To find out the answer, I posted this question on the JAT Mailing List.
As usual, JAT members were most obliging in sharing their knowledge.
Here is what they told me.
1. Check for omissions such as words or sentences that were not translated.
2. Check on the correct transfer of names, acronyms, dates and numbers. With numbers, check whether the numbers are consistent with the story.
3. Check spelling, not just by Spellchecker but whether the right words are being checked. Spellchecker will only catch words that are misspelled and will not pick up on the wrong word which has been spelt correctly, e.g., “their” and “there”.
4. Check proper nouns. These are easily spotted by the client so get them right.
5. Check consistency of presentation.
- Is the same font used throughout the whole document? What about font size?
- Do headings have consistent capitalization? Alignment? Underlining?
- Is indentation consistent? What about line spacing?
- Is the text aligned consistently (justified or right alignment)?
- Are numbers and units expressed consistently (e.g. "JPY 3 million" or "3,000,000 yen")?
- Have all lists been numbered consistently?
- Are tables numbered consistently?
6. Check that terminology has been used consistently. If the client has given you a glossary or material with the preferred terminology, make sure you use it. Check for consistency with other translations if that job is part of a bigger project.
7. Check the kanji in the original text. Sometimes the hiragana input is converted to a different kanji, e.g. 教会 for 協会. If possible, check with the client or include a footnote or comment explaining your concern.
8. Check for usage of the correct register. Letters to ambassadors require polite language as opposed to personal emails.
9. Check for ‘stray marks’ such as:
[space] + [comma]
[space] + [period]
[slash] + [space]
[space] + [slash]
[m-dash] + [m-dash] etc.
10. Check whether there are any double-byte characters remaining in the file, especially numbers, symbols and spaces.
11. Check whether the text functions as a coherent whole in the target language. Identify any contradictions in the text.
12. Check that you have translated all the sheets in the Excel file that need to be translated, or higher numbered pages in a Word file which may be separated by a blank page.
The above could be thought of as a pre-delivery checklist. Another suggestion was a pre-acceptance checklist, which could especially be of use to in-house translators if they post the list near their computer where it can be seen by their superiors and others.
Questions In-house Translators Would Appreciate Being Answered
1. When is the deadline? (want it by vs. need it by)
2. What is the priority ranking? (for when other things get in the way)
3. Is the source text legible?
4. What is this for? Who will be the end reader? (e.g. publication or just information)
5. Where is background material? (e.g. the same kind of document translated previously, any explanatory material or relevant websites, etc.)
6. Who do I check with when I don’t understand the source text?
7. Who will do the layout?
8. Does the other person understand this is difficult?
Translators utilize various methods when doing a final read-through before submission.
1. Use a print-out (i.e. to avoid reading it through on-screen).
2. If, for whatever reason, you are doing your check on-screen, first change the font and/or font size of the document.
3. Change the layout. If you work in a stand-alone CAT tool, change from side-by-side to vertical layout for proofing.
4. View the content (bilingual) in another program -- For example, if you translate in a standalone CAT tool, export a bilingual file and review in Word or other word processor or text editor.
5. If you use a program that works in an application like Felix, save your file in another format, both original and target. Review in other software. If a file is highly formatted, eliminate the formatting with plain text, etc.
6. Use text-to-speech software and listen to either your target or source while reading the other one.
7. Change your physical position and angle of view when proofing. (Stand or if you translate standing, sit, etc.)
Also, before starting a job, freelance translators are recommended to obtain a Purchase Order that clearly details the tasks in hand as defined by the customer/client is a must. This will prevent aggravation during the project or post-delivery.
Another point made was how some clients prefer that the translator removes all personal properties and other embedded information (e.g., if you've added review comments, how does Word refer to you? By your initials? Customer? Dad?) from MSWord documents before delivery. Probably not a bad habit to Inspect Properties and take appropriate action before all deliveries.
Also check whether the document needs to be password-protected. If overtyping a Word doc, a translator may often remove the incoming password protection while working on the translation and put it back on before sending.
And now that you have finally gotten to the bottom of all of this, a little oxymoron:
Keep your checklist as short and succinct as possible!
You don’t want to trudge through a list that’s as long as your arm each time you deliver even small jobs.
Many thanks to all the veteran translators in JAT who contributed to this by sharing with us their valuable ideas and tips.