I often receive emails from readers asking me about translation and being a freelance translator. I thought that I would share some of them, along with my responses, as they might be of interest to other people. Antonia asked me the following:

I’m taking tests to start a translation course in Rennes and I’ve been asked to proofread a document. I know I’m meant to point out various types of problems including spelling mistakes and issues with layout and to check the general quality of the document. However, I’m not exactly sure how thorough I need to be. Should I rephrase badly turned sentences? Do I need to work line by line? In short, I’d like to know whether there are norms or guidelines to follow for proofreading.

Proofreading is a concept which can vary wildly from one client to the next, and so I advise you to get precise information about what you’re expected to do. In general, it is a finalisation process which eliminates the errors that have slipped through the net of earlier checks. The document has already been corrected in terms of style and faithfulness to the source text, so your role is to guarantee that it doesn’t contain any mistakes in terms of presentation, typos, spelling and punctuation. These mistakes are hard to avoid because they become invisible to the person who’s spent hours working in great depth on a text. You shouldn’t come across poorly constructed sentences, but you might find the style of the translation disappointing, in which case you should ask your client what to do about it.