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How to proofread translations

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Ensuring a quality translation requires more than extensive terminological research and grammatical accuracy. Translations should be proofread before they are sent to the client. This is the last part of the revision process and involves a re-reading of the target text to make sure nothing has been overlooked, paying particular attention to the orthography, layout, grammar and syntax.

Read on to find out how to effectively proofread your translations…

1.    Spell checker

There are three main types of spell checkers available on the market. Standalone spell checkers were the first to be introduced but these were quickly replaced by word processing packages such as Word Perfect which were later developed to include more languages. More recently, web browsers and social network sites such as Google Chrome, Firefox and Twitter offer spell check options. If the word processing programme you are using does not have a spell check in the language you desire, you can refer to online spell checkers such as spellchecker.net or a specific grammar checker like grammarcheck.me. The latest edition of Microsoft Office also includes a thesaurus, auto-correct list, hyphenator and translation dictionary in English and offers similar services in a range of languages including Catalan and Estonian. However if you have an earlier edition or an older operating system your language packet may not be as extensive.  Many Apple Mac applications now have built-in spell checkers but Mac computers may not support certain spell check software so it is advisable to check this with the supplier.   Although spell-checkers can be a proofreader’s best friend, you need to be aware of a few problems they may present. For example, it is essential you select the correct language. American English has different orthography to British English so the spell check will apply a different set of rules. If you accidentally type a word that is different to the one you intended (i.e. the instead of then), it will not be indicated as a spelling mistake. A careful re-reading of the target text will help you spot these errors. Moreover, don’t forget to apply your own knowledge; the spell-checker may not recognise certain technical words but this does not mean they do not exist! Beware of auto-correcting. Automatic capitalisation or bullet points are examples of how this can affect the layout. On most spell checkers you can turn off the auto-correct function.

2.    Take a break

Never underestimate the effectiveness of taking a break from your text. After giving your eyes a rest and switching off for a few minutes you will be able to focus more easily and spot errors more quickly. If there is a particular phrase that you are unsure of, try highlighting it and coming back to it later. Sometimes the solution becomes clear to you after a short break.

3.    Concentrate!

In order to proofread properly you need to maximise your concentration. Each person has their own techniques for concentration. You may work best in total silence or with background music. It may help you to do some brain gym exercises in order to focus your mind. People can concentrate for different time lengths so work out how long you can focus for before you need a break. Always make sure you are sitting in a comfortably at the desk and have any resources on hand so you can work more effectively.

4.    Watch out for common errors

Think back to your school days. What were the teachers always correcting? Here are a few of the common slip-ups:

They’re/There/Their and Your/You’re– although you now (hopefully) know the difference between these, when typing quickly it is easy to make a mistake.

Un/Dis/Im/Mis – make sure your prefixes are correct. Don’t get mixed up and put ‘unpolite’ instead of ‘impolite’. Do you know the difference between ‘uninformed’ and ‘misinformed’?

One word or two? A lot/ alot, a while/awhile and onto/on to. Did you know that ‘everyday’ is an adjective while ‘every day’ is an adverb? Find out more about the rules.

Homonyms such as affect/effect aural/oral and practise/practice need to be double checked. For more information on homonyms visit the Oxford words blog

Check figures, names and titles. Although these are small details, they are a clear indication of quality. If you type ten thousand instead of ten million or spell the company director’s name wrong the client will not be impressed and it may lose them trade if the translation is for publication online or in a company letter.

Careful with your capitals. Make sure the write letters are capitalised. For example ‘The twentieth century’ does not need capitals unless followed by a noun as in ‘Twentieth Century novel’.

5.    Read it out loud

This is a great way to check that a sentence sounds right in the target language. When translating, sometimes phrases resemble the structure of the source rather than the target language. This is hard to spot unless you read it out loud to hear if it sounds right. If you are working in a busy office and want to avoid disturbing others, whispering the sentence to yourself is also effective. If you are still unsure that a phrase is right after reading it out loud a couple of times, double check with a friend or colleague. Getting a second opinion is a great way to ensure quality.

6.    Check the punctuation

Have you closed that last bracket? Did you need to start a new paragraph there? Do you need an apostrophe after or before the ‘s’? These are just a handful of the questions that proofreaders ask themselves when checking documents. Forgetting a single question mark or full stop will significantly reduce the quality of your translation and affect the readability of the sentence.

7.    Formatting

Last but not least, ensure the formatting is correct. This is the first thing that people notice when consulting a text so it is really important you check it carefully. Make sure the font doesn’t accidentally change half way through the text and don’t forget to check spacing between lines. In particular, check the following:
Correct use of styles, fonts,
Correct use of page layout, paragraphs, indentations, line spacing, paragraph spacing, margins, text align
Proper use of tables, charts, symbols, colours

8.    Check list

Create a check list to make sure you don’t miss out any of the important stages of proofreading!

These top tips will make sure all your hard work pays off. To find out more about SMG Languages proofreading service visit www.smgtranslations.co.uk

Originally posted 2013-11-06 10:27:26.

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