In 99% of cases, our company deals with PDF proofreading only when it’s monolingual proofreading after typesetting. A proofreader checks translation only, without comparing it to the source text. They mainly focus on layout (formatting) issues because all translations checks were already completed before typesetting, in a bilingual file. Doing more complicated things in a PDF such as heavy editing doesn’t seem a great idea for at least two reasons. First, it’s much more time-consuming than editing a bilingual file in a CAT tool. Second, you always want to update a translation memory with the changes made during editing, but editing in a PDF of course doesn’t allow to do that easily.
Yet, projects that involve editing in a PDF are not uncommon in translation industry. We generally prefer to avoid them for the reasons above. However, recently we accepted an English to Russian editing job that involved exactly that—revising someone else’s translation in a PDF. Initially, when we received and considered accepting this project, we thought this was a monolingual proofreading job. But after reviewing the instructions more closely, we realized we were also expected to check for omissions, mistranslations, and style issues. So, it was editing after all.
I strongly believe that editing in a monolingual PDF is far from a best practice. Technically speaking, there are no direct obstacles that could prevent you from doing that. But it’s just much more difficult than the industry-standard revision of bilingual files. The time spent on editing and hence the price increase by at least 30% as compared to a bilingual file. And quality takes a hit, too. Today, when everyone has access to easy-to-use and even free CAT tools, which conveniently display the translation next to the source text segment by segment, doing a bilingual revision in a monolingual file feels like you’ve been taken 10 or 15 years back to the past. Finally, after editing a PDF, you need to transfer all editor’s corrections from the PDF to a translation memory, so that you can keep your TM up-to-date for future reference. The more changes an editor made, the more time it would take to update the TM. And what’s worse, someone else will have to manually insert those corrections in the file in a DTP program.
All of this takes time, which doesn’t really have to be wasted like this at all. But… If you still find yourself editing a PDF file, positive thinking alone won’t be enough, you also need a set of tools that will simplify your task. Read the next part of this post to learn more about these tools.
For more tips on handling existing translations, read this post about editing and re-translating translations made by other people or this article on how to process and charge for 100% matches with a translation memory.