Revision is a key part of the translation process and of the delivery of a quality project to the client. Nonetheless, the text revision process is much more than a simple revision of spelling and common linguistic errors. Within this process, there are other factors that should not be overlooked. From content revision to linguistic revision, this is a lengthy and thorough process that requires a lot from the reviser. If you are considering heading down this particular road in the profession, here are some key features of a reviser and some key issues in the revision process.
1. Features of a reviser
This is the moment for self-analysis. If you want to start your career as a reviser, you must be able to find in yourself qualities like attention to detail, curiosity in doing research and acquiring new knowledge of the target language (in the case of proofreading), attention to common language errors, knowing how to “switch off your you” in order to respect the text author’s voice in technical texts and having knowledge in the field to be revised. Are you ready to start this journey?
The act of revising a text can be very lonely and isolating, mostly because it requires full concentration by who practices this beautiful art. Get ready for long periods without any contact with the outside world. You will have to turn off any and all noise, digital or ambient, that might be a source of distraction.
Thereafter, you must think about what your actions as a reviser will be. This is probably one of the most important issues in this field. Should the reviser only revise errors, or should he/she insert “his/her voice” in the text? Or should he/she simply stick to correcting serious and obvious errors that harm the overall quality of the text? To answer these questions, a distinction needs to be made regarding the scope of the revision.
If we are talking about literary revision, the voice of the reviser must never overlap the author’s voice. I try to adapt the same way of working when doing a technical revision. My voice as a reviser must not overlap the author’s and/or translator’s voice in a given text. The exceptions are situations where the reviser must be more interactive and not “respect” the translator if the norms and indications of clients are not being followed: these are “laws” that must be strictly followed.
2. General and subject knowledge/revision of contents
Within technical revision, it is essential to have good knowledge of the given topic. This is the only way you will do a good job. So, it is advisable to have extensive knowledge on several topics, in case, for example, a reference to the Tagus river appears as a sea or a lagoon. This is when the reviser becomes a social creature; no one knows everything, so it is useful to have a “portfolio of friends” in several fields. In my portfolio, I have friends with technical knowledge, like medical and pharmaceutical, mechanical engineering, typography and even fashion and, in one way or another, all of them have helped me in revision projects.
3. Revision tools
Now we have reached the most practical moment of a linguistic revision. The linguistic reviser should know, first and foremost, which tools are available to clear up and justify his/her doubts. At the end of this section, there is a non-exhaustive list of sources, both in digital and printed format.
We live in an increasingly digital world, where we turn to the Internet to clear up any and all questions we may have. If you have this thought as a base, you will only use digital media. However, these media are becoming more and more filled with errors due to our incorrect daily language use.
Language is a changing thing and it is constantly being updated. Yet, this plasticity, and the awareness of it, has led to countless misuses and corruptions with the justification that the language evolves. It is commonly heard that someone opted for “au naturel” look. So, have we lost the word “natural” in English?
If you do research on the Internet, you will surely find data that prove the use of “au naturel”, but you must always take into consideration the source you are using. Countless online media are “fed” by the current use of the language and, by using these media, you may be using linguistic errors in your project. Misuse of the English language can be avoided if you consult reliable sources.
Therefore, you must pay attention to the media used. In case of doubt, there are excellent printed reference books available: general dictionaries (language dictionaries); specialized dictionaries (such as medical, law and other dictionaries); spelling guides; grammars; style guides, and many more. These media go through rigorous evaluation processes.
Here are some sources, physical and digital, that I consider trustworthy:
- Online dictionaries
- Oxford language dictionaries
- The Free Dictionary dictionaries
- Verb dictionaries
- Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, Longman
- The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, Geoffrey K. Pullum and Rodney Huddleston
- The Oxford English Grammar, Sidney Greenbaum
- Other sources:
- Spelling guides
- Style guides
4. Common language mistakes
Who has never used unintentional pleonasms like “false pretence”, and “entered into the room”, or the comparative “better prepared” or even the wrong plural “words combinations”?
These are some examples of how not to use the English Language. To avoid incorrect uses, inspired by the frequent incorrect use of the language we hear or read, the reviser must be aware of all details, have refined hearing and eyesight and investigate whenever in doubt.
5. Orthographic and syntactic revision
Now is the moment to talk about common revision, and since it is a well-known subject and it is covered by the reviser, I will be brief. I am talking about orthographic errors (easily detected with a spell checker) and syntactic revisions (many times, something like a hell of commas and full stops). These are the details the reviser should pay more attention to before any delivery. Most professionals use the famous spell and grammar checker F7, but we must be aware of errors that are not marked by this friend of ours like, for example, the distinction between some homophones such as “which” and witch”. Another example of this is the distinction between the words “cereal” and “serial”.
6. Widows, orphans and layout
In this point I am talking about syllable division (in a way that does not leave orphans and widows), page layout (font size and style, spacing between lines, double spaces, bolds and italics, high boxes, low boxes, small caps), transparencies (checking if the text printed on one page can be seen on the other side of the page), page numbers, subject index and, if there are any, images. These are fundamental steps for revision in paper format, which is very common in the literary field.
The revision process thus demonstrates to be essential to offer a quality product. It should not be seen as a “fast and superficial reading” of the text the reviser has in front of him/her. Revising a text, in my view, should be a passion. Otherwise, many things will be left behind. It is a process that should be practiced alone, without distractions. However, knowledge is just a few clicks or some essential reading away.
Happy revising! 🙂