Any translator or editor worth their salt has a sound grasp of basic good writing – correct grammar, spelling and punctuation, for instance. We should be pretty adept at knocking out a well-rounded sentence or two. Computer tools such as spellcheckers, grammar checkers, and even QA tools like Apsic Xbench (whose customisable checklists can detect many textual flaws) can help catch any oversights, if you can bring yourself to wade through the false positives.
Those considerations apply to any text. But some clients have specific terminology that reflects their market and their own favourite usage. We can enforce it in our translations for them by using a glossary and plugging it into our CAT tool.
But then there is a third linguistic layer that we may need to consider, which is not a matter of correctness or terminology, namely client style preferences:
- some clients may favour the serial comma as standard, others not;
- some may prefer their B2C contracts to refer to consumers in the third person, not the second;
- some may have a loathing for brackets, opting for paired commas or dashes instead.
Clearly, we need to remember all this somehow for each individual client (of which we hopefully have many) and apply it in our work.
If the client does not provide a style guide of their own, or if they do not follow a public standard – like Chicago or the MHRA – then we need to document their style ourselves.
One way is to build up a style-guide library, filed by client. This may comprise:
- a simple document or spreadsheet noting the various style points as they emerge during our working relationship with the client: we can then refer to the document as we write and at the final review stage;
- a client-specific style sheet / checklist to use in a software tool such as PerfectIt or Xbench to catch any points where we haven’t applied the style (although not all aspects of style lend themselves to that approach).
How do you document and enforce your various clients’ different style preferences?
Oliver Lawrence is an Italian to English translator (specialising in marketing, tourism, contracts and plain language) and editor (working often on texts translated from Italian or written in English by non-native speakers). He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, a member of Plain Language Association InterNational (PLAIN), and an Associate of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. You can find him on Twitter @oliverlawrence1 and LinkedIn.