There’s sour cream on my taco and I’m missing a piece of chicken

Stomachs growling, we went through the drive up and ordered enough to feed an army.  One member of our group doesn’t like sour cream so we ordered his tacos with none. I saw the special order come up on the screen.  I heard the counter person repeat the order.  I asked as the order was passed over to us.  And yet, you know what happened.  One member of our party sat scraping white glop off his food.

Several days later I picked up a bucket of chicken for dinner.  In a hurry, I didn’t stop to count the pieces of chicken but I should have.  They shorted us one.

These days I count my change and check that the dry cleaner is returning all the pieces I dropped off.  But really, why is it necessary to double-check everything?

Is it a matter of downward price pressures?  Perhaps there isn’t an extra staff person to check the order or count the chicken pieces.  Or can it be traced to the self-esteem movement in education?  Do some employees think they can do no wrong and won’t accept a double-check?

At Tembua people often ask us to lower our quoted price, frequently saying that if the first translator is really as good as we say, they shouldn’t need anyone to double-check their work.  We disagree. And we do not employ linguists who think their work is too good to be checked.

Jackie Parkison, one of our project managers and also a published author and professional editor says,
“The more you work on a piece of writing, the more accustomed to it your brain becomes, so your ability to see errors decreases as your time spent on it increases.”

My years as a translator taught me that even without a tired brain or a short deadline, a document needs at the very least proofreading.

The terms proofreading and editing are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same task.  A typeset copy or almost final electronic version is proofread as the final step before publication.  The proofreader corrects punctuation, grammar, spacing, spelling and usage errors but does not change the flow of the text. In our industry editing is usually called revision.

The reviser’s job, done before final proofreading, is to improve the flow of the text without changing its tone.  She rearranges sentences or changes passive to active to make the text more understandable and clarifies ambiguities with an eye for the final reader.  The reviser’s job is not to rewrite the piece or change its style.

All publishing houses have editors on staff.  Researchers submitting a paper for publication employ editors specialized in their field.  Corporate reports and training manuals are carefully edited and proofread to make sure they are both readable and error-free.

Not all written texts need to be perfectly polished, of course.  Who would hire an editor for a grocery list or a garage sale flyer?  Run the spellchecker and re-read the document, of course, if someone else is going to see it.

Documents for publication, however,—a category that includes most of the translation work Tembua produces—require as much polish as possible.  In addition to the mechanics and flow of the text, we need to make sure the original meaning is properly conveyed in the appropriate tone.  A trained, qualified linguist produces the original text.  A 2nd equally qualified linguist does the review/revision.  Proofreading and a final quality control step follows.

Our goal is a perfect text so we double-check. I don’t want anyone coming back with sour cream on their tacos!

Patricia May
Tembua: The Precision Language Solution