Where does proofreading stop?
Thread poster: Gregory Lassale

Gregory Lassale  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:08
English to French
Oct 12

I know there is a debate over the differences between proofreading, revision and copy editing. My understanding of proofreading is checking a text for basic linguistic (typos, syntax, grammar etc) and contextual accuracy (i.e. given its intended audience and purpose). My client actually defined the jobs as "making sure there are no basic error in the French translation and check if the translation makes good sense [relative to the topic and audience]".

I am booked for two proofreading jobs next week. Those will be monolingual (no reference source text). Both are transcripts of videos translated from Spanish (which I speak some but cannot claim to have professional proficiency in) into French (my native language.

My question to you experienced proofreaders is this: Where does your job as a proofreader stop?

Ex: Let's say you read a sentence that is grammatically correct but does not sound idiomatic or is poorly phrased. As a *proofreader*, do you offer an alternative to the whole thing or just stick to correcting the basic elements delineated above?

It seems to me that rewriting entire sentences is doing copy editing (or revision if you are working with the original source text) and is outside of the scope of proofreading. Am I off base or does my thinking make sense?


 

Sophia Fourlari  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:08
Member (2002)
English to Greek
+ ...
Proofreading is a personal issue Oct 12

Hi Gregory,
The same thoughts concern me each and everytime I am asked to proofread. Some 20 years ago I started to proofread research papers in the area of physics and science education and I had to take care of everything from typos and punctuation to formulas, units and terminology used, since it happened to have knowledge of the subjects. In fact, I was expected to do so and I did so because I did not want my colleagues' works to be rejected.
Now, I do the same:I work on a text as much as I think it is needed in order that it is coherent, readable, rational and without major spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes. If I work more than agreed, I notify the client to modify rates accordingly. But that does not happen often. Hope I helped you somewhat:-)


 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 14:08
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Oct 12



[Edited at 2018-10-12 20:50 GMT]

[Edited at 2018-10-12 20:52 GMT]


 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 14:08
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
The line is fuzzy Oct 12

Something went wrong with my previous post and there doesn't seem to be an option to delete it.

The line between proofreading and editing is fuzzy and, as Sophia says, it is often a matter of personal choice. When I'm asked to proofread, I often find that the text needs more than just checking grammar and punctuation. Your client asked you to 'check if the translation makes good sense [relative to the topic and audience].' Given that request, I would most likely correct the idioms and poor wording in your example. Without those corrections, the text may not 'make good sense' or 'be understood in its true meaning'. If in doubt, I suggest you ask your client some specific questions about how far you can go.



[Edited at 2018-10-12 20:47 GMT]


 

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:08
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Wolves in sheeps' clothing Oct 12

Hey Gregory:

I generally agree with Sophia's and Tina's comments.

I would only caution you that, in the current world of translations, rewriting jobs of texts that have been poorly translated are often disguised as "proofreading" and "revision" jobs. Sometimes, the translations have been done by non-native speakers of the target language who have nowhere near a native command of the latter.

Agencies who engage in such practices are (at least in my experience) typically well aware that the texts in question require considerable revision, and that mere "proofreading" will simply not suffice to make the documents in question deliverable.

So my advice is to review documents associated with any such requests very carefully indeed. And if you do accept a "proofreading" job prior to reviewing the text to be proofread, make sure you make your expectations clear - and that you check upon delivery that your expectations have been met. (I am referring to a situation in which you are informed on Monday that a translation will be available for your review on Tuesday, that "the translation was done by one of our very finest linguists, so not much change should be needed, etc.")

My personal experience is that "proofreading" jobs almost always require work that exceeds any reasonable definition of proofreading, and that the money offered for the work involved ends up translating into a pathetic hourly rate.

So again: be careful!

[Edited at 2018-10-13 14:27 GMT]


Beatriz Ramírez de Haro
Matheus Chaud
Thayenga
Teresa Borges
Steve R.
Sandra& Kenneth
Viviane Marx
 

Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 03:08
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
As you like it Oct 12

[quote]Gregory Lassale wrote:

I know there is a debate over the differences between proofreading, revision and copy editing. My understanding of proofreading is checking a text for basic linguistic (typos, syntax, grammar etc) and contextual accuracy (i.e. given its intended audience and purpose). My client actually defined the jobs as "making sure there are no basic error in the French translation and check if the translation makes good sense
ve to the topic and audience]".



I feel it is no need to discuss since the borderline of proofreading is never clear. Certain jobs never pass proofreading steps before delivery to client. How do you justify of the satisfied translation quality.

Soonthon L.


 

Steve R.
United States
Russian to English
Best to ask when proofreading starts... Oct 13

Proofreading starts when the text is finalized and printed as a proof. This means substantial changes, including those relating to grammar, style, meaning, structure, punctuation, etc., have already been introduced by the copyeditor. Unlike copyeditors, proofreaders are limited to small changes - breaks, hyphenations, etc., i.e. usually of aesthetic rather than of substantive, linguistic matters. On certain occasions of lax copyediting, proofreaders may decide to return the text for another round of copyediting.

Frankly, your client isn't the arbiter when it comes to defining proofreading. And it's very likely the scenario that Robert accurately described above that underlies your client's attempt to re-define a term well-established in the publishing industry. In my view, any client of moral standing would be receptive to reasonable propositions from the translator that reflect the job at hand.

Otherwise, I would rather save myself the trouble.


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 21:08
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
@Gregory Oct 13

Some years ago I naïvely thought that having different rates for proofreading and editing would solve the problem, but I must admit that, with one or two exceptions, my attempt was fruitless! So, I’m much pickier with these jobs than I am regarding translation or transcreation and I only quote after seeing the quality of the translation. Of course, most translation agencies are not happy with this and nowadays I only do these jobs for two clients…

[Edited at 2018-10-13 11:50 GMT]


Alexandra Schneeuhr
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:08
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Monolingual proofreading of a translated transcript? Oct 13

I'm wondering if this is supposed to be a transcript still, or if it has become a freer translation, adapted for the different audience, etc. A transcript normally needs to be an exact written version of what was spoken. Once you introduce a second language you lose that word-for-word match, but it still normally needs to match the source audio/video as closely as possible. But maybe something else is needed in this particular case. You really need to check that with the client.

BTW your definition of proofreading only applies to bilingual proofreading. If you only have the target text you can't possibly check for accuracy, omissions, or additions. It it reads naturally, it has to be accepted; if it doesn't, it has to be improved. But that's where it gets dangerous. You can't always know whether your proposed change will stay faithful to the source or introduce inaccuracies. I do a lot of monolingual proofreading and I leave a lot of comments for that reason.


Hedwig Spitzer Cáceres
 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 14:08
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
@ Steve Oct 13

You are thinking here of proofreading a book after copy setting (the galley proofs). But the discussion is about proofreading immediately after a text is written. Most of the documents we receive for proofreading are not necessarily meant for publication.

 

Steve R.
United States
Russian to English
That was the point. Oct 14

Tina Vonhof wrote:

You are thinking here of proofreading a book after copy setting (the galley proofs). But the discussion is about proofreading immediately after a text is written. Most of the documents we receive for proofreading are not necessarily meant for publication.



Tina,

Thank you. I was aware that I was thinking about proofreading as understood within publishing because that was precisely my point, because that is where the term originated, that is where proofreading is done? On the other hand, what you're thinking about is "proofreading."

You pointed out, "Most of the documents we receive for proofreading are not necessarily meant for publication." I can't agree more, but if a text isn't intended for publication, then what proofreading is there to be done. Absolutely, none. So why is the term proofreading used in such cases?

Well, precisely for the reason that Robert highlighted above. A request to "proofread" is more than often a request to perform copyediting or substantive editing at proofreading prices.

Lastly and for the sake of clarity, proofreading and editing are emphatically two different things. While proofreading may cross into editing, it doesn't make the line between them fuzzy. It just means someone undertook to do more than what they were being compensated for. That is a question of human decision, not a question of definition.

There's nothing wrong with charity, but it shouldn't be gained by calling something what it isn't.

[Edited at 2018-10-14 07:49 GMT]


Alexandra Schneeuhr
 

Min Kyu Kim
United States
Local time: 16:08
Proofreading is final step of Editing. Oct 15

Proofreading job is the last thing a manuscript goes through. Proofreading means examining your text carefully to find and correct typographical errors and mistakes in grammar, style, and spelling. On other hand, Editing is what you begin doing as soon as you finish your first draft. You reread your draft to see, for example, whether the paper is well-organized, the transitions between paragraphs are smooth, and your evidence really backs up your argument.

 

SusieSmith
United Kingdom
Writing well is part of the job Oct 16

Translators need to be able to write well. If you receive a text which you consider to be poorly written, you can change entire sentences, make multiple corrections etc. - which will take you quite some time - or inform the client that the language used is not the best. It may be that they don't care about style, they only want to know what is being said.

If the writing is so terrible that the reader will not be able to understand the content, I would class it as a poor translation. I think a proofreader has the right to reject such work or ask for additional payment. I suppose it is a case of how much longer the corrections will take you and whether you are willing to do some extra work for the same fee. I would be happy to do this for a long-term client if the text were short, but not if it were over a page in length.



[Edited at 2018-10-16 10:20 GMT]


 

Trevino Translations
France
Local time: 22:08
French to English
+ ...
Editing + Proofreading = Revision Oct 16

Editing is the more complicated part of the process.
Hopefully, someone will have already edited the text you receive and all you
will have to do is find and correct any little imperfections that have been overlooked.

Here's a link that helps to explain:
https://experteditor.com.au/editing-vs-proofreading/

")


Gregory Lassale
 

Gregory Lassale  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:08
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! Oct 16

@Trevino Translations - the link you posted pretty much confirms what my take on the subject was, so I'll go with that. Thanks!

 


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