We hear from authors all the time, inquiring about translation for their short stories and novels. One recent author is considering publishing her work in two languages (Spanish original and English translation), and sent us the manuscript. As we reviewed the material, we realized that the source text needed editing before translation could be considered. It wasn’t bad or wrong; it just wasn’t ready. And the quality of the original manuscript will impact the process and the end result of translation.

When working on a piece that contains typos, grammar mistakes or inconsistencies, the translator will have no choice but to consult with the author repeatedly, or wind up second guessing the message and losing touch with the intention of the text. Errors may even lead to mistranslations. The outcome will be a poor foreign-language version of the original work, higher cost given the additional time invested and potentially a contentious relationship between the author and translator.

Here are six tips for authors on how to prepare a manuscript to help ensure the translation process is seamless:

  1. Be consistent in the details of your writing. For example, make sure all the names are spelled the same way every time.
  2. Have your text professionally edited if you can. An outside eye can see things you cannot. For example, reconsider passages that could be eliminated to avoid repetition or that provide extraneous information.
  3. Do a final proofread. Remember that spelling errors, incorrect punctuation and missing words will only lead to confusion.
  4. Prepare a style guide with your preferences to discuss with the translator. Include issues like the treatment of foreign words that have cultural connotations that may require an explanation.
  5. Provide the manuscript in an editable text format instead of PDF.
  6. Avoid making unnecessary changes or updates to the manuscript once it has been submitted to the translator. If you absolutely need to do so, make sure you clearly identify the passage and the changes required.

Authors and translators are partners, with both parties ultimately wanting what is best for the book. Getting off on the right foot will go a long way to making sure the translation is what it needs to be.

Authors, have you found any other tips essential when sending a manuscript to a translator? What about you, translators? What do you ask for from your authors? We’d love to know!

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Pilar Bolanos is a certified translator, former journalist and communications professional. Whether working in international news, international relations, as a translator and editor, the axis of her entire career has always been words. As Manager of Spanish Services with Intralingo, she helps English-language authors find their voice in her native Spanish.
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