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How many changes is it normal for a proof reader to make to your work?
Thread poster: Ashley Wans

Ashley Wans  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
Apr 12, 2011

Hi all,

I just got back a couple of projects I did for an agency that I am working with for the first time. These documents were put through a proof reader and then sent back to me for finalization. This is the first time I have had my translations proof read in a professional context.

My question is for those of you with more experience, how many changes do proof readers generally make to your translations? I am not sure how qualified this proofreader was, but he made a lot more changes to my translations than I had anticipated. Some of his changes actually contained grammatical errors (which I then fixed), and in other areas he changed my wording for reasons that were not apparent (and in some places I felt did not fit with the register of the originals and also were less clear). Is it normal to get back this many changes from a proofreader?

I would like to keep working with this agency on a free lance basis, but I am a little concerned about two things: 1) The grammatical errors by the proofreader are suggesting to me that he may not be that qualified; and 2) That all the changes will lead my contact at the agency to believe that I am not that qualified. These documents were in areas I know, and I am confident I delivered a good translation.

Thanks for your input on this.


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:02
English to German
+ ...
Be firm and stick to your guns. Apr 12, 2011

People may call me insane but I politely yet firmly terminated the cooperation with a very large direct client (has a fruit as a logo with a bite taken out) because their "in-house" editor kept building in typos and grammatical errors while "editing" my job.

It is not my job and not within my budget to spend time on proofreading the proofreader's opus. I have work to do.


 

Ashley Wans  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your input. Apr 12, 2011

Nicole Schnell wrote:

People may call me insane but I politely yet firmly terminated the cooperation with a very large direct client (has a fruit as a logo with a bite taken out) because their "in-house" editor kept building in typos and grammatical errors while "editing" my job.

It is not my job and not within my budget to spend time on proofreading the proofreader's opus. I have work to do.


So I take it this is at least somewhat out of the ordinary?

I'm mainly concerned that this person's changes will reflect badly upon my skills. I was very careful with the documents in question and proofread them myself more than once, and thus am quite confident they are not sloppy translations.


 

Jessica Noyes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
It depends Apr 12, 2011

Some people may already have all the work they can handle. If that is the case, there is no need to struggle to keep one client.
However, if you want to keep the client, and you have the time, it may be wise for you to respond to the proofing. One of my clients is a huge agency from whom I receive daily offers. After I was sent one of those proofreadings from h***, done by the client of the agency, the offers suddenly stopped. Meanwhile I had taken time to carefully address each of the proofreader's points, including links to challenged terminology, etc. For a week, the drought continued, and then the work started pouring in again. I assumed they had suspended me somehow in their database, but once they went over my response they re-activated my file.
Only you can weigh the effort to do the review against the effort to find a new client.


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:02
English to German
+ ...
More than one editor has been pulled off the job Apr 12, 2011

Ashley Wans wrote:

So I take it this is at least somewhat out of the ordinary?

I'm mainly concerned that this person's changes will reflect badly upon my skills. I was very careful with the documents in question and proofread them myself more than once, and thus am quite confident they are not sloppy translations.



Once it was obvious that the editor was not a native speaker. I complained, and the agency told me to ignore any edits that were not related to typos.

Another agency pulled off an overzealous editor who felt like re-writing my entire text after I told them that I have to charge extra for proofreading. Proofreading the "new" text, that is. We used my original version.

One really gorgeous agency that is highly involved in building up long-term translator/editor relationships had to suffer complaints by yours truly because I had to deal with 30k of garbage of unacceptable so-called 100% matches. I never heard from this person again.


 

Ashley Wans  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yikes Apr 12, 2011

Jessica Noyes wrote:

Some people may already have all the work they can handle. If that is the case, there is no need to struggle to keep one client.
However, if you want to keep the client, and you have the time, it may be wise for you to respond to the proofing. One of my clients is a huge agency from whom I receive daily offers. After I was sent one of those proofreadings from h***, done by the client of the agency, the offers suddenly stopped. Meanwhile I had taken time to carefully address each of the proofreader's points, including links to challenged terminology, etc. For a week, the drought continued, and then the work started pouring in again. I assumed they had suspended me somehow in their database, but once they went over my response they re-activated my file.
Only you can weigh the effort to do the review against the effort to find a new client.


I hope this doesn't happen. I already sent back the finalized versions, with minimal arguing over the proof reading, as it would frankly take hours to go through all the reasons why I don't think his changes make sense. In some places, he changed the wording of my translation in ways that neither help nor harm the document as a whole; it seems as though he just changed anything he felt like he could think of an alternative for. I did, however, send back documents highlighting his grammatical errors, to at least make the point that he is introducing more problems into the translation.

The owner of the agency said that they will send the documents to the client and let me know about their feedback. So maybe if the client is happy this won't be too much of any issue when it comes to getting projects from them in the future.

[Edited at 2011-04-12 22:03 GMT]


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:02
English to German
+ ...
Your feedback is crucial Apr 12, 2011

Ashley Wans wrote:

I hope this doesn't happen. I already sent back the finalized versions, with minimal arguing over the proof reading, as it would frankly take hours to go through all the reasons why I don't think his changes make sense. In some places, he changed the wording of my translation in ways that neither help nor harm the document as a whole; it seems as though he just changed anything he felt like he could think of an alternative for. I did, however, send back documents highlighting his grammatical errors, to at least make the point that he is introducing more problems into the translation.



But instead of writing a novel it is sufficient to indicate which edits were merely stylistic and which ones where indeed terminology-related.

Good agencies mention in their POs that the translator's writing style is supposed to be untouched and that only grammatical flaws, typos and terminology are subject to corrections.

BTW, I love working together with my editors. They make my texts better.


 

Witold Chocholski  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 23:02
English to Polish
+ ...
Provide feedback to your client Apr 12, 2011

1. Provide feedback to your client. Let them know exactly what you think about the proofreader's job. Explain your point, of course. I think it's worth it. It's about your reputation, to some extent.

2. Any preferential corrections are unacceptable. It is your translation, your text and your responsibility for style. The proofreader's job is to correct errors, not rewrite the text, becuase he/she believes it would be better like that. Lastly, it is definitely not your job to proofread the proofreder's efforts, as Nicole said.

Personally I don't understand this type of overzealous editors/proofreaders. What do they gain from correcting correct texts? Why do they waste their time doing things which are not necessary or, what worse, which shouldn't be done at all? That a mystery to me.


 

Sarah Swift  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:02
German to English
Move away from the personal level - quote objective authorities (chapter and verse!) Apr 12, 2011

Most of my clients have quite good English but are not native-speakers, so I'm used to fielding queries on things that look a little strange to them, but are actually correct. I don't mind answering questions; what would drive me (too!) insane would be clients editing my work without asking any questions. I often e-mail clients links to definitions of words from the online edition of the Oxfort Advanced Learner's Dictionary. These often contain usage notes that clear up the grammar points. If I felt I really, really needed to make a point, I could quote from Michael Swan's Practical English Usage as well.

Typical example:
I write a sentence that begins: "The staff are..."
My client thinks: Singular noun/plural verb - that can't be right...
If I'm asked, I can now send the client a link and tell them to look at the usage note below the definition:
http://www.oxfordadvancedlearnersdictionary.com/dictionary/staff

Once you've provided sources to back up what you say once or twice, clients will accept that you are a trained linguist and that you are not just relying on your gut instincts as a native speaker or on half-remembered grammar you learned at school. Pointing to a more objective source than your own authority as a native speaker also takes all the heat out of the discussion, sind you are not defending your own work any more, but doing the client a favour by dispensing some of your expertise. The first conversation with any given client can be a bit time-consuming, but once you are an accepted authority, any further queries will be brief.


 

Ashley Wans  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Sounds like good advice. Apr 12, 2011

Sarah Swift wrote:

Most of my clients have quite good English but are not native-speakers, so I'm used to fielding queries on things that look a little strange to them, but are actually correct. I don't mind answering questions; what would drive me (too!) insane would be clients editing my work without asking any questions. I often e-mail clients links to definitions of words from the online edition of the Oxfort Advanced Learner's Dictionary. These often contain usage notes that clear up the grammar points. If I felt I really, really needed to make a point, I could quote from Michael Swan's Practical English Usage as well.

Typical example:
I write a sentence that begins: "The staff are..."
My client thinks: Singular noun/plural verb - that can't be right...
If I'm asked, I can now send the client a link and tell them to look at the usage note below the definition:
http://www.oxfordadvancedlearnersdictionary.com/dictionary/staff

Once you've provided sources to back up what you say once or twice, clients will accept that you are a trained linguist and that you are not just relying on your gut instincts as a native speaker or on half-remembered grammar you learned at school. Pointing to a more objective source than your own authority as a native speaker also takes all the heat out of the discussion, sind you are not defending your own work any more, but doing the client a favour by dispensing some of your expertise. The first conversation with any given client can be a bit time-consuming, but once you are an accepted authority, any further queries will be brief.





I will keep this strategy in mind for this situation and any similar incidents that arise in the future.


 

Germaine  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 17:02
English to French
+ ...
Experience/general knowledge may be the answer Apr 13, 2011

Witold Chocholski wrote:

Personally I don't understand this type of overzealous editors/proofreaders. What do they gain from correcting correct texts? Why do they waste their time doing things which are not necessary or, what worse, which shouldn't be done at all? That a mystery to me.


I would say that people who are insecure about their own skills have a tendency to "prove" their worth. And sometimes, you simply fall on the guy/girl who doesn't know better. Some people get some knowledge of some things and "sit on it". But as Nicole discussed it in another forum, langage, specialities, everything evolve, things are connected. You have to open and exercise your mind, be curious, keep learning and understanding everyday. You have to develop a sense of rigor but also humility.

I love my editors. We are team-mates. We have nothing to prove to each other: we know that we know it all - and ignore as much!icon_wink.gif


 

Jande  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 08:02
Danish to English
+ ...
How many changes are normal for a proofreader Apr 13, 2011

Your English ain't that good mate - I would substantially edit your text. Sorry!

 

Ashley Wans  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Is this intended ironically? Apr 13, 2011

Jande wrote:

Your English ain't that good mate - I would substantially edit your text. Sorry!


I ain't sure what you are talking about. Sorry!


 

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:02
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Ashley's English seems pretty good to me Apr 13, 2011

Maybe it ain't Aussie enough for Jande from Down Under, but it looks fair dinkum to me!

 

Ashley Wans  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
A great phrase! Apr 13, 2011

Jack Doughty wrote:

Maybe it ain't Aussie enough for Jande from Down Under, but it looks fair dinkum to me!


I first heard the phrase "fair dinkum" when a tennis commentator used it to describe a match during the Australian Open.

I still have no idea what he meant, however.


 
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