Quick tip to improve translation quality: increase zoom when proofing

A lot of people print out their translations to do the final proof. This isn't because they're throwbacks to the typewriter age; it's because the resolution of the printed page is still a lot better than even the best computer screen. And when it's easier to read the text, it's easier to spot errors.

I also sometimes print out my translations to proof them, but I usually save a tree by reading them on screen with the zoom ratio jacked up to about 200% instead. It really does help me catch more errors, including bad turns of phrase and homophones, which might have slipped by when reading at a smaller magnification.

One other thing I do when proofing is turn off the "show whitespace" options in my word processor. When I'm translating, I like to show spaces, tabs, newlines and the like, because I can't standing having extraneous whitespace in my documents (although modern versions of Word catch them pretty well), but when I'm proofing, I get rid of them so that I can read the text more carefully.

6 comments to Quick tip to improve translation quality: increase zoom when proofing

  • Hi Ryan – Good post! I know a lot of people who will ONLY proof on hardcopy, exactly for the reason that you mention. Some take it even further when proofing for layout and mechanical issues – they turn the pages up-side-down so that they’re not distracted by the text.


  • Hi Ryan,

    Thanks from all the Earth for saving a tree 😉 and…
    for the great post!

    Hi Andreas,
    The “up-side-down” method sounds great. Thanks!

  • Sildan

    I also find that changing the layout is really helpful. Change the page width so the line breaks move, and all sorts of thing jump out.

  • I tend to edit on paper because it snaps me out of the “looking at things that I wrote on the screen where I wrote them” mode of thought. Just fiddling with the size hasn’t ever done that for me. (Of course, in house I have lots of other safety nets in place, like the fact that I’m usually editing things that someone else wrote, and they’re looking at my output.)

  • @Durf

    Having another set of eyes is the best way to go, of course. As a freelancer working mainly for Japanese agencies/end clients, I need to be extra careful with my proofing because I’ll likely be the last native English speaker to see the text before the intended readers do.

  • Interesting idea, Ryan. I am a huge tree hugger (after all, I drive a Prius) and would very much like to save additional trees, but I hate to admit that my twin and I print out everything that we proof for each other. For some reason, I still feel like I catch more stuff on paper than on the screen, but I will certainly give the 200% zoom method a try — thanks for the tip.

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