In a digital age, text has to be perfectly pitched for diverse target groups and a multitude of channels. That helps companies communicate directly with their customers and stakeholders, and makes convincing, authentic content more important than ever. That content has to be unique and meet, or even exceed, the demands of a digital world.
Without careful checking, all kinds of errors can easily creep into a translation, from straightforward spelling mistakes to stylistic inconsistencies and serious distortions of meaning. Summer becomes winter, 2019 becomes 2018, a rise becomes a fall. The CEO suddenly has a different name, or the “Managing Board” specified in the corporate language is changed to “Board of Management” in the translation. The relatively straightforward term “Abschreibung” in a German financial report has no direct equivalent in English, and it is easy to end up with an inappropriate translation. Is ‘depreciation’ or ‘amortisation’ the right choice? Or perhaps ‘impairment’ or ‘write-down’ is a better fit. And what does the corporate language say?
There are plenty of pitfalls. Specialist terminology can be a trap. To avoid falling into it, and to keep the trust of the customer and reader, translations require meticulous checking. Depending on the quality of the translation, the available budget and the time frame, it can be carried out in a number of ways.
Proofreading means correcting spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors, and includes using spell checking tools. Checking by a second proofreader is often advisable, to ensure that no errors slip through. When it comes to accuracy, two heads are better than one.
If a text needs checking according to criteria beyond the scope of proofreading, then it requires copy editing. That can include improvements to its style and content. Translations are compared with the source text to make sure that they are accurate.
Text editing means making deeper changes to the text. While the general rule is not to make changes according to personal taste, that doesn’t rule out comprehensive revision if rewriting is required to achieve the same effect in the target language. If the text only needs corrections of linguistic errors (proofreading) or changes to its style and content (copy editing), text editing can be identical with the two steps described above. However, it also includes final editing – checking the text in its final layout.
When checking translations, special attention is paid to the following:
Now your text is ready for publication. But which channel is it for?
The channel sets the tone for a translation. Corporate news on your website is sober. A suit, with or without a tie. Your blog is relaxed but professional – business casual copy. Social media is more laid back. Shorts, but hidden out of sight under your desk. You need to use a number of channels to develop your company’s image. That’s why good copy editing is so important – you don’t want to share your errors in real time.
People often say print errors involve the greatest costs, because a whole print run may have to be pulped. But in a real-time age, digital errors may never be forgotten, even if they are quickly corrected. The damage to your reputation could be far greater than the cost of printing a corrected flyer. What does it say about a company if it shares its mistakes with its community in real time via social media?
The many errors that can crop up in translations, and that may not be immediately obvious, mean that professional checking requires great skill and considerable experience. But its many benefits make it well worthwhile. If you and your company want your texts to have a lasting impact, then you need to invest in professional proofreading and copy editing.
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