Word Count for Chemical Formulas
Thread poster: Stacy Macaulay

Stacy Macaulay
Local time: 16:55
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Jan 5, 2006

Hello all,

I just finished a long document of several thousand words, which was particularly time consuming because certain chemical formulas had to be translated (in part since they mostly remain the same) and retyped from a pdf scan document.

One formula takes up almost one line and sometimes more, yet the different components of the chemical formula are separated by a hyphen (-) making the formula only count as one to two words though every '-' division, I believe, should be counted as a word separator.

I entered this parameter in my word count software, that is, I counted - as a word separator and now my client doesn't agree with this methodology.

Could anyone offer any further enlightenment on this point / justification?

I would be grateful for any help!

Thanks very much and Happy New Year,

Stacy Macaulay

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2006-03-17 01:42]

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Dr Manuel Delgado  Identity Verified
English to Portuguese
word count for chemical formulas Jan 5, 2006

isn't it possible to charge per page count or character count?

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Dr. Stephan Pietzko  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:55
Member (2002)
English to German
Charge by the hour Jan 5, 2006

I often translate patents and MSDSs with lots of chem/ math formulas from sometimes barely readable pdfs/scans. I ask my clients to be charged by the hour for my time spend reproducing extensive chem/ math formulas. Some aggree, others don't and do their formulas themselves, but no one stopped sending work. This way everyone is happy and we never have to fight over tricky word count issues.

Happy new year!


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:55
German to English
+ ...
Word Count for Chemical Formuals Jan 5, 2006

This is a good case for charging by the character, as is effectively the norm in Germany.

Retrospectively, though, it is difficult to change the agreed terms.

Is there a consensus on what constitute's a "word"? I think probably not. "Don't", for example, could be counted as one word or two. Textcount, at one time virtually a de-facto standard for counting translations in Germany, had a function for counting words above a certain number of characters as two or more words, and if I remember correctly, the default setting was eight characters.

A common word counting method is now simply to count spaces and paragraph marks, or to rely upon the statistics functions of word processors, which I suspect are based upon the same principle.

It would be interesting to know what standards, if any, are used in the printing industry and the legal profession.

If there is a consensus that there is no consensus, you could argue that it is your prerogative as the supplier to define what constitutes a "word", within reason of course. On the other hand, whatever you decide, you are unlikely to make your customer happy, particularly since he has a good case for regarding the counting anything between two spaces as one word, or reliance upon Microsoft's Statistics function, as standard practice.

Probably not what you want to hear, but I'd accept the customer's argument in this case, and define the terms more precisely next time.


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Claudio Chagas
Local time: 13:55
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Target line Jan 5, 2006

Stacy Macaulay wrote:

One formula takes up almost one line and sometimes more...

Stacy Macaulay

Hi Stacy,

There should be a way to do what you want, but have you considered charging by target line? There's an Excel file 'FeeWizard(en).xls' which you can customise according to your needs and it will convert your fees and let you know the equivalent rate in EUR per target line. It's free and you can download it at http://www.amtrad.it/feewizard.php

Happy New Year to you too.


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Hipyan Nopri  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:55
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Hi Stacy Jan 7, 2006

What has been proposed by Stephen is a very good idea. The numerous formulae in the source texts will be extremely time-consuming. Thus, you had better charge hourly rate. Nevertheless, this should have been negotiated before starting your translation. I am sure that you have already previewed the texts. Unfortunately, it seems that you have not. If so, take this as a precious lesson for the next jobs. Good luck, anyhow.

[Edited at 2006-01-07 02:10]

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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:55
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Charge lines! Feb 18, 2006

The suggestion for charging line count (1 standard line = 55 keystrokes, i.e. characters including spaces) makes the most sense in this case I think. However, the hourly charge suggestion isn't bad, especially if you have a lot of graphics to re-label or if there are mathematical equations for reaction rates, etc. done up with MS Equation Editor, which can be a real time-consuming pain to edit.

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Word Count for Chemical Formulas

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