When Technical Editing Goes Way Wrong


Last night I get a call at about 10.

“Are you available for an emergency? A client just rejected our translation and we need to get it back to them tonight.”

This is a question in a way, but I’ve answered it by picking up the phone. We talk a bit more and it seems that the problem might be in the editing and not the translation. In technical translation, our translators are rock solid. Technical translation is more like brick-laying than art, so there really shouldn’t be problems unless the source text is worthless.

I ask to see both the original translated text and the edited version.

Here is a lovely graphic of the first few paras:

Good Spaghetti-Monster in the Everlasting Cosmos! The editor went mad —

verify = look into
graduate from university or over = with college degrees

Is to begin by changing two meanings in the short first paragraph.

Then there’s the writing style, full overblown academia.

The phrase, and into what “educational philosophy” is grounded on their supportive activities not only adds spurious quotes and turns “support” into “supportive” but it is also practically impossible to parse.

Editing in these cases is not to create a new work of literature, but to re-arrange the flesh on the bones you have been given.

And don’t randomly change perfectly good phrases that people are using for their meaning

In the third paragraph changing “since” to “as” is purely random switching and dropping a phrase like “connotative educational viewpoints” is sure to piss off the translator and the client. “Interpreted” is not the same as “uncovered” and changing the word is, again, a purely random move as if to say, “hey, look, I’m an editor so I can slice and dice anything!”

That is all, of course, detail, what is far worse is that the editor took sharp, if ungrammatical, text and turned it into someone’s abstract for a Ph.D. Not just any Ph.D., but a Ph.D, in critical sex-role theory in some egghead (but 2nd-rate) university on the East Coast of the US. By which I mean it became just a tad stuffed with emptiness (“It is presupposed in this study” WTF?).


It isn’t poetry (and it shouldn’t be), since it was part of a larger piece and I had a midnight deadline, but here’s how I approached it, using every bit of the original framework, phraseology and vocabulary (I even left the relatively nonstandard “Gang-nam” as I was, at this point, trying to minimize any changes) of the original:

That is pretty blunt, but it was accepted.

5 thoughts on “When Technical Editing Goes Way Wrong

  1. I don't know how you do it. If they were to ask me, I would have flatly rejected the offer. Then, again, you are the editor, and I am but a lowly translator… Your translation seemed much more friendly and easier to read.


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