Tuesday, 13 December 2022 12:34

Editing and proofreading – how to get it right

Written by Sally Hill

KarenTkaczyk for blog post

Karen McMillan Tkaczyk (mcmillantranslation.com) is a Scottish chemist-turned-linguist with a Polish surname living in Colorado. Ever since meeting Karen at a UK translation conference back in 2011, I have found this a fascinating combination. And given her extensive experience as a French-English translator and trainer, I was pleased to hear she’d agreed to give an online workshop for SENSE. This was held on 15 November 2022 for a group of more than 25 SENSE members.

Spot the deliberate mistake

During the 2-hour session, Karen shared her principles for proofreading and editing (our own work and that of others) but she also dealt with pricing, and dealing with emergencies and tight deadlines. Karen kept us on our toes with ‘spot the deliberate mistake’ quizzes in between her other slides and used the chat to ask for our input, which kept things nicely interactive. A topic such as proofreading and editing naturally requires definitions, and Karen clarified from the start that she sees editing basically the same as revision (making changes to a text), and proofreading the same as copy editing (correcting obvious mistakes or style guide discrepancies).

If in doubt, don’t!

She also touched on client communication – that we should make sure to tell the client beforehand what we’re going to do, to avoid surprises. And she encouraged us to be aware of the difference between an improvement and a personal preference, and between a correction and a suggestion; the take-home message being ‘if in doubt, don’t!’ When correcting the work of others, during quality control or translation revision, Karen emphasized the importance of critiquing the process rather than the person.

Dragon breath

We also discussed software and other tools of the trade to help us spot mistakes and inconsistencies, and several participants indicated that they would be trying out some of Karen’s suggestions, including Xbench (quality assurance software for translators) and PerfectIt (consistency checker in Word). One term that I’d not heard of before was ‘dragon breath’, which she used to refer to mistakes arising in a text due to speech recognition software such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Conversely, text-to-speech software can be useful for discovering mistakes in your text by when you listen rather than read.

Per word, per hour or per project?

In terms of pricing, Karen discussed the pros and cons of charging a word rate, hourly rate or project rate – she has found that many of her clients accept a flat fee per project. Such a strategy has the advantage of fast work benefiting the word-worker rather than the client, but this may involve some negotiation.


After the workshop, in addition to sharing her slides, Karen sent us some extra resources: a document explaining her quality assurance procedure for translation, her checklist for editing a manuscript for a journal, and a document listing the resources she had mentioned during the session plus many more – these included lists of software, style guides, websites and training courses.

Given the limited time, I felt that Karen covered a lot of material that was useful both to translators and editors, with many of her tips also applying to copywriters. I hope that next time she is in Europe she will be able to give an in-person workshop for SENSE.

Blog post by: Sally Hill
LinkedIn: sally-hill-nl
Twitter: SciTexts
Read 341 times Last modified on Tuesday, 14 February 2023 21:56

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