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  Paula Gordon, doing business as Plan B   Wilmington, Delaware USA    www.dbaPlanB.com   paula@dbaPlanB.com

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Over the years, I've fielded inquiries from people who were unsure about what information I would need to help them with their translation or editing projects and unfamiliar with steps they could take to help the process run smoothly. If that describes you, read through the following information to get a sense of the questions I (and others) will ask as I work up an estimate for your project.

The descriptions below were written with translation projects in mind, but the same considerations apply to editing projects, as you will see. At the end of the section you'll find a link to my Project Questionnaire, which you can download and complete at your convenience.

Project Parameters

Questions I consider when calculating an estimate or quote:
  • Purpose of the translation: Is the translation for publication or is it for internal purposes? Is it a back translation? Who is the audience?

  • Subject matter and style of text: Is specialized knowledge required? Are there stylistic challenges or terms of art (medicine, law, religion, slang)?

  • Customer collaboration: Can you provide glossaries or background material to assist in the translation? Are you willing to consult regarding terminology and style?

  • Source file format: Can the source documents be searched and edited, or are they hard copies or image files that would have to be retyped, processed through an optical character-recognition program, and/or formatted from scratch in order to be worked with?

  • Legibility of the source: Are the documents legible? Is the text typed or handwritten?

  • Special formatting and graphics: Must columns, footnotes, tables, and/or charts be reproduced? Must the translated document be formatted to look exactly like the original?

  • Localization: Should the target text be adapted for an English-speaking audience? For instance, do European units of measure or currency need to be converted; should cultural concepts (like traditional foods or national holidays) be explained in parentheses; should idiomatic phrases be translated literally or should they be adapted to common English phrases?

  • Timing: When can you send all the source files, supplementary project materials, and instructions? What is the time frame for having the assignment completed?

Translation Instructions

The first item in the list of questions above asks about the purpose of the translation. The purpose is often expressed as a set of translation instructions. Translation instructions indicate
  • the medium of publication (or manner of distribution for unpublished material),
  • the target audience, and
  • the intended purpose of the translation.

Creating translation instructions can be as simple as filling in the blanks of the following sentence:

The translation will be published in a _____________ and will be read by _____________ for the purpose of _____________.

Or, for unpublished or in-house materials:

The translation will be distributed as a _____________ (or circulated internally) so our _____________ can _____________.

It helps to be as specific as possible, especially when identifying the audience. The goal is to understand the level of knowledge that should be assumed among the readers so that the appropriate register is used (that is, speaking to readers in terms they can understand without talking down to them).


The translation will be published in a pamphlet that will be available to patients in a doctor's office for the purpose of promoting more informed decisions about treatment.

The translation will be published on a private section of our company website reserved for business partners for the purpose of informing them about our purchasing and payment procedures.

The translation will be circulated internally so our lawyers can determine if this foreign correspondence concerns us.

The back translation will be circulated internally so our marketing team can determine if the forward translation into Croatian accurately reflects the original English text.

The translation will be attached to a university application so admissions officers can determine the equivalency of my degree earned outside the United States.

Project Questionnaire

I encourage you to make use of my Project Questionnaire—it is a flexible document designed to give both of us a framework within which to explore and define your translation or editing project's parameters and specifications.

Gathering the answers to these questions before you contact me will streamline our initial conversation and save time; however, there are unknowns in every project, and I will be happy to discuss your project with you even if you do not know all the answers.

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