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Can I Buy Translation without DTP?


A quote you received from a translation agency may include an item called DTP. DTP (desktop publishing) in translation means formatting documents after they were translated. The scope of DTP varies widely, with some projects requiring no DTP at all and others requiring many hours of formatting. The more complex the formatting is, the larger the scope. A simple document with few images needs little or no DTP. A large InDesign file with multiple images, tables, charts, and cross references is more challenging. But suppose you have a limited budget and do not want to pay for anything beyond translation. What are your options?

Is there much formatting?

First and foremost, evaluate the formatting in your original files. Perhaps, there is no formatting at all, because this is simply an intermediate file and you will insert the translations from the translated file into your website manually. In this case, no DTP is necessary, and you should not pay for it even if your vendor offers DTP. Simply ask them to deliver a loosely formatted document right after it was saved from a computer aided translation (CAT) tool.

If your original files have moderate formatting, you need to assess how comfortable you are doing DTP yourself. The main challenge in DTP is that the translated text usually expands compared to the source text and therefore does not fit in the original boundaries. Another challenge is the text within images that is generally extracted for translation into a separate table or file. You will need to replace the original text in images with this translated text. If you feel you can do all formatting yourself, then ask your vendor to deliver a loosely formatted translation saved from a CAT tool. All original formatting will be kept in this file automatically, and you will only need to adjust the formatting as described above.

If the text is formatted heavily, in particular with  more complex formats, such as PowerPoint or Adobe InDesign, it is best to leave DTP to professionals. Doing it yourself without the required skill does not usually make sense. Instead of saving money, you will end up frustrated, because you will waste too much time doing it on a trial-and-error basis and will ultimately realize that a professional could have done the work faster and cheaper.

Post-DTP proofreading

Buyers who choose not to pay for DTP tend to forget completely about post-DTP proofreading, although this is an essential step. The final documents require proofreading after DTP for two reasons: checking the translation in context and checking for formatting issues. The best way to do this proofreading is to assign it to a linguist, preferably the one who translated it, because she will be able to find both the linguistic and formatting problems. This linguist will mark all the errors and return the file to the DTP specialist for corrections or will correct the errors herself where possible.

Forgoing post-DTP proofreading is a bad idea. I have rarely seen files that were perfect after DTP. Another options is for clients to do this proofreading themselves, but it is important to follow the process described above. If a client sends each error by e-mail upon finding it, instead of going through all files and marking all errors, this will be ineffective and frustrating for both the client and the vendor.

Why charging for DTP separately is important

Some translation agencies and freelance translators do not charge separately for DTP. I do not recommend this. One reason is quite obvious: when you do both translation and translation plus DTP at the same rate, all other things being equal, you are losing money, because where DTP is involved, you spend more time on the project. Another reason is that once your clients get accustomed to the “free DTP” policy, it will be hard to charge for DTP if you need to do so one day, for example with a very complex document.

In conclusion

As a translation buyer, you are certainly free to refuse to pay for DTP. In this case, you will be responsible for DTP and post-DTP proofreading. Remember that you cannot blame your vendor for any formatting problems in this case, because they are your responsibility.

Now that you know when Russian DTP is important, you will choose whether to pay for it or not the next time you purchase translation.

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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.