The Basics of Proofreading: How to Avoid Agencies Abusing Proofreading

This will be the last post on basics of proofreading. I will talk about agencies abusing proofreading and what you can do in these situations.



Standard practice with regards to proofreading

Proofreading should be correcting mistakes in a good translation. It should not require the proofreader to completely redo the terrible work that the original translator did in the first place. However, because translator is a human and can make mistakes. Besides, because translation is not a science, it can be approached differently and can be improved by a second eye. Therefore, some of the best translation agencies hire second translator as a proofreader for a project. If the proofreader does a good job, both the agency and the original translator can benefit from the proofreader’s work.



Agencies abusing proofreading



I can’t really provide a standard for proofreading price (as with translation price), because it’s always decided behind closed doors between the translator and the agency. In my case, I receive about 1/3 of my translation price for proofreading. (As a rule, I don’t provide proofreading services, but when I do for some special cases, I receive about that much.) But because most translators charge less for proofreading than translating as I do, some agencies take advantage of this. They produce a sloppy initial translation (they acquire really cheap and low-quality translation services through bidding) and afterwards they create a separate proofreading project and hire a good translator. This is a despicable practice abusing proofreading.


When I look at such a translation, it’s likely this translator worked on the project without a full understanding of the source document, and their translation may not even have correct grammar or spelling. Redoing the work would require too much time and effort. It’s often better to re-translate the document all over again from the beginning.



What to do to in such a situation

If you accept a proofreading project without carefully inspecting the translated document first while trusting that the translation was done by a ‘reliable translator’, you will find yourself spending more time on proofreading the document than you would have translating the initial source document. Not to mention the stress and betrayal you will feel, you’ll think, “How can you call this a translation?!” and want to sloppily proofread the document. But that would be ruining your own reputation (and career). It’s just a proofreading task, but your name will be on it, and it will be used to evaluate your translation work. Thus, it’s best not to accept this kind of proofreading job in the first place. If you do find that you’ve already accepted such a task, it’s in your interest to do your best and complete it.



How to avoid agencies abusing proofreading



To avoid agencies abusing proofreading, it’s best to just ignore requests for bidding on separate proofreading projects. Good agencies may have to do this too at some point, but agencies that habitually search for proofreaders in this way have included this ruse in their business. Pay attention to these following precautions to sidestep these situations:


1. Only accept proofreading work from good agencies you already know.

2. Only start proofreading after you’ve received definite assurance from the agency that the ‘translator’ is at least ‘reasonably good’.

3. If the agency tells you something along the lines of, “this is a new translator we’ve started cooperating with,” do not accept the proofreading project.



These are my views on proofreading. (They are just my thoughts. You may have different opinions on these issues and deal with them in your own way, and that’s perfectly fine.) I ended up not doing much proofreading work at all these past few years in an attempt to evade these situations. There have been exceptions, however, and things may change in the future. What I wish most is to become a proofreader to a really good translator. This way, though I am only receiving a third of my translation rate, I will end up gaining in other ways. I will develop skills in different fields and build TMs, as I have mentioned in previous posts. Unfortunately, I see no indications of this happening any time soon. I hope it will come sooner rather than later.


Now, attention please!

I created a proofreading course specifically for translators: How to Proofread Your English Translation as a Non-Native English Translator E-Course.

To see all the courses, simply go to Translation Courses.


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