Etiquette for working with an editor/reviewer
Thread poster: ViktoriaG

ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:17
English to French
+ ...
Feb 6, 2008

Dear colleagues,

I would like to know what etiquette you use to work with an editor/reviewer as a freelancer. I have my own little procedure, but I find that there are as many ways to deal with an editor/reviewer as there are editors/reviewers.

I am interested in things such as:

- If something is wrong with the quality of the editor/reviewer's work and you have to accept/reject their edits, do you contact the editor/reviewer first to coach them a bit on their work, or do you contact your client first to "tell on" the editor/reviewer, hoping that the client will handle it in a professional manner? I have a client who prefers the latter, and in his case, it works, because he coaches the editors/reviewers instead of dropping them. But there are also clients who interpret such a call as a sign that their editor/reviewer is not good enough and they often just stop working with them. Now, if I was to coach an editor/reviewer, they may be offended and that can ruin the working relationship. Also, I could be taking on a task that will only complicate things further down the line (like an editor/reviewer deciding that you are their mentor and e-mailing you all the time with questions on their work). What is the right thing to do in such a case? I know that I ultimately work for my client and should place his interests above anything else, but my editor/reviewer is a very important component of the work I do and I need to get along with that person so that my client is happy.

- Do you take the time to explain your choice of words/terms to your editor/reviewer so that s/he doesn't mess it up next time, whether on work you will also work on or work s/he does for others that you are not involved in? In other words, do you go the extra mile to help that person become better at what they do?

- How far do you think you can go in requesting things from your editor/reviewer? For example, can you ask them to deliver their edits in a certain format (tracked changes vs. pure editing where they actually modify your file and you compare the two on your own - I prefer the latter, but I guess some editors prefer tracked changes)? If you ask for such things, what's the best way to do it? Ask the editor/reviewer directly, or ask the client if they can ask the editor/reviewer? Or ask the client if you can ask the editor/reviewer yourself?

- Do you accept that en editor/reviewer modify your translation without letting you accept/reject their edits? In a sense, the translation belongs to you, and if somebody modifies it without your approval, then your translation isn't really yours anymore. This can have legal implications, but if you care about submitting quality work to the end client and want to be proud of your achievements, then you will also care about the client getting a quality translation, which may not be the case if somebody amends your translation without giving you a chance to at least comment on it. I know many clients, especially agencies, have somebody edit the translation and the translator doesn't even know who it is, so they never have the last say, which in my opinion is wrong.

And so forth. Please, don't limit yourself to answering these specific questions. As long as your comment is about translators and editors/reviewers working together as a team, it has its place here. Also ask your own questions if you have any - I, as well as other users, may be able to help.

What I am mainly interested in is to find out how most translators deal with their editors/proofreaders: where they think they did things wrong, what they noticed works well, etc.


Margreet Logmans (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:17
English to Dutch
+ ...
Rarely in direct contact Feb 6, 2008

Hi Viktoria,

in most cases, I don't even know who my reviewer is. I'd like to, if only to ask why they have made choices that differ from mine. Or explain my own.

Do you ask your client for the reviewer's details? Or does your client tell you who they are?

I'm curious, because I'd like to cooperate with reviewers, but they are usually unknown to me; sometimes I can guess, because their name is added to units in the TM, but that's all.


ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:17
English to French
+ ...
Collaborating is priceless Feb 6, 2008

Yes, I do know who they are and I am in contact with them most of the time. We truly work as a team. I find that this benefits everybody, while it doesn't cost more than other methods. I benefit tremendously from this - I learn a lot from these people. The client benefits from it as well because the work is of better quality when the different components of the team are allowed to collaborate. Moreover, by being in touch, if I have to work with the same person again, we get to know each other professionally and we find common ways of working together that make work easier and more pleasant. Last but not least, we get a little more human contact as lonely freelancers.

The clients I have who do have me work together with an editor/reviewer usually add their name and e-mail address to the PO or let me know some other way before starting work. Then, the ball gets rolling between me and the editor/reviewer, and we deal directly with each other, copying the client on all our communications. I have noticed that one particular client matches their translators and editors/reviewers - they check if we like working together and if we are efficient together, and if that is the case, they make sure we always collaborate with the same people. After a while, this makes us even more efficient because we end up working out a common work method we are all comfortable with. They also assign their clients to such teams, so not only do we always work with the same people, but we always work on the same few end clients' material. We really leverage all our resources to the max. It may not sound like it, but this approach is lightyears away from the less collaborative ones. It really makes a difference, especially on longer assignments. The efficiency is boosted to the max!


Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:17
English to Spanish
+ ...
Avoid Feb 6, 2008

I would venture that it would be best to avoid such situations if at all possible, since unknown personalities can be involved and that can spell trouble.


José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:17
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Teamwork Feb 6, 2008

There is one excellent agency I work for that always uses a pair of translators doing a 4-step T-R-T-R sequence. Each one is expected to be capable of performing either role, the choice being based on availability, or the flip of a coin. In the beginning, I worked with several "partners", until I landed one, and we became (I think) the usually first-called team for our language pair.

I was the one who started doing it, but when each one reviews the job, we are not shy from painting the other's text all over with red or blue (Word, with Track Changes on), giving each other more options. Then it's a matter of accepting/rejecting each suggestion, amidst correcting eventual typos or other human slips. The driving idea is that two heads think better than one, though we are geographically very far from each other, and both from the agency as well.

At first, the PM - who doesn't understand our target language - was terrified at the sight of a flood of "corrections". Was it THAAAT bad? Nope. It was so good that we dared to aim even higher, and we've been doing it over and over again.

So if a translator takes a proofreader as both his/her safety net and a source of ideas to piggyback on, teamwork will work! If translator and proofreader compete for the perfection award, their objective will be to find flaws in each other's work, and not to deliver a job greater than the sum of its parts.


ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:17
English to French
+ ...
That is one of the things that bothers me most Feb 6, 2008

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

If translator and proofreader compete for the perfection award, their objective will be to find flaws in each other's work, and not to deliver a job greater than the sum of its parts.

That is unfortunately a regular occurrence in our field - or at least, it is the impression I get. Fortunately, I have the privilege of working with some great editors/reviewers who strive to produce quality text, like I do, as opposed to trying to compete.

I also occasionally become an editor to the people who usually edit my work. When it works both ways between the same two people, you know you are doing serious teamwork that will help achieve a final product as close to perfection as possible.

José, can you give us some insight on where you draw the above mentioned lines when you work in such a setup? I am realizing that this type of teamwork is not as common as I first thought it is - I would love to learn about how other people deal with teamwork.


Jocelyne S  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:17
French to English
+ ...
Importance of trust (again) Feb 7, 2008

I posted in a quick poll earlier this week about the importance of a trusting relationship between editors and translators and I will reiterate the importance of trust here.

I agree, José, that competition between a translator and editor is horrible and often counterproductive, to be avoided at all cost.

I think that there are two different scenarios: editors hired by the end client (or an agency) and editors hired by the translator him- or herself. Of course, it is much easier to build a solid working relationship/team with a translator who calls on your editing services than with an agency that occasionally sends work to be edited, with the editor far-removed from the rest of the translation process.

I do a lot of editing, but rarely edit for agencies. I mostly edit for other translators or direct clients who work with a limited number of translators (or authors), which is ideal as we really can build up a good working relationship based on methods that work for both parties. When I start to edit for a client on a regular basis, I always ask to be put in touch with the translator, if possible, and I’ve never had a problem with this request.

It is so much easier to take advice from someone whose language skills you know and trust than from someone unknown to you. When my original work or translations are edited by people I don't know, there is always a grain a doubt and I am slightly less open to change than if I know and respect the editor (unfortunately, I think that far too many of us have seen incompetent editors who actually do more harm than good to a text).

When being edited, I always try to talk things through with the editor and explain my point of view if I disagree with a proposed change. Again, the extent to which this is possible often depends on who's paying the editor (me or the end client) and if I’ve worked with the person before.

I think that as translators we have an opportunity to educate our clients about the importance of editors. I often ask new clients if they work with an editor and explain that I would be happy to work with their editor or include editing (by another person) in my fee.

I don't work with many agencies for translation or editing, so I’m less familiar with the potential that exists to build a working relationship between editors and translators, but I imagine that it is possible when an agency works with a regular team of translators and editors.

In my opinion, it all comes down to being able to trust the person editing your work (or, inversely, as an editor, to know that the translator is competent and open to suggestions). Trust is something that needs to be earned, hence the importance of team work and communication, be it working with agencies, direct clients, or translators/editors directly.



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