An editor’s nightmare

You get a sort of twitch once you have been editing texts for too long – the smallest things can drive you insane, like “you’re” and “your”. We, weird people who enjoy grammar and texts and stuff, want to murder those who can’t tell the difference – or it may be just me. Anyway, I felt so lucky when I took a break for the holidays, last year, and had already a few projects waiting for me to return. The first was a translation project, the second and thirs were editing projects from different clients.

So I finished my first project of the year, pretty happy, and started the second. It was a 20k words, and since I’m familiar with the subject, I estimated I could edit 10k per day. I was starting on a Monday to deliver on a Wednesday. But then, everything fell apart. The so-called translator started murdering that beautiful document so mercelessly, I started crying. It took me about 9h to complete 4k.

I was doomed. The technical terms were all so different from what I learnt that I started doubting myself – maybe the final client had specific differences? I asked the client if there was any glossary lost somewhere that was sent to the so-called translator (I refuse to give in!), because everything is so different in my world… And the client told me they had to trust that innocent project to someone with limited experience. In my opinion, the experience never knocked on that door – or any sort of training.

Here is a small list of what happened, because I don’t you to burn your eyes.

  • Decimal separators

This is Language 101 – your language! And you do see numbers all around throughtout the day, don’t you? In the market, for instance. And you have that amazing sale, and a product for 1.99. If this is American English, it will be like this, 1.99. But if you’re translating into Brazilian Portuguese, for the love of God, change that thing to comma, girl!

  • Punctuation

If you’re a translator, then you’re expected to know your freaking native language inside out. But punctuation is not so hard, is it? Don’t you know that you’re supposed to close a sentence with at least a period? Or that sometimes a comma is necessary?

  • Mistranslation

I noticed that if the source document read something like “Mom, I want apples and oranges, can you buy those, please?”, the translation read “The father knew that his daughter would never come back. Not as he just left her”. That is right, they have no relation – except for the parenting thing, my imagination is running short lately. So that was it, if the so-called translator could not understand what was there, they would make something up. Can you imagine the self-control it takes not to throw the computer at the wall after seeing that this happened to at least 70% of the freaking document?

If you don’t know these rules, then no one can expect you to know anything. Not even to spell, aparently…

Talking about spelling – it is cruel, but if you don’t care enough for your work so that you skip a simple spell checker, then I won’t mind giving a bad feedback to the client about your work. We are all humans, and we make mistakes here and there. But there’s a limit to your humanity and if you’re careless, your document shows it, honey.

This was my nightmare. And when I thought I had woken up (that is, finished the project and delivered), I had to check that again, because there was an appendix in the middle of the document that wasn’t supposed to be changed, but it was. And we all learned that you can’t take instructions as well, hun?

As with any great agency, this client later contacted me to provide a formal feedback. I tend to tone my feedbacks down, partly because some time passes between the project and the time of this feedback, and partly because we are all allowed to make mistakes, no one learns more than when they mess something up. But this project… Oh no! I had to let that person know the kind of damage… that poor document…

About Michele Santiago

Translation, localization, editing, subtitling. 7 years of experience in English and Spanish into Braz. Portuguese, specialized in Medical, Pharma and IT. Love rainy days, travelling and gadgets. Not necessarily in that order.

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