Attraverso… on formatting. I’m quite satisfied: after a long and meticulous revision, I’m ready to deliver a job.

I’m really pleased with this translation: since I’m ahead on my other projects, I had extra time and energy to dedicate to it. In addition to the usual standard checks, I even read some parts aloud to make sure that the structure of the sentences was clear in some of the longer passages. Everything seemed perfect. Preparing my delivery email, I noticed Martina‘s note when she had sent me the job, and I suddenly remembered what she had written.

Leti, you need to fix the formatting directly in the final translated file.

And my sense of efficiency explodes into a million tiny pieces.

Image by Surendran MP from Unsplash

Fix the formatting? This looks more like a puzzle: I find myself staring at a myriad of text boxes, all to be resized and fixed. Images which include text that has to be translated (adding even more text boxes), inconvertible tables, misnumbered lists… all of which you’ll only ever realise once you’ve exported the final file if you work on the text with translation software.

Is there anything worse than text that’s difficult to translate? Yes, and I have no doubts in this regard: dealing with formatting is much worse! This aspect is not discussed nearly enough when we talk about our work, and is a skill that translators sometimes choose to acquire, but which most of the time they learn thanks to experience, turning necessity into a virtue.

The translation services  we offer may or may not include formatting the text to be translated, depending on what the client requests. The general rule in the language services sector is to deliver a document that reproduces the formatting of the original in all respects, but for patents this is not always the case.

Most of the time we receive a text from the client that has already been formatted, or a template and a list of formatting requirements to be met. In the second scenario, if time allows (and this is often the case), we sort it out in advance and send the text to one of our formatters so that the translators and revisers can focus exclusively on their specific tasks. This was not the case today: our client had a very short deadline, and since there was no time to have the text formatted in advance, we decided to convert it automatically and deal with the layout in the final phase. And then of course there was a hitch, just to remind me that it’s Monday.

Luckily I’m no stranger to this sort of “surprise” and, despite my clumsiness and my now-legendary idiosyncrasy for very useful things such as keyboard shortcuts, it only took me half an hour to fix the exported file, which is now in perfect order and ready for delivery. I reiterate that I would have preferred to spend this half hour investigating the different uses of two synonyms, but I’m sure I’ll have other opportunities to satisfy my language nerd perversions.

The ability to cope with these small problems is a factor that can’t be underestimated when choosing who to assign a translation job to. That’s why turning to an experienced translator – or, even better, to a team of experienced linguists – is like buying a Swiss army knife: there are many hidden accessories and you wonder if you’ll ever get the chance to use them all, but when the classic Monday morning setback rears its ugly head, you’ll realise that you’ve made the right choice!

Cover image: me, drawn by Claudia Plescia.

English translation and adaptation by Sarah Schneider