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Ten things a translator needs – number 8

The subject of our eighth post is the humble printer.

Such an everyday piece of equipment might seem an unlikely choice, but there is no substitute for printing out documents. Printing the source text may reveal things that are not displayed in a screen view, for example, while printing the translation typically makes it easier to spot mistakes.

Translators often end up obsessing over words and losing sight of the bigger picture. The end product is almost always a printed document of some kind (or web content that replicates the appearance of a printed document). There will normally be a heading or title, individual paragraphs, sub-headings and sometimes footnotes. The heading will typically call for concise (and “punchy”) wording, and seeing it on paper tends to emphasise that. Over-use of a particular word or phrase is also more likely to stand out, as will multiple sentences in succession that start with the same word. A computer screen is a cluttered and busy environment, with much to distract the eye and brain. A piece of paper on a desk provides a quiet, neutral background that enables the translator to focus on the words and spot such issues.

Seeing the translation on paper also makes it easier to check for general coherence. Does the text flow naturally and appear logical? Does the title reflect the content properly and grab the reader’s attention? Do the sub-headings act as useful signposts without being too wordy? This is a valuable opportunity to take a critical look at the document from the perspective of the intended audience.

Seeking to save time, money or the environment by not printing out the translation may seem like a good move, but it can definitely be detrimental to quality. (Having said that, do consider printing on both sides, using recycled paper and/or recycling your waste paper.)

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