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.
La révision est un sujet très épineux, comme je l’ai déjà mentionné dans mon premier billet sur le sujet. Elle peut engendrer beaucoup de sentiments négatifs si vous pensez que les changements apportés à votre travail n’étaient pas utiles et si l’opinion du réviseur pourrait vous faire perdre un client.
Personne n’aime récupérer une de ses traductions truffée de modifications et de commentaires, car cela indique surtout que le client n’est pas satisfait du travail fourni. Une erreur est une erreur ; il faut l’admettre et la corriger. C’est en apprenant de ses fautes que l’on s’améliore et que l’on apprend à ne plus retomber dans les mêmes pièges. Il faut aussi croiser les doigts que les conséquences ne soient pas trop graves et que la relation avec le client ne s’en trouve pas compromise.
According to the back cover of Don’t Trust Your Spell Check, “Everybody makes mistakes”. Unfortunately, its author, Dean Evans, is no exception. In a book that promises “pro proofreading tactics and tests to eliminate embarrassing writing errors”, nothing could me more disappointing than finding some of the latter in the body of the text and the tests. Given that this is an independently published book, I guess there was no money for a copy editor and/or proofreader, which is a shame.
Having said that, as an experienced editor and content writer, Evans describes strategies and gives explanations that are well worth noting. And the many tests in the second half of the book are extremely helpful as a training exercise. Although it would be more useful to discuss differences of opinion in person with an experienced tutor, tackling the tests is far better than doing no practice at all.
The word is out: having your translations revised is THE way to grow as a translator. If you continue to work in your bubble without any feedback, you’ll make the same mistakes again and again, your word choices will remain narrow, you’ll never learn to think outside the box and your translations might never ever sing.
“I am not sure that one gains too much useful knowledge from a course on revision. Experience of being revised (whether monolingually or via translation) and revising is what makes you a better revisor. The interaction involved in close translator/reviser collaborations on big projects can be an abundant source of learning.”
“I work in a team of three where one person translates, another revises the translation (and the translator accepts/rejects the changes) and a third colleague does a final proof. This system generally works well and we all learn from each other too.”
“My case is special, because we are essentially an in-house team (some of us off-site), working for a host of departments/divisions as our ‘clients’. We have the same cycle for nearly all projects: translator – content reviser – translator – language reviser – translator – final approval (head of team). Therefore the translator has the final say in what to accept or reject from the reviser’s changes. But again, it is generally based on discussion and consensus.”
The very last question in my revisions survey (answered by 229 of the 232 people that filled it out) focused on finding out what, if any, training colleagues have in revision techniques. Out of the 80 people who responded yes to this question, 77 went on to give me the details (thank you!).
The third section of the revision survey switched to focusing on the perceived quality of a revision and satisfaction with a reviser’s job. But it kicked off with asking respondents whether they were aware of the definitions of reviser and revision in the standard ISO 17100:2015, and two thirds are apparently not.
It’s quite simple, really. A revision is the comparison of the source text and the target text (i.e the translation) by a second person, the reviser (and, therefore, revision does not refer to the check the translator makes of his/her own work). Click on the above link for more definitions of terms used in the translation process. I have also written about the differences between revision and proofreading here.