Revision tips for translators – Part 3, revising your work in a CAT tool

Ginger cat at laptop

CAT tools have fundamentally changed the way we translators work. They make us more efficient, more accurate and more productive.

But there are certain aspects of CAT tools which alter the way we approach our translation. In this blog post, I share some tips for successful revision in a CAT tool environment.

Export to native format

  • If you can, export your translation to its native format and read it through as a document in its own right for flow and register BEFORE you check the content against the source text.

Even though you most likely have a live preview window in your CAT tool, somehow the document looks different when you see it laid out on the page. No matter whether it’s a 500 word press release, a 100 page report on water quality or a full colour product brochure in InDesign.

By doing so you are seeing the text in exactly the same format as the end-user, so you can put yourself in their shoes far more easily than when you are looking at a two-column grid or even the live preview in the CAT tool.

Edit the text (using track changes if possible) and re-import it into your CAT tool using the monolingual review function.

Now check the content of this beautifully polished, flowing piece of writing against the source text.


Window layout

  • Change the layout of the translation grid at least once in the revision stage.

Our eyes and minds get used to the grid layout and the position of words and phrases within the segment, leading to what I call ‘translation grid blindness’.

Changing the shape or layout of the translation grid gives you a fresh look at your translation unit. In memoQ you can switch between a side-by-side and a horizontal edit view. I prefer the horizontal view for translating, especially when working with long sentences. I always switch to side-by-side view for my last revision pass.


Horizontal CAT tool grid
Horizontal view for translating (segments highlighted for illustration purposes)


Vertical grid CAT tool

Vertical grid view for my last revision pass


  • Change the size of your CAT tool window.

Alternatively, simply change the width of your CAT tool window at the revision stage. This will change the line length in your translation unit, moving words to another position on the screen and again giving you a new perspective on the contents.


Smaller vertical grid CAT tool

Window made smaller to change line length



  • Watch out for continuity and flow between sentences and paragraphs.

The way CAT tools segment the text and present it for translation has the effect of focusing our minds on much smaller chunks of information at a time than when we are working directly in, say, the Word document. So it’s very easy to lose the flow between sentences and paragraphs.

Incidentally, this is where text-to-speech really comes into its own. Have your text read out to you and you will hear when sentences and paragraphs don’t follow on logically. Or simply try reading the text out loud to yourself. Check out my blog on text-to-speech for more tips.

  • Watch out for consecutive sentences starting with the same words.

Because of the segmentation and focus on individual translation units, it is much easier to treat each unit as a separate entity, with the result that you can quite easily end up with several sentences starting in the same way. This will jar in a text that needs to flow.



  • Watch out for wrong 100% matches if you skipped them while translating.

If you skip 100% matches as you translate, it’s important to make sure at the revision stage that segments that your CAT tool identified as a 100% match are in fact appropriately translated. I’m talking here mainly about short translation units, especially those consisting of single words (captions, headings etc.). These may have different meanings in different positions in the text.

Your CAT tool may also dredge up a single-word 100% match from deep within your TM which doesn’t apply at all in your current document. You may not have noticed that if your CAT tool is configured to auto-insert matches and skip further occurrences.

Exporting the document to its native format will help identify these misplaced matches as you will be better able to spot inappropriate headings/captions etc. (See below).



  • Add simple or easily confused words to the termbase.

If you have very similar or easily overlooked words in your translation – even adverbs, conjunctions etc – add them to the termbase. Even the most common words which you’ve known since your school foreign language classes. That way they will be picked up in the QA (which you ALWAYS run, don’t you – see below).

For example, I recently translated a 50,000 word Dutch report on water quality. The Dutch words ‘zout’ and ‘zoet’ (for marine and fresh water) start to merge into one after a few thousand words, so I added them to my project termbase, along with words like ‘minimum’ and ‘maximum’. You could even add the negative modifier ‘not’.

By doing so, you are simply getting the QA to flag up when you have mistranslated or even omitted these words (crucial in the case of a negative in a contract, for example!). And yes, I had confused ‘zoet’ and ‘zout’ a couple of times.

If you don’t want to clutter your technical termbase with these ‘easy’ words, create a separate revision termbase to add them to, and use it in every project.



  • Make the QA work for you!

There are numerous settings and options in the QA function. It’s tempting to simply use the default setting, but it becomes a much more powerful tool when you customise it to reflect your own weaknesses. Do you often forget to add a full stop at the end of sentences? Do you tend to overlook duplicated words? Do you often insert extra spaces at the end of a sentence?

In memoQ, the results of the QA are presented numerically by segment number. I prefer to deal with each category of errors in turn, so I sort them by category before working through them.


Final spell check in the native format (if possible)

I always run a final spell check in the native format before I deliver the translation. Just in case…


Photo credit: Marcin Wichary

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