Editing translated writing

By EditorProofer Emma's Corner 6 Comments on Editing translated writing

I’ve just been hired to help ‘fix’ a short story which was originally written and edited in Russian, and has since been translated into English.

After only a few paragraphs I’m reminded of those instruction manuals you get with electronic gadgets or DIY furniture. They’re often good for a giggle because it seems like the translator has simply converted the original text – word by word – with little or no regard for the intricacies of English grammar. The end product often ends up being a set of completely nonsensical instructions, which only add to the confusion instead of being any help at all. And, in my experience, the accompanying pictures are usually just as bad, forcing you to ‘give it a crack’ and hope you don’t end up with any leftover pieces.

In our house we call those extra pieces “spares” and they’re put aside somewhere in case we ever figure out where they’re supposed to go. We’ve now got a collection of assorted bolts, screws, and those cute little spanners (wrenches) designed to fit that particular piece of furniture perfectly, but which are useless for any other purpose. (Of course, if you ever need that particular tool down the track, it can’t be found.) When my husband is the one assembling the furniture, the instruction booklet is left untouched inside the box. I suppose the manufacturers realise that their prime target market consists mostly of such men; so the readability and ‘correctness’ of the instructions probably isn’t high on their list of priorities.

Hopefully, I can do better than the translated instructions included with our latest furniture purchase, and can help transform the mangled remains of an excellent Russian story into a version that English readers can enjoy too!


Emma is a freelance editor and writer who got her start at Newbie Writers two years ago. In her previous career she was an accountant, but escaped the numbers game to envelop herself in the literary world.

Emma’s Exceptional Editing & Proofreading
Follow me on Twitter: @EEEandP

  • Share:
  • Damien
    Posted on March 16, 2012 at 10:08 am

    So what’s the funniest line you’ve seen so far? ‘in soviet russia, book read you!’

  • Wistful
    Posted on March 17, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Lol some things are universal. Same thing happens here with the instructions and the little tool that comes with the item. Years ago we bought a large tent. After several hours and numerous threats of divorce we got it up. I unzipped the main door to have a look inside, and there were the instructions INSIDE the tent.

  • EditorProofer
    Posted on March 17, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    LMAO Wistful. They didn’t want you to lose the instructions so they put them in a safe place!

  • EditorProofer
    Posted on March 17, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    Hmmmm… well I’m only a short way into the story so far, but what about this one:

    “As it was getting colder the inner shiver overflowed me; still I remained calm outwardly.”

  • Jane Isaac
    Posted on March 19, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    Your post made me rofl, Emma. What a challenge! Look forward to reading the finished product.

  • EditorProofer
    Posted on March 19, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Thanks Jane. It’s funny because some sections have translated beautifully … others, not so much. LOL

Comments are closed.

Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On Google PlusVisit Us On YoutubeCheck Our Feed