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Proofreading: How to Avoid Blunders that Turn Away Prospects

This post expands on my older entry about the role of proofreading and the importance of having it done by a qualified person, ideally your original translator. Now, I would like to follow up on, and reinforce, the idea that using someone who is not qualified to do proofreading or dropping it altogether can result in problems ranging from slightly reduced quality to simply unusable content.

Blunders + Proofreading = Happy Ending

With website translations, many clients prefer to copy their website content into a text file, have it translated, and then paste it back. This means a manual, error-prone process. Some time ago, we did an English to Russian translation of a pharmaceutical company’s website, and the person who manually pasted our translations to the site made a major error. One of the pages had a table with the drug names in the left column and their descriptions in the right column. In one of the rows, the specialist erroneously replaced a drug name with its description, leaving the next (description) cell empty. Instead of two cells, the resulting row had just one cell, and, to make things worse, this cell was also invalid. Luckily, the client did request proofreading, which made it possible to find and correct the blunder.

Website that Could Use Some Proofreading

The second example is also a recent website project—German to Russian translation for an equipment manufacturer. Here, no proofreading was ordered at all. Some time after delivery, I checked this website, since I wanted to showcase our work to a prospect from the same industry. What I saw, however, made me completely abandon the idea of showing it to anyone:

Untranslated English section names: “Home” and “Shop.” While these English words might look okay in the original German version, they look plain weird on the Russian pages. Perhaps, the translation was pasted and/or proofread by a native German speaker who assumed that because leaving “Home” and “Shop” untranslated is alright in German, this should be equally acceptable in any other language.

Russian word order replaced by German word order. This was probably triggered by similar thinking (okay in German, should be okay elsewhere). In fact, it was again incorrect, resulting in phrases such as “XYZ-cuttng tool.” First, the manufacturer’s name (XYZ) cannot be placed in front of the product name with a hyphen like this. Second, “XYZ” connects with a hyphen to the adjective instead of the main noun, which is grammatically incorrect.

Em dashes were globally replaced either by question marks (probably, damaged during pasting) or hyphens (perhaps, the person who did the pasting noticed some of those question marks and replaced them by what was in the source text). Now, using a hyphen instead of an em dash is not very good in Russian, but will likely go unnoticed with most readers. However, a question mark in the middle of a sentence is clearly inappropriate.

A few paragraphs were assembled from the sentences that we originally translated as standalone pieces, without any full stops. What resulted was paragraphs consisting of just one very long sentence.

These examples illustrate what might happen when a linguistic decision is made by someone who doesn’t know the target language, and the result of this decision never gets checked. Based on this kind of experiences, I am an avid advocate of proofreading the final content, whether it’s files, software, or websites. As it usually takes little time and just a small fraction of your project budget, it’s really cheaper to do it and be safe than deal with potential consequences. An attempt to save on this step may backfire in much greater loss of business when your prospective clients are turned away by blunders.

Do not let this happen to you—make sure to order professional Russian DTP with proofreading.


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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.