Common Proofreading Mistakes in Legal Document Translation

Last Updated On: February 29, 2020

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Proofreading any sort of new text is important, but especially so when the text is in the form of legal documents. Proofreading mistakes in legal document translation could be potentially disastrous as the language used is often very precise. Mark Twain, the well known American author and reporter, once said that God made idiots first then proofreaders next. One could say that Twain did not view many proofreaders in high regard. He thought that few proofreaders were sufficiently skilled not to make any mistakes at all, mainly as in his view proofreaders tended to see what they wanted to see in a piece of text rather than actually what was there.


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In fact, there are many ways that common mistakes in legal document translation can be avoided one of them is hiring a certified legal translating and proofreading professional. Here are some steps that can be taken which should minimise these sorts of mistakes.

  • Don’t just rely on reading a screen version. If a legal document is to be translated, print off the draft version and read the document in this form. Research has shown that reading a batch of text on a computer screen is less effective that reading the same batch of text in the printed form.
  • Get someone else to proofread the translation. Once a legal document has been translated then get someone else to read it through. This helps to avoid Mark Twain’s preconception that the writer-cum-reader is most likely to make most mistakes because they just do not see everything they have written. They read what they think they have written. This is not the case when the same piece of text is handed over to someone else
  • Read the document out aloud. This is a good strategy if you are the only one doing the translating as well as the proofreading. If there is no one else to help, just read out the text on the document carefully, preferably in a quiet place. This is particularly good for missing words, phrases and typos which again the mind’s eye does not see necessarily when actually doing the translation itself.
  • Take a well earned rest. This is true for just about any sort of intensive activity but proofreading can be very intensive and demands a lot of concentration. Just taking a break for an hour or so, can mean all the difference between ordinary and quality proofreading services.
  • Proofread backwards. This is another way of spotting common proofreading errors. It just requires reading the legal document translation from the bottom or end of the document and read each sentence in turn from that end. Again, it helps in picking up spelling errors and missing words and phrases.

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