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Revision Guidelines for Translations

Why is it difficult to handle an in-house review and how can it be done effectively?

Internal reviews are often performed by clients as an additional step to verify that the target document is consistent with their terminology and stylistic preferences.

In-house reviewers, although experts in their field, may not have the linguistic skills required or have adequate knowledge about the project to perform a professional review.

When a review is poorly done, it can compromise the quality of the translation.

When selecting reviewers, we suggest our clients to look for individuals with the following skills:

High level of understanding of source and target languages.
Familiar with the Translation Brief (instructions submitted to the Project Manager).
Thorough understanding of the differences between the processes of revision, review and proofreading.
Follow the Revision Parameters posted below.
Additional resource:
European Commission Directorate-General for Translation — Revision Manual

Revision Parameters


The following revision parameters are from: Brian Mossop, Revising and Editing for Translators, St. Jerome Publishing, Manchester UK, 2001. ISBN: 1-900650-45-2 (pbk). Brian Mossop’s website

The revision parameters are the things a reviser checks for, the types of error. An exhaustive listing of things that can go wrong when translating would be very long indeed. However in order to think about and discuss revision, it is convenient to have a reasonably short list of error types. Here they are, expressed as questions about the translation, followed by a single capitalized word for convenience of reference.

Group A — Problems of meaning transfer (Transfer)


1. Does the translation reflect the message of the source text (Accuracy)?
2. Have any elements of the message been left out? (Completeness)

Group B — Problems of content (Content)


3. Does the sequence of ideas make sense: Is there any nonsense or contradiction? (Logic)
4. Are there any factual errors? (Facts)

Group C — Problems of language and style (Language)


5. Does the text flow: Are the connections between sentences clear? Are the relationships among the parts of each sentence clear? Are there any awkward, hard-to-read sentences? (Smoothness)
6. Is the language adapted to the users of the translation and the use they will make of it? (Tailoring)
7. Is the style suited to the genre, has correct terminology been used, and does the phraseology match that used in original TL texts on the same subject? (Sub-language)
8. Are all the word combinations idiomatic? Does the translation observe the rhetorical preferences of the target language? (Idiom)
9. Have the rules of grammar, spelling, punctuation, house style and correct usage been observed? (Mechanics)

Group D — Problems of physical presentation (Presentation)


10. Are there any problems in the way the text is arranged on the page: spacing, indentation, margins, etc? (Layout)
11. Are there any problems of text formatting: bolding, underlining, font type, font size, etc? (Typography)
12. Are there any problems in the way the document as a whole is organized: page numbering, headers, footnotes, table of contents, etc? (Organization)

Sample Orders of Operations


  • Read the entire translation for Logic, Smoothness, Tailoring, Sub-language and Idiomaticity, as well as those aspects of typography and punctuation which are important for meaning.
  • Do a comparative check for Accuracy and Completeness. If the client wants the translation to follow the Layout of the source text, check this at the same time.
  • Do a comparative check for Accuracy and Completeness. If the client wants the translation to follow the Layout of the source text, check this at the same time.
  • Read the entire translation from start to finish for Mechanics (other than spelling), Layout, consistency, and any Language errors introduced during steps 1 and 2.
  • Do a separate check for numbers if they are important to the message.
  • Check the document’s Organization.
  • Run Spellcheck after all changes have been made in case you have introduced any errors.
  • Press Control-S to make sure you have saved all your changes.

Summary of Revision Principles


  • Do not ask whether a sentence can be improved but whether it needs to be improved. Make the fewest possible changes, given the users of the translation and the use they will make of it.
  • Make small changes to a sentence rather than rewriting it.
  • Minimize introduction of error by not making changes if in doubt about whether to do so.
  • If you have to read a sentence twice to understand it, a correction is definitely necessary.
  • If you cannot understand the translation without consulting the source text, a correction is definitely necessary.
  • Minimize revision time through unilingual re-reading unless the longer comparative procedure is dictated by the likelihood of mistranslation or omission (difficult text, untried translator, etc) and by the consequences of such errors.
  • When you make a linguistic correction or stylistic improvement, make sure you have not introduced a mistranslation.
  • When you make a change, check whether this necessitates a change elsewhere in the sentence or a neighbouring sentence.
  • Do not let your attention to micro-level features of the text prevent you from seeing macro-level errors, and vice versa.
  • Do not let your attention to the flow of linguistic forms prevent you from seeing errors in meaning (nonsense, contradiction etc), and vice versa.
  • Check numbers as well as words: they are part of the message.
  • Adopt a procedure which maximizes your opportunity to see the text from the point of view of the first-time reader.
  • Adopt a procedure which allows you to strike a suitable balance between the degree of accuracy of the translation and the degree of readability.
  • In the final analysis, give preference to the reader’s needs over the client’s demands.
  • Avoid creating an immediate bad impression: make sure there are no spelling or typographical errors on the front page of the translation.
  • Do not make changes you cannot justify if revising the work of others.
  • Do not impose your own approach to translating on others.
  • Do not impose your linguistic idiosyncrasies on others.
  • Make sure that client and reader receive full benefit from revision work: ensure that all handwritten changes are properly input and that all changes are saved before the text is sent to the client.
  • If you have failed to solve a problem, admit it to the client.




Extra Links:


Translation Revision Procedures: An Explorative Study


The Dark Side of Translation Revision


Revision and Proofreading


Revising Translations: Corpus Investigation of Revision and Self-revision


Case Studies of good practice in translator training