My most important tip for translators and editors

How to fight the dreaded Murphy’s Law of translation

“Most important?” Really? When it comes to translation and editing, I have lots of opinions and advice, accumulated over decades of work. So how do I choose?  “Who cares,” I can hear you saying, “just give us what you’ve got.”

So here’s one of my pet pointers, which appears also in the presentation I gave at the ITA conference of Feb 2010,  "First Aid for Translators and Editors". (Sorry, no link yet. One of these days I’ll upload it and provide a link.) It comes under the heading "About accepting work".

Say you’re among the lucky ones whose In-box runneth over with work. Or say you’re forever frantically floundering and fishing for work. Or say you’re just your ordinary (no-such-thing), everyday translator who’s been offered a job, wants to accept it and wants to not-screw-it-up.

Remember: Most of Murphy's Laws apply to all translation and editing jobs and projects. Chief among them:
Every job is more complex and more difficult than it seemed at first glance, and will take longer than you thought.

With that law in mind, follow these simple (ha!) rules:
  1. Allow enough time for each assignment. Which is difficult, because the client usually applies pressure.
  2. Always ask to see the text/document first.
  3. Ask questions: E.g.: Who's the target audience? American or British English? Castellano or Espanol? Internal company use or for publication? Will a glossary of relevant terms be provided?
  4. Try to find out how urgent the job in question really is. Rush jobs should carry an added urgency fee. Some agencies offer it, others don't – ask or request, don't be shy.
  5. If you can't handle a rush job, don't take it. (Or you'll ruin your reputation before you've had a chance to build it.)
  6. When calculating how long a job might take, remember to take into account the administrative work related to it.
  7. Find out how much graphics/formatting the work involves. Can you deal with it? Remember that ppts, graphs, tables, illustrations etc can be tricky and very time-consuming.
  8. Paperwork: always send official price quote/work order. Get approval in writing. See more (both in Hebrew and in English) on Yael Sela Shapiro's website.
  9. Find out if your work will be edited and if you'll get feedback on your work. Some agencies are better than others at QAing translators' work and providing them with feedback. Don't sulk and take it personally -- take it professionally. Learn and improve.
  10. Pricing – don't sell yourself cheap.
Before you carry on to my colleagues' blogs and read their most-important tips, I'd like to introduce you to my friend Marion Claire, who's an expert on public speaking. Sooner or later, you may be asked to give your own advice in public... Yes, to actually leave your comfort zone and stand on a podium, shudder shudder, and talk to an audience! Before I did this for the first time, I called Marion (who lives in Los Angeles) and asked her for advice, which turned out to be very helpful. Here's one of her important tips: To Read or Not to Read, that's the question


Marion Claire said...

Thank you, Nina, for calling attention to my To Read or Not To Read blog on It is totally fabulous of you to do that and I so appreciate it! BTW, as a speechwriter as well as a coach & author, many of your items 1-9 above also apply to writing and/or giving a speech, especially #1,3,5,8, 9 & 10! Great minds do run in similar paths.

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