Friday, July 30, 2010

More on the GIGO Syndrome

I love Barbara Jungwirth posting on writing source text in "grammatically correct, clear structures free of spelling and punctuation errors" so as to facilitate the translation process, instead of getting the "Garbage In, Garbage Out" syndrome.

Barbara writes: "I was initially surprised at how frequently source text -- even fairly lengthy white papers and similar types of text -- appears not to have been proofread, let alone copy-edited. After reading a couple of books on technical and business matters recently, I am no longer surprised. Even books being printed and sold in bookstores don't seem to undergo much of a quality-assurance process any more. A case in point is Tamar Weinberg's "The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web", which I am in the process of reviewing for an upcoming issue of the Society for Technical Communication's magazine Intercom, which contains quite a few instances where sentences seem to have been hurriedly revised and fragments of the sentence's previous incarnation left behind or too much taken out. So if books aren't proofread any more, what can we expect from internal industry papers or instructions?"

Surprised, eh? I have a few books on translation studies that were published by very respectable institutions, and which contain errors. It is human to err. It is unprofessional to write slovenly, however. However, since the generation currently coming into force as editors and writers grew up on cut-and-paste, SMS and the Microsoft spell-checker, and without the benefit of being taught any serious usage of English at school, we can only expect to see more of this.

It is the translator's job to "leave source text errors in the source text" and provide a clean translation. Provided, of course, the translator knows an error when they see one. SMS your professional body for advice, maybe?

Barbara states, correctly: "However, such poorly written source text not only hampers the flow of reading, it often also adds ambiguity to the text. After all, if there are two conjunctions when only one should be present, which of the two did the author intend to use?"

I just smiled.

Ambiguity is now called "creativity" and "innovation" in language. Rules are BAD. And for someone to understand what one conjunction versus two mean in a text, they must be my age :-)


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