Common Mistakes in Papers for Publication Part 5 – Numbers (3)
This is the third and final post on numbers (see below for links to the previous two posts).
Whether to write numbers as figures or words, put abbreviations before or after them, or leave spaces between symbols preceding or following them is all far more complicated than we might at first imagine.
It’s also easy to get confused as style-guide rules and recommendations can differ and many non-native speakers writing or translating into English simply copy usage in their own language, which is often not correct. As a translator and editor, I’ve written these posts on numbers to highlight errors I’ve come across in my work and also to clear my own confusion between source usage and UK and US English preferences.
Common Mistakes in Papers for Publication Part 4 – Numbers (2)
Common Mistakes in Papers for Publication is a series within the Bite-sized Tips series.
In the first and second instalments, I presented some common errors I find in the academic papers I revise or edit. Although they are generally made by non-native speakers of English in the texts I see, a lot of them can trip us up as well, especially as there are often differences between US and UK usage and everything can become quite muddled.
In the third instalment I looked at some issues with numbers. As it’s a vast, complicated area and lots of mistakes crop up, I’ve divided the focus on numbers into three parts. This is the second of those parts on dates and currencies.
Common Mistakes in Papers for Publication Part 3 – Numbers (1)
I spend a lot of my work time improving academic texts. This can involve revising the translations that authors have produced of their own work or editing their non-native efforts at writing directly into English. Unfortunately, the results are never error-free and, as I mostly revise and edit articles and papers written by Spanish speakers, I repeatedly come across the same mistakes.
In the first instalment of this series within a series, I highlighted ten of these common mistakes including the use of etc. and et al.
In the second, I focused on whether to use data is or data are, some punctuation problems and issues with capitalisation.
A recent tourism editing job had me scouring through many translated websites of hotels (Spanish to English, my pair) and I was appalled to see the same mistakes made again and again.
Of course, this might be because the company used machine translation (MT) or non-native speakers for the job. Because a lot of people think tourism texts are so simple that MT will be good enough.
Unfortunately, that’s why many in the sector refuse to allocate a high enough budget to translating their marketing material. The less they are willing to spend, the more likely their translated text will fail.
During my translation work I often come across words that the author has put in italics, quotations marks, or in italics within quotation marks. And often the way they use them throughout the text is inconsistent.
As translators, we have to take a step back from the usage in the original document and remember the rules of our own brand of English. Mirroring the source is not an option. And we also have to smooth out all the inconsistencies.
Whether you put words, terms, titles, etc., into italics, quotations or in roman type will depend on the style manual you have been told to follow. And if you haven’t been given any specific instructions, it’ll depend on whether you use a British, American, Canadian, Australian, etc., guide for your work. You’ll find a long list of style guides (over 40) towards the bottom of my ‘Useful Links’ page.
My apologies for taking so long to get around to writing another Bite-sized Tips post. This one has been on my to-do list for a while, as have many others. In fact I could quite happily spend my entire working life writing for my blog were it not for the need to earn a living!
Here are today’s ten words, which, as ever, are based on the spellings I find in the New Oxford Style Manual or the Oxford English Dictionary(OED). Regular readers will know that, in the absence of alternative instructions from my client, I base my translations into English on Oxford.
Given that we are bombarded with not only different versions but also varying levels of written English on a daily basis, my brain cells can get a trifle confused on occasion, so I look words up just to make sure that I’m being faithful to the style I have chosen to follow and can answer any queries (if any come my way) on why I have chosen to spell a word a certain way.
If you use Dragon NaturallySpeaking (DNS) or another dictation software, you’ll probably have realised by now that it sometimes has a life of its own. That’s why you need to pay attention to spelling and that you are being faithful to whichever style manual you are following (either your own personal decision or dictated by the client), especially as the spellchecker in Word might not highlight spellings as wrong that are not consistent with your style guide. Regular readers will know that I base my work on the New Oxford Style Manual. From now on in this series I’ll be highlighting terms that DNS can get wrong.
Here are another ten spellings that have cropped up in my translations/revisions and which I’ve looked up in the style guide I base my work on, the New Oxford Style Manual, to make sure I’m getting them correct. When this set of four books cannot give me a satisfactory answer, I then turn to the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary(OED).
There are a number of reasons why I focus my interest on spellings both on the blog and in my work, and if you’d like to know what they are, then please read my post Why All the Fuss about Spellings and Style Guides?. Links below the post will take you to other entries in the series, and you can also find a full list of all the past bite-sized tips posts here.