Text Varnishing

A while ago, on receiving a copy of an exhibition catalogue for which I had translated several essays, I noticed that the title of one of those essays, which was also the name of the exhibition, had been changed to a translation that I did not quite agree with. But surprisingly, in the body of the essay, it remained untouched. Flicking through the rest of the book, I saw that three different English translations of that title were in fact used erratically.

The confusion may have been due to the fact that, as this was a trilingual book, several translators were involved to work in various directions, but this gave the impression that the book had not been proofread and checked for consistency – a task that should be carried out by a single person because no two translations of the same text can ever be the same word for word. But one thing all translators will agree on is that consistency, be it in the context of short text, a whole book or a company’s entire documentation, is a must. So if you have a complex project with texts by various authors to be translated in different language combinations, you will need a team of translators as well as one proofreader for each language to ensure overall consistency.

The aim of proofreading is not only to catch typos and such small mistakes, but also to look at the whole picture and make sure that all parts work seamlessly and harmoniously together. You could say it is the varnish that evens out the final presentation of your work, giving it that perfect finish, while protecting it against embarrassments.

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