Away in a Manager: The Proofreader’s Nightmare

It was bad enough when the program listed the first Christmas carol as “Away in a Manager,” but when the error was projected onto the giant overhead screens, the secretary responsible turned red and sank down in her chair. I felt her pain.

Many years ago, we were completing a large, complicated translation for a new customer. The usual path for a translation is from translator to reviser to proofreader. In this case, we had a fourth person check the document as well. The project was ready to leave the office when a fifth person walking casually past the desk said, “Aren’t you going to correct the typo in the headline?”

For any company that publishes anything, the obvious goal is perfect, error-free copy. After the ideas are organized, after the text is lovingly and sometimes painfully produced, after the author is convinced the document is ready, the quality-control team takes over. Thus editors and proofreaders find employment and spell-checking software exists for most languages. In the translation industry, the term reviser replaces editor and is used for the second linguist who verifies the accuracy of the translation and polishes the language. The proofreader, coming third, then has the final responsibility for spelling, grammar, punctuation, and typos. Today, QA follows, with the translation compared sentence by sentence with the source text.

Margins are tight in this business, and revisers and proofreaders are budget lines many agencies cut. I often tell prospective clients to verify that their translation team consists of three people. So many companies today have the original translator self-revise, which should indeed be done before a translation moves to the reviser but is not enough in itself. When a company boasts of full TRP—translation plus revision plus proofreading—three people should be involved. The client should ask. We spend hours here on final QA so our clients don’t have to.

Patricia May
Tembua: The Precision Language Solution