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Foreign-Language Editors and Proofreaders

Working at a translation bureau comes with an often underappreciated occupational hazard -- an urge to edit or proofread everything in sight. And, of course, we tend to hire people already afflicted with this condition!

Editors and proofreaders are a special breed. They have to adjust their eyes and brains to the meaning of sentences and paragraphs, grammar, and style. On another level, they then focus their vision and brainpower on typographical errors. You concentrate on one, you may miss the other. It is often necessary to read through a text several times to catch all the mistakes and to improve style. Sometimes you need two proofreaders, one for language and one for typography.

Every translation requires the services of both a professional translator and an editor. Each translator depends on the skills of a good editor. Translation bureaus know we need a fresh pair of eyes to compare the source and target languages, then another pair of eyes to look at the translation as a stand-alone copy.

In the same manner, each typesetter and desktop publisher relies on a good proofreader to catch typographical errors and formatting mistakes. Our in-house typesetter is familiar with the idiosyncrasies of several languages and is helped by our translators who are astute proofreaders, as well.

But this is only part of the story. We have discovered that the original text very often needs editing even before the translation process begins. In order to convey a message to another culture, it has to be made clear to the translator. We started a dialog with the creators of the source material, pointing out sentences that needed clarification and phrases that could be misunderstood or perceived as offensive. Soon, clients were routinely sending us copy for editing before finalizing it. Well-written source text has a better chance of resulting in a good translation.

We are also fortunate to have engineers on our staff who can catch technical errors in a text. They do not just correctly translate complex technical manuals, but often notice errors or ambiguities in the source text. By calling these errors to the customer's attention, costly misunderstandings and even accidents may be prevented.

One unexpected offshoot of the above process is that many clients ask us to proofread their English advertising pieces for grammar, typography, and consistency. Our two in-house editors routinely proofread PDF files for these clients, making their changes with the Adobe Acrobat(r) "notes" feature.

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