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Uneditable Source Text

This post offers a few best practices for translating uneditable text. The approach to handling this type of text depends on the source files:

  1. Many uneditable texts are scanned copies of poor quality. A good example is medical records written in Russian. Russia-based healthcare professionals often develop illegible handwriting, because they handle too much paperwork daily in the environment that is still largely paper-based. For this reason, their written opinions or prescriptions are often Greek to the people outside of medical profession, including translators. Ideally, we prefer to use a healthcare professional to “decipher” such records, instead of translating directly from the scans. This eliminates hours of guesswork otherwise spent by a translator.
  2. Another common uneditable text type is a PDF file printed from a desktop publishing software or MS Word. In such cases, we ask the client to provide the underlying editable file such as INDD with Adobe InDesign, because handling this editable file requires much less effort than translating the uneditable PDF. Typically, the underlying file is available and can be easily provided by the client. A common reason for the client to initially provide a PDF file instead of an INDD file is simply being unaware that the latter can be translated more easily, leading to reduced costs.
  3. Where the items 1 and 2 above are not applicable, we resort to the optical character recognition (OCR), recreating the uneditable content in a separate text file. Creating an editable file enables our standard translation workflow, which is built around processing bilingual files. Where any complex formatting is required, we add the cost of OCR to the total amount billed to the client: this service is called “recreation of formatting.” With smaller or simpler files, we may do the OCR free-of-charge or bypass this step by translating directly from the source file.
  4. Sometimes, the client would complete an automatic OCR at their end and then request translation of the resulting editable file. With the files that include complex formatting such as tables or figures, the automatic OCR tends to provide poor results, and the OCRed file may still need many manual adjustments. In such cases, we may ask the client to compensate the “recreation of formatting” anyway, despite the theoretically editable source file.

Save money by buying Russian translation from us—we will alert you to the problem of uneditable text that can lead to costly rework.

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About the Author

Roman Mironov
Roman Mironov
CEO & Founder

As the founder of Velior, Roman has had the privilege of being able to turn his passion for languages into a business. He has over 15 years of experience in the translation industry. Roman has helped dozens of clients increase sales by making their products appealing for speakers of other languages.