I really enjoy editing other people’s work because I can concentrate on spotting the odd typo and grammatical mistake and improving the style of a text, which is made easier and more productive by the fact that I haven’t already spent hours translating it. I find that the more time I spend with a document, the more difficult it is to step back from it and look at my work coldly and truly critically. That is why I always try to leave a whole day between proofreading a translation and doing the very last check before sending it. While editing, I also like discovering other people’s way of dealing with particular issues, which can help me improve my own techniques and style.
However, if I can give one piece of advice to new (and old) translators, it’s the following: never ever accept an editing job without first making sure the translation is of a decent standard. An editor is meant to improve a translation, not to rewrite it entirely.
I recently got offered an editing job. I only checked a couple of pages and it looked good, so I didn’t look through to the end and accepted the job. Unfortunately, as I worked through the document, it became clear that the standard of work wasn’t very high, as everything had been translated in a very literal way. This was compounded by the fact that the English source text was also very poorly written. One might say that as a translator, you should be as faithful to the text as possible, and if the English text is badly written, the French should reflect that fact. I don’t agree with that; my job is to produce documents that should read like they were written by a native. If a source document is badly written, it’s normally not because it was intended to be badly written, but because someone along the line didn’t do their job properly.
So my dilemma was that I had agreed to do the job in a certain time (I charge hourly for editing, as the word count isn’t a good indication of the amount of time that will have to be spent on a document), and that it was going to take me a lot longer to do it. Thankfully my client was very understanding and we agreed I could charge more hours than anticipated.