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A-Z of Translation – the letter P:

Our entry for the letter P deals with the last element in the translation process:

Proofreading – This step follows editing in the typical three-stage translation process (TEP = translation, editing and proofreading), but “proofreading” means many things to many people.

The standard dictionary definition is: “read (printer’s proofs or other material) and mark for errors”. In a traditional scenario, a book or other document will have been set up in type and proofreading is mainly concerned with ensuring that no errors have been introduced during the typesetting process. With the advent of computers, typesetting has become much more straightforward, but there is still scope for problems to arise.

A particular issue with foreign-language texts is well-meaning “correction” of things that are not wrong – something we have touched on before in this series. Accented characters may also be corrupted when a Word file is imported into the DTP program being used, for example, which would likewise make a disastrous impression on the reader.

Seeing the end product is also an opportunity to spot missing material (e.g. picture captions that have not been translated because no one thought about it). In some cases, content is also assembled from multiple sources, so there may be clashes of style or terminology. In multi-column layouts, a proofreading stage is also the only chance of spotting instances where a word or phrase repeats in exactly the same position in the line below – so while the translation may be absolutely fine, the reading experience is undermined.

In our view, this final checking stage is vital, but clients sometimes find it difficult to accept or justify spending time and money on proofreading. But think of it like having new tyres fitted: even if one person has already tightened the wheel nuts, it’s very reassuring if a second person checks them, just in case.

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