Tuesday, 10 August 2021 10:00

Editing made easier: PerfectIt teams up with CMOS

Written by Alison Gibbs

Joint Video Overlay


Although I’ve been using PerfectIt for many years and can’t imagine editing without it, I’ve tended just to use it as a final check before texts are ‘good to go’. Consulting a style manual has been something I’ve done before using PerfectIt, to check consistency and generally tidy things up. But this can be time-consuming, and so having a style manual incorporated into PerfectIt is attractive. That way, the issue presents itself automatically instead of you first having to search for the grammatical or stylistic point in the manual and then making a decision.

The latest version of PerfectIt was easy to install, as was the link to the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS). You log in to the Intelligent Editing website to link the two accounts. Then you open PerfectIt in Word, click on the CMOS option in the list of styles (all in the usual place) and you’re up and running.

OPerfectIt CMOS screenshotn the versions of English spoken on either side of the pond there are things we know we know, and things we know we don’t know. That’s when style guides come in handy. But then there are the ‘unknown unknowns’, when it wouldn’t have occurred to me to question some things the CMOS flagged up as ‘Britishisms’ or non-standard. When testing the new feature, I therefore selected some articles previously edited in UK English to see:

  • what would show up if I switched to the standard US spelling option in PerfectIt;
  • what else would be highlighted by the CMOS (the ‘added value’).

In addition to highlighting inconsistencies and non-preferred spellings in the usual way, the main benefit of the new CMOS add-on is that it automatically provides a more detailed explanation and some context, including the reference to CMOS in case you want to know even more. I like the way PerfectIt presents the CMOS explanation in a bite-size block, as this protects against language-geeky tendencies to get waylaid by other information long after you’ve resolved the point at issue.

 A useful tip for non-US users wanting the CMOS to check their style without applying US spelling is to run PerfectIt twice (it goes really quickly): firstly using CMOS and secondly using, say, the UK spelling option, but then only the ‘Spelling Consistency’ check (deactivate all the other checks in ‘Choose Checks’).

If you already use PerfectIt and have a CMOS subscription, using CMOS within PerfectIt simply saves time at no extra cost. A no-brainer. But if you don’t yet have a CMOS subscription, whether you want to pay the annual fee (about USD 40) on top of your PerfectIt subscription will depend on how often you use that style.

 As nearly all my clients want UK spelling and style, I didn’t previously have a CMOS subscription. But although I normally try to steer clients towards (or toward, if I follow the CMOS suggestion) British English and spelling, I was really glad to have to use CMOS this week – a client suddenly wanted US English for one assignment. And I’m rather hoping there’ll be more requests for US style in the next few weeks. That’ll make it much easier to decide whether to opt for a subscription when the free trial ends. And if those requests don’t materialize, I can just enjoy some easier decision-making within rather than outside PerfectIt.

Thursday, 29 July 2021 12:00

Utrecht SIG report: book swap and pancakes at Theehuis Rhijnauwen

Written by Jenny Zonneveld

boxes full of books in a car boot

The Utrecht SIG held its first in-person meeting for more than 18 months on Wednesday 14 July. Besides being a corona-proof socially-distanced affair, it was gezellig and convivial, and ‘voor herhaling vatbaar’. We met in the car park at Theehuis Rhijnauwen, where we chatted and swapped notes as well as books. Some had a whole car boot full and others, who had come by bike, had brought just a few. Many books found new owners and everyone took something new to read home with them.

We then proceeded to the restaurant, where we could all sit together at a large table outside. After delicious pancakes and scrumptious desserts...

pancake with bacon and cheese book swap attendees at Theehuis Rhijnauwen







...some of us walked around the park, recording our daily Ommetje. (If you'd like to join the SENSE walking team challenge, simply download the app and join using the team code LAEFG.)        

map of the walking routes on landgoed Amelisweerd view of landgoed Amelisweerd










The next Utrecht SIG meeting is planned for 8 September. Keep an eye on the event calendar for details.

Thursday, 22 July 2021 12:00

Sign up for the SENSE Professional Development Days!

Written by John Linnegar

Day 1: Saturday 18 September 2021, from 10:00 to 15:00
Day 2: Saturday 25 September 2021, from 13:00 to 17:15

With all-day networking available in the online networking platform Wonder and end-of-day networking in Zoom.

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Come join us for our Professional Development Days, the biennial event in which SENSE members learn from (and with) other members. This year's programme is all about horizontal knowledge-sharing and learning from your peers throughout your career.

Topics include digital nomadism, the linguistics of wine, branding to money management, balancing multiple niches, collaborative translation, intercultural communication, the SENSE mentoring programme, and battling imposter’s syndrome.

We open with a plenary session called "Peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing" on day 1 and close with a plenary session called "CPD: Changing professional development" on day 2.  Choose up to nine out of 18 possible elective sessions that match your interests. And if none of the sessions interest you at any time, head on over a virtual watercooler to network with other members while you wait.

There are three panel discussions:

  • Intercultural business communication (Day 1, morning)
  • The SENSE mentoring programme (Day 1, afternoon)
  • Strategies to combat imposter's syndrome (Day 2, afternoon)

Six electives are available on both days:

  • How the language industry has changed over the past 20 (or so) years
  • The freedom of freelancing – deciding on a digital nomad journey
  • Spanish wine and translation: what could they possibly have in common?
  • How to be a specialised generalist
  • Money management: does your "boss" treat you well?
  • What gives you energy? And how do you earn a living doing that?

And nine other electives to choose from:

  • Recognising and working with inductive/deductive communication styles
  • How to increase your visibility and market your services
  • Working as collaborative translators in arts and culture
  • Maintaining language pairs
  • Branding
  • Fit at your desk
  • Editing slam
  • Keep track to keep up: organizing your workflow
  • (and a session yet to be confirmed by Christy de Back)

Of course, we haven’t forgotten about the social aspect. An unmoderated Wonder room will be available throughout the two days to allow for networking and mingling with old colleagues and new faces on the SENSE scene.  At the end of each day, we’ll have a moderated networking session.

Sign up

Tickets are available to members and non-members alike, and grant access to both days.

You can sign up on the event page by clicking on the Register button. Members, remember to log in first, in order to be eligible for the reduced member rate!

Not a SENSE member? Consider joining! You can find more information about joining SENSE here.

Thursday, 15 July 2021 12:00

UniSIG report: Academic writing support at the University of Twente

Written by Claire Bacon

students working on a laptop outdoors

On 25 June, 23 UniSIG members gathered online to listen to SENSE member Jacqueline Evans (Jae) talk about how she provides writing support to PhD students at the University of Twente (UT). Naturally, as academic editors who work a lot with PhD students, we were all very interested to hear what Jae had to say.

The UT Language Centre (UTLC) offers a range of support to its students, including language lessons, writing courses, writing support and academic skills support. Jae offers support with and gives feedback on conference presentations, scientific posters, PhD theses, journal articles, cover letters, rebuttal letters, grant proposals and CV writing. Sounds like she has her hands full!

When a student approaches Jae with a text, she first encourages them to analyse their own writing and to define what they need help with. Most people are looking for a language check with feedback on structure, flow and coherence (ie, whatever it takes to make the text fit for purpose!). Jae emphasized that her interventions are more educational edits rather than full scientific edits. What does that mean? It means that Jae offers suggestions to help the author address any important gaps or illogical structures in their writing. Jae will correct language issues wherever possible, but the student will usually not receive a fully edited paper – the result will be a mixture of edits with suggestions on how they can improve their text. In short, they still have to do much of the work themselves, rather than receiving a ready-to-submit text.

However, Jae emphasized that the definition of providing editing for ‘educational’ purposes is often blurred, especially when a student is preparing a research paper for submission to a journal. Jae also edits research papers for her own research clients and knowing where to draw the line when working with students can be tricky!

Jae observed that, interestingly, requests to the UTLC for writing support have increased tenfold since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. This may be because, instead of meeting face to face, students now reach out by email and receive their support online. Some students may feel more comfortable asking for help in this way. It will be interesting to see what happens to Jae’s workload as the university opens up and face to face meetings are allowed again: will she continue to offer her services online or will the students be keen to meet in person again?

Requests for writing support may also have increased during the pandemic because students have had a lot more time to work on their writing, since lab access was restricted. This mirrors the dramatic increase in workload that many academic editors have seen in the last year: their clients were no longer allowed in the lab and suddenly had plenty of time to write up their research. What will happen now that scientists are being allowed back in the lab; will we now see a lull in editing requests as our clients return to the lab to collect new data?

Jae concluded her talk by outlining what the future looks like for the UTLC. As more and more users are asking for a full editorial service, the UTLC may decide to offer this in the future. Indeed, the UTLC has already gathered a team of editors to work on Veni and ERC grant proposals for the university (funded by the Twente Graduate School). Jae has promised to keep us updated: keep your eye on the SENSE blog for new developments!

Thursday, 08 July 2021 12:00

Sizzling Summer Series recap: formatting with Word Styles

Written by Claire Bacon

person working on laptop

On 28 June, 11 participants gathered online to learn more about how to use Word Styles from language practitioner and Professional Editors Guild member, Monica Bosman.

The workshop kicked off with an introduction to Word Styles. Monica explained what styles are and how they can be used. She showed us where to find styles in the Word workspace, explained the different types of style, discussed the advantages of styles and explained how they can make us more efficient editors. After the break, Monica gave a practical demonstration of Word Styles, using a document she had sent to us before the workshop started. This was useful, because it meant we could try out for ourselves everything Monica was showing us.

I knew a bit about Word Styles before the workshop. For example, I had used the navigation pane to skip easily between sections when writing larger documents. But I usually work with shorter texts (journal articles mainly) and was not using styles regularly in my editing work. Monica’s clear step-by-step introduction to using styles showed me how I can make my daily work more efficient. For example, styles allow you to make many changes at once, ensuring consistent formatting of headings, paragraphs and numbered lists. You can also automatically generate a table of contents based on the heading styles and outline levels in your document.

Monica also talked us through how we can use styles to diagnose problems in a text that we have received for editing. Opening the Styles panel and seeing which styles the author has used in the document can give you an idea of what formatting changes you may need to make: simply click the ‘Options’ button in the bottom right corner of the Styles menu and choose what to show in the Styles panel. She also showed us some useful tips and shortcuts, such as how to use the Format Painter function to copy formatting from one section and apply it to another, how to use Advanced Find to find and replace a style, as well as how to use Manage Styles to import styles from another document.

All in all, this was a full and interactive workshop, packed with useful tips on how to work more efficiently with Word. Well worth the investment of time and money! Thank you to SENSE for organizing the workshop and a big thank you to Monica for sharing her expertise so generously!

Thursday, 01 July 2021 12:00

Summer tips from the Southern SIG

Written by Linda Comyns

summer tips Southern SIG

With temperatures heading towards 33oC, the theme of the June Southern SIG meeting was the summer season.

We started by discussing ways to keep cool in the office on hot summer days. One member recommended using an air humidifier – which adds moisture to the air – rather than a fan. By keeping the office cooler, he immediately added five working hours to his week, quickly recouping the investment. Another handy tip was the budget option of hanging a wet towel in front of a fan, also very effective!

Workflow over the summer seems to be somewhat unpredictable for most of us. While we may know our direct clients’ plans, workflow from agencies seems to vary from year to year. During some summers, agencies have a surplus of work – perhaps because many of their other freelancers are away on holiday – so we may find ourselves in demand, whereas in other years there could be a lull as the agencies’ clients also take a break. Summer peaks and troughs are not exclusive to freelancers; in-house editors and translators may also find themselves surprisingly busy over the summer period.

All this makes deciding when to go on holiday tricky. Do you book your holiday for the summer, after the summer, or even in January? The consensus was that there is no best time. Just like the summer months, January may be quiet one year, but crammed full the next. The discussion then moved on to the problem of clearing your desk before going away – why does it always take so long? And what can we do about it? Suggestions included trying to set ourselves false deadlines or even scheduling a day off before going away to ensure that we arrive at our holiday destination ready to enjoy our break.

Regardless of the timing, we all agreed on the importance of taking a break – whether it be a two-week holiday or a few long weekends – and not working too many weekends or late nights in a row. The months can fly by and you can suddenly find that it is halfway through the year and you have only had a couple of days off.

Other items discussed included how to keep up your English when living abroad – listen to Radio 4 and do the quick crossword in the Guardian – and the relatively new problem of how to politely stop someone from talking too long on a Zoom call!

Last, but certainly not least, the new Southern SIG member of the month (the attendee located farthest south) was appointed and this time it was none other than our convener himself! Congratulations, Jasper!

SEO in colorful letters

This summer, SENSE is offering a brand-new series of online workshops to hone your skills as an English-language professional. David Garcia Ruiz had the honour of starting off the series on 10 June with his interesting workshop on search engine optimization (SEO).

David could tell us everything we wanted to know about SEO, as he has been working on it since 2015 and even teaches an SEO course at a Spanish training centre for translators (AulaSIC). He explained the basics of SEO and where the SEO translator comes in. Moreover, he put theory into practice right away with hands-on exercises for the attendees. Throughout the workshop, attendees asked good questions and received expert answers from David, making it a truly interactive and engaging workshop.

SEO in a nutshell

The purpose of SEO is to end up high in the search results when potential customers look online for the products or services you offer. Search engines want to provide their users with the most relevant webpages as quickly as possible; an SEO specialist aims to convince the search engine’s algorithm that their webpages are the place to be. Unfortunately, experts estimate over 200 factors are taken into account by these constantly evolving algorithms. Surprisingly, SEO is not hard science – what works today may be outdated next week. Experts also don’t always agree on what works best.

What does an SEO translator do?

From these 200 SEO factors, SEO translators and copywriters alike work on on-page SEO, which involves optimizing the actual content on the webpage. Thankfully, the days when this involved stuffing the text with the same keywords over and over are long past, and can even backfire today. Successful SEO is about knowing what a search engine looks for, where it looks and within which character limits. Typical services SEO translators offer are keyword research, keyword localization, SEO translation, meta data generation and content optimization. Each of these comes with their own challenges and requirements.

What does it take to be an SEO translator?

On-page SEO is not rocket science and doesn’t require high-level coding or other technical skills. Instead, it’s about knowing the rules of the game and applying them while using your common sense. For example, there is no use in adding highly popular keywords that have nothing to do with your products, just to boost site traffic. However, you will need to invest time and money in getting the right tools, developing skills and keeping your knowledge up to date.

To sum up, the workshop was interesting, informative and contained plenty of practical value. I feel much more knowledgeable about what SEO is – and what it isn’t. David’s enthusiasm about the subject has surely inspired me to try my hand at it!

This article is not SEO-optimized, in case you were wondering.

Thursday, 17 June 2021 12:00

Tech SIG: converting PDFs to editable files

Written by Samuel Murray

convert pdf

The TechSIG meeting of 3 June 2021 was very well attended, with 38 participants.  The topic for this meeting was ‘Converting PDFs and OCR’.  The presenters were Jenny Zonneveld and Hans van Bemmelen.

Jenny started off with well-known advice that deserves to be repeated: tell the client that you charge extra for converting the file from PDF, because if you do, sometimes the client will discover that they have it available in an editable format after all!

Jenny then proceeded to explain various ways to use Microsoft Word itself to perform PDF conversion.  In the latest versions of Word, one can load PDF files directly, either by using File > Open, or by dragging and dropping the PDF file into Word (if there is an existing file open, drag and drop the PDF file to the ribbon).  Word then converts the PDF file into a Word document.

Acrobat Standard DC, which is the cheapest PDF reader in the Adobe suite, can also export PDF files to Word.  Go to Tools > Export PDF.  The quality of Acrobat's conversion is often better than that of Word.

Finally, Jenny showed a few ways of converting the PDF file in Abbyy FineReader, an OCR program.  FineReader can convert images and PDF files to a number of other formats, but it is not a PDF editor.  Hans then gave an extensive explanation of how to deal with a rather complex sample PDF file in FineReader.  Hans and Jenny demonstrated several tips and tricks in particular for dealing with tables in FineReader.

Jenny explained how to troubleshoot problems with scanned newspaper clippings.  Samuel Murray gave the tip that one can improve the accuracy of OCR conversion by extracting the pages from the PDF file and converting them to images (eg, JPG), and then improving the quality of those images in a free program like XnView, before loading the images into FineReader.  In XnView, go to Image > Map or go to Image > Adjust.  There are various free websites for extracting pages from PDFs to images.  Martina Abagnale recommended PDFSam (the premium version can convert PDFs to images).

It was also mentioned that some CAT tools do very good PDF-to-Word conversion.  Trados in particular creates Word files that are very ‘translator-friendly’ in the sense that it does not insert line breaks in places where translators would not want them.

Hans explained that if a client sends a Word file that was converted from PDF very poorly, it may be better to re-convert that file to PDF and back to Word again.  In Word, File > Export > Export as PDF.  Then use FineReader to convert it back to Word.

One hour was far too short to cover all of this very relevant topic, and we will certainly have another TechSIG meeting about it in future.

Friday, 11 June 2021 14:50

Translating museum catalogues: there's an art to it!

Written by Jenny Zonneveld

art gallery

It was the second Wednesday of the odd month – time for the Utrecht Translation SIG meeting. A small group of regular Translation SIG-goers met on Zoom. One of our members had given us a text to look at, so after hearing each other’s news we opened the text: an introduction to an art catalogue.

Even if you’re not into art and exhibitions or if this isn’t your daily bread, translating out of your comfort zone can still make for an interesting discussion. We spent a large part of the first hour talking about the context, the author and the potential audience.

This text was in a genre of its own; something quite different from the marketing or research documents many of us frequently work on. And perhaps because it was outside our comfort zone, we found there were many things we’d like to have asked the author. We also felt in need of background information about the organization publishing the art catalogue. A quick look at the website didn’t really answer many of these queries, so it was good to have some insider knowledge.

You might think that a text about art would include tangible topics like form and colour – this prose was quite the opposite. We also learned that where first we thought ‘manifestaties’ might be a false friend, it was in fact not. We could translate ‘meerdere manifestaties en projecten’ as ‘multiple manifestations and projects’ because ‘manifestation’ is also used in English in the contemporary art sector, similar to the way that ‘happenings’ earned a particular use in the art world of the 1960s.

As we progressed to the next sentence, we thought the text was unnecessarily vague. Even the simple phrase ‘…een huis in de stad… ’ didn’t mention which city. Was it Amsterdam or Timbuktu? Apparently, that’s not relevant. What we did consider relevant was whether the piece was addressing fellow artists and those who had exhibited in ‘the house in the city’ or the public who had viewed and admired their works. But, as we learned, in this genre, the art text is intended not to simply explain (or sell), but to be an experience in itself that has affinity with the work it describes.

Amongst the other topics discussed during the meeting, we touched on a problem one of us had encountered recently. A Dutch website being translated contained a menu item entitled ‘Breekijzers’ for which a concise figurative translation was required. It wasn’t until our colleague stepped back, analysed the context and shared the problem on the SENSE forum that a solution emerged. Another SENSE member responded on a Saturday afternoon saying “I think that the word you are looking for is staring you in the face: imperatives.” And so the collective brain of SENSE members contributed to helping the client communicate their purpose. 

We moved on to reflect upon another piece of work in progress and another art form: a music festival. Our translator considered the opening sentence to not be quite as unifying as the author intended:

Original: Of ze nu katholiek, joods of orthodox is, religieuze muziek verbindt altijd.

We had to bear in mind that the Dutch and English translations would be appearing side by side. That made one alternative – to leave out the religions and simply say something like ’Sacred music of any kind always connects people’ – potentially look a little blank next to the Dutch. And ‘orthodox’ itself is not one faith, so that needed clarification. Our colleague reported that the source text was adapted after consultation with the author:

Revised: Of ze nu katholiek, joods, Russisch-orthodox of wat dan ook is, religieuze muziek verbindt altijd.

These examples illustrate how translators contribute to the effectiveness of their client’s communication by leaving comments and asking questions – even to the extent that one client ended up changing their original text.

Thursday, 03 June 2021 12:00

Five good practices for revising translations

Written by Jenny Zonneveld

correcting red pen on printout

I’m regularly asked to revise other people’s translations and I work with a revision partner for much of my own translation work. It isn’t always comfortable seeing what a colleague suggests changing. After all, I’ve done my best to convey the meaning and message in my translation. Everyone has their own unique way of expressing themselves, and the same goes for translators. However, I might have misunderstood something in the source text or not spotted a typing mistake, so it’s good to have a colleague cast their eye on my work too. I’m always eager to learn and I attend a good number of workshops and webinars each year to further develop my skills as a translator, copywriter and editor. So when the opportunity arose in 2020 to attend a SENSE workshop entitled Best practice for revising translations given by the translation revision guru Brian Mossop (the author of Revising and Editing for Translators, 4th edition), I didn’t have to think twice.

What did I learn?

During the workshop we discussed revising our own translations as well as translations written by colleagues. We revise our writing, and that includes translation, because everyone makes mistakes. When revising, we read the text as if we are the end reader. If we notice something doesn’t read smoothly, that’s what we should correct. It’s a fact that different people notice different problems. What sounds okay to me might jar in someone else’s ears.

Productivity tools for revising

As a techy sort of person if there’s a tool that will help me and speed up my work, I’ll use it. I have two main tools I use for checking my work, PerfectIt to check consistency and enforce style rules, and TextAloud, a text to speech engine so I can hear what I’ve written. These tools help me eliminate things a spelling checker won’t find. For example, in haste I might type form when I meant to type from!

Revising my own work

When I revise my own translations, I check I’ve understood the source text properly and rendered it correctly in good English, in a style to suit the client’s intended audience. Naturally, I check all the numbers, I find and fix my own typos, improve the flow and ensure the spelling and grammar is all correct. If I change my mind and think of a better expression for something, I’m free to change my own writing.

Revising another translator’s work

When I’m revising someone else’s translation work, I think carefully before using my red pen. Just as for my own work, I check the meaning of the source text is properly conveyed in good English and in a style to suit the client’s intended audience. I put myself in the position of the end reader. I will not be looking to make unnecessary changes, but I will make a change if I spot something that’s clearly a mistake or I can improve the rhythm and flow of the text, and so help convey the message even better.

My five revision guidelines

I’ve summarised my key learnings from the workshop in the following five revision guidelines I’ve written for myself.

  1. I justify the changes I make.
    If I can’t justify a change to the translation I’m revising, then it probably isn’t really necessary. It’s not good enough to rewrite a sentence just because I think it sounds better that way. Categories of changes that are justified include: the meaning is ambiguous, the sentence structure is confusing, there’s a grammar or terminology issue, the writing is too informal or has the wrong tone.
  2. I don’t impose my writing style on the translation.
    Some translators translate more literally and some more freely and there’s an acceptable range. I must also consider whether the degree of translation freedom taken is appropriate for the type of document and the target audience. I want to avoid imposing my style on someone else’s work.
  3. I avoid retranslating.
    I think it’s better to make a small change to the translation rather than rewrite the whole sentence. I take pride in my work and want to see as much of it as possible back after revision, so I try to do that for my colleagues too.
  4. I go along with the translator’s choices if making changes requires significant effort.
    A translator may have chosen to write in the passive voice where I would normally write in the active voice.
    Passive: New production methods were introduced by the company last month.
    Active: Last month the company introduced new production methods.
    It would take considerable effort to make these kind of changes throughout a document. I think a better solution is to make a note and allow the translator to make the appropriate changes themselves.
  5. I don’t impose my personal preferences.
    Many words and phrases have synonyms, for example ‘bear in mind’, ‘keep in mind’ ‘take into account’, ‘take into consideration’, ‘remember’. Which is the best to use? That’s a decision I leave to the translator.

These points are top of mind when I’m revising a translation. We’re human and we can all make mistakes, which is why revising makes sense.


This blog post was originally published on the Translatext blog.

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