Nov 25, 2014

ATA 2014: The Proofreading Refresher Course

Presented by: Ms. Carolyn Yohn, Untangled Translations
Summarized by: Sarah Lindholm, the Detail Woman
Carolyn presented her session with two audiences in mind: freelance translators who proofread their own work, and editors proofreading the work of others. She introduced her own proofreading system, but stressed that her system and her advice are customizable, and individuals should modify as necessary to suit them.

First, she talked about two things to help people proofread their own work well:

1. When you're doing your first draft, do so carefully. "Plan to make mistakes" by keeping a terminology list as you go so that you can check yourself against it later. Also keep a list of things you're not sure of so that you can check them later.

2. After you are finished translating, take a break before proofing your work. Since we become emotionally attached to what we write, we need to take a breather to get emotional distance. Ideally sleep on it, but when that is not possible due to the deadline, at least go for a walk or put a load of laundry in the machine or something first, instead of diving straight in.

Then she spoke about proofreading itself. Her #1 tip was to break the proofing process down into small individual steps in a checklist, rather than try to check for too many things all at once. The checklist should be customized by the individual. The steps could be:

-Check all numbers that appear in the text to make sure they are correct.

-Check all terminology against the terminology list.

-If you're proofing your own translation, check stuff from your “not sure” list.

-Now check the text itself line by line.

(a) Start with the end and work back to the beginning (the end probably has more mistakes, so start proofing it while fresh).

(b) First pass – highlight the issues, don’t correct them yet (to avoid losing focus).

(c) Second pass – fix what you highlighted.

-Check your own personal items from the checklist (Self-awareness when checking your own work: what are your personal weaknesses? Make checking these explicit items in your list).

Some additional tips she had:

1. Make client-specific style sheets. This is about making sure you meet the individual client's specifications. She put a simple example in her handouts, which can be accessed through the ATA55 conference app. If you weren't at the conference, you could request them from her through her website above.

2. Change font size & style to be more friendly to your eyes (ex. – is the font too small to read easily? make it bigger/zoom so it’s easier to read).

3. When proofing a printed document, place the paper on an inclined surface to save your shoulders.

4. Read out loud to yourself, in case your ears catch mistakes that your eyes don't. (An audience member advocated text-to-speech software, so the computer reads it for you.)

And finally, she closed her presentation with tips for when you’re proofing someone else’s work and you need strategies to make that relationship go smoothly:

1. Sometimes questions work better than commands. Asking questions to the original writer/translator can make them feel like they have a voice.

2. Cite a source when making big changes, to show that your changes aren’t arbitrary.

Her presentation handouts included sample exercises to see which proofreading errors you catch easily, as well as some other good information. It was a nice clear and concise presentation with tips for people in all positions. We can all benefit from proofreading well.

About the Presenter. Carolyn is a translator who works with Hungarian, French, and English. Although she is a freelancer now, she has past experience as an in-house copy editor for the American Institutes for Research. Her website is , and she also maintains a blog at .

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