text before accepting the job.

this enables you to refuse the job before starting.
--------------------------------------------------------------------

In the case I explained above, the PM had a fixed budget, and promised most of the budget to the translator, who was graduated i.e. supposed to be good!

Unfortunately his translation was very poor in terms of technical terminology and in Marketing phrasing, and the PM didn't notice (:

So I had to work twice more than planned by the PM (12 hours instead of 6 hours for proofreading 12,000 words). The subject was 100% in my domains.

The PM decided since the beginning, but without saying, that it would be 6 hours whatever the initial translation quality, and he informed me very late of this point (:

As a result I was robbed of 6 working hours. I appreciated very much (:

Of course I'll never work with this PM again.

I hesitate between just stopping the relationship, or report the facts to the upper management of the company in Argentina - but this happened more than 6 months ago -

Thanks for your nice suggestions; have a good night.

Madeleine


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MSc. Odette Fernandez Lopez
United States
Local time: 17:51
English to Spanish
+ ...
Great advice... Jun 4, 2016

mortonjones wrote:

This question is often discussed in (monolingual) editing forums - and the answer is usually the same: it depends (just as the others have said). Here is the difficulty. Agencies - and publishing houses - almost certainly have a budget to work to for every stage of the process and if they exceed that, then someone else loses out. So, is 1,000 words per hour a good average? It probably is - depending on the domain, the quality of original translation etc. As for the accuracy of averages - how many 'average' people do you know? How many of our friends and colleagues are exactly average height and weight - and age? So, if you accept an average, you need to expect that some pieces of work will conform to the average and others (probably most) will not: they will either take longer or shorter. Next it comes down to the type of work you get from any particular agency - does it genuinely vary around the average or does it tend always to work to an average that is too challenging? If you have an agency that sends work that varies around the average, then, over time, you will earn your average rate... if not, you won't.

All of that isn't terribly helpful. So, what do you do? The best answer is that you ask to see/review the proposed piece of work first and you estimate whether you can do it within the average rate that is being offered. Many online translation sites upload the proposed work so you can do just that. If yours doesn't, then ask them. And especially if it is a significant piece of work - 12,000 words for example. If you have real concerns about meeting the average then go back with a counter offer. If that doesn't work, then you have to decide whether you still want the work or not. And you might well do, because:
- it might be work that is a great credential for you and help you get other similar work from different clients
- your financial position might be such that you just need the cashflow now
- you might want the experience

There is also your relationship with the agency in question. Do you do a lot of work for them or is it a one-off? Is it an agency you really want a lot of future work from too? These will detemine whether you want to invest in the relationship - and you might have to take a financial hit one time, if it is going to mean a better future with them. At any rate, you need to tell them that the work you have done has taken much longer than your budget would normally allow. Next time, they need to let you see the work first, etc. etc. Or you may decide that this particular agency is not going to change its rate - so then you decide whether to stay with them, or only accept small bits of work up to a particular size etc.

But seeing the work first is still the best option.










I found this comment extremely useful and I will use it for future reference.
Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer.


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Graeme Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:51
Member (2015)
French to English
+ ...
Thank you Jun 6, 2016

Thanks, Odette - I'm pleased you found it useful.
Good luck!

Graeme


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