Friday, February 29, 2008


Something that annoys me is wordiness: I don't mind long texts, if there is little redundancy, but words that are there just to take up space, are another matter.

There is a dear friend that always translates "including [something]" as "ad inclusione di [qualcosa]". When I edit her, I can usually pare that down to "incluso" - one word instead of three, 7 characters instead of 16 (I know, I'm nitpicking).

Worse when the redundant words create an interference. From a letter I translated today: "Ali was originally born in Cairo". Unbidden, thoughts came to mind: is there a way one can be born otherwise? "Ali was originally born in Cairo, then he thought better of it, and was finally born in Alexandria, instead", perhaps?


  1. The "funny" thing about wordiness is that paying translators by the word encourages wordier translations (because they pay more than succinct translations!). Getting paid by the word, by the way, really made Charles Dickens's books unbearable to me. That's a whole separate issue from unnecessary words in the source text, though.

  2. "Paying translators by the word encourages wordier translations"

    Not if one is paid by the source word, which is, in fact usually the case. Paying by the target word has other disadvantages for customers, such as the impossibility of knowing precisely how much a translation is going to cost.

  3. Since my source documents are almost never soft copies, I am paid by the target word about 90% of the time--because it's easier to do a word count on the final MS Word translation than on a xerox copy of some old handwritten lab notes or whatever the source happens to be. Whereas counting the source words is usually quite a bit more labor intensive.


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