Revision tips for translators – Part 1, revising your own work


Bad translation of cloakroom sign
Revision? Editing? Proofreading? Checking? What is this vital stage in the translation process really called, and what does it entail? And how can you increase the efficiency of your revision process?

In this blog post I provide eight tips and suggestions for revising your own work. Tips on revising other translators’ work and revising translations produced in CAT tools will follow in parts 2 and 3 of this series.


#1 Let’s be clear: we’re talking revision, not proofreading!

These two terms – and others – are often used interchangeably. So just for the record, here’s what they mean.

– examining a translation for its suitability for the agreed purpose
– comparing the source and target texts
– recommending corrective measures
(EN 15308)

Proofreading: checking of proofs before publishing (EN 15308)

Editing: preparing (written material) for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it (OED).

half as much as double-checking.


#2 Revision is your chance to get right away from the influence of the source language

While you’re translating, it’s easy to be distracted by the structure and syntax – and even the punctuation and layout – of the source language. Revision is an opportunity to approach your translation as if it had been written in your target language to begin with. Do you really say that in your language? Doesn’t that word order sound a bit unnatural? Do you really use a comma there, or did you just put one in because it was there in the source language?


#3 Cut down on your revision time by making your first translation draft as close to the finished product as possible

Do you often find that it can take you longer to revise a translation than to get it down on the screen in the first place?

Aim to make your first draft translation as close as possible to the final version. Be aware of the flow, style and register of what you are translating as you translate. I find using voice recognition software helps hugely in this: it is easier to pick up on clunky or unnatural sounding phrases as you speak them out loud than it is when you write them.

This way you will be able to use the revision stage only to focus on aspects such as accuracy, content, flow, consistency, and you won’t find yourself constantly having to rewrite vast chunks of your translation.


#4 Read through the translation in its own right before checking it against the source text

Iron out any stylistic or flow issues first before checking the content against the ST. This way you won’t be distracted by poor style when you’re supposed to be checking for content errors.


#5 Read your translation out loud to yourself

The brain processes information you hear differently from information you read on the page. Try it – you’ll be surprised how much difference it makes to the flow of the text. You’ll also pick up on awkward or unclear sentences much more easily.

Another option is to use text-to-speech – see my blog post on how this has revolutionised my revision process.


#6 Check for consistency in the revision phase

Have you followed the client’s style guide throughout? Have you used the right spelling (e.g. US or GB English, -ise or -ize) and have you used it consistently? Are your headings consistently capitalised (title or sentence case)? Do your headings match the table of contents, if it isn’t automatic? Are any units of measure spaced and written consistently?


#7 Avoid introducing errors when revising

If you’re working in Word with track changes on your own or anyone’s work, always work with ‘Simple markup’ or ‘No markup’ so that you can see the finished version. If you work with all markups showing, it’s easy to miss spacing errors or additions/omissions due to the crossings out.


And finally:

#8 Don’t forget to run a spellcheck at the very end before you send the translation off to the client!



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