Scientific editing and translation

ELSS translator instructions

ELSS translator instructions

When translating for ELSS, please always consider the main topic of the document, the purpose of document for both the author and for the intended readers, and the venue (journal, report, conference, etc.). Most likely your translation will be better if you read the entire text and wrap your mind around the content before you begin translating. As good translation requires intense concentration and mental agility, take care of yourself. Take enough breaks, sleep, and aerobic exercise to keep your mind sharp.

Literal translation is usually straightforward. However, as ELSS focuses on meaning, literal translations are often inadequate to effectively communicate the author's intended meaning. Even in cases of well written originals, rendering the ideas into another language may require changes in content to effectively communicate to the intended audience.

Literal translation is preferred by ELSS only when the resulting text is the most efficient way to communicate the author's ideas and reasoning to the intended readers in a style appropriate for the venue. Whenever ELSS provides information about the audience and/or the venue (e.g. Instructions to Authors), please consider these while translating.

Although translators do not have responsibility for major rewriting, some latitude in the way translated text is constructed allows the text to be improved during translation. ELSS strongly encourages translators to improve the original text in such ways. For example, in a research manuscript intended for submission to a peer reviewed journal, words with specific statistical meanings like 'significant' and 'correlate' should be used only for those specific statistical meanings. Occurrences of these words without mention of P values implies the general (non-statistical) meaning; in such cases, translators should choose alternatives like 'marked' or 'corresponding'. If doubtful about whether the original word is meant in a statistical sense, insert a comment into the translation asking the author to clarify the meaning. The comment might include alternative versions of the passage suitable for the various possible meanings. All comments inserted into the translation should be directed to the attention of the author. If comments to ELSS or our translation reviewers are needed, put them into a separate documents or in an email.

You can find many more specific suggestions about ways to improve scientific writing in the ELSS editing requirements document (recommended reading for translators also). Again, translators are not required to go to the same lengths as editors in modifying an author's text, a lot can be done. All ELSS translations should be free of grammatical and spelling errors and be otherwise well written.

When the focus and reasoning in the original text are unclear, then producing a well written translation can be difficult or impossible. Nevertheless, ELSS requires its translators to try their best. Fix serious structural problems where you can. For example, fill any gaps in the chain of reasoning and suggest improvements for readers or the venue. Where you cannot fix such problems, then explain them in comments directed to the author. Comments are most useful when they contain specific suggestions that could be used by the author to resolve the problem themselves. Feel free to omit material extraneous to the document's purpose, but omission of information in the original should be explained in a comment to the author. All comments must be polite and respectful in tone, but do not let poor writing pass unfixed and unannotated. The ELSS workflow is strongly dominated by Microsoft Word documents. If possible, please translate in MS Word and use Word's comment feature to enter annotations.

Standard ELSS translation assignments do not require layout work. If there are complex tables or graphics, then simply key the originals and put the translations into the main text. Keys can be scanned and returned as graphic files (pdf or jpg).

Please promptly turn down translation assignments from ELSS except when you are confident that you can complete and deliver the work before the deadline. ELSS expects its translators to complete assignments thoroughly and on time. If any circumstances will make delivery before the deadline doubtful, notify ELSS and the translation reviewer as soon as possible. If you expect to be away from email for extended periods, please notify us so that we don't send you urgent work during that time.

When the translation is finished, please do a final pass or two to check for accurate transcription of values, correct figure and table citations, spelling and grammar, and verify that the final version is well written (clearly communicates the author's intended meaning). The final pass will be more effective if you can leave the translation to sit while sleeping overnight; if that is not possible, then even a short break (preferably including at least some sleep) will refresh your mind and allow you to catch problems that would otherwise go unnoticed. Send the final document together with your word count to the translation reviewer with a CC to ELSS.

Translation review requirements

While rendering an original text into another language, translators have less freedom than editors to alter the arrangement and contents of the original. The mandate for translation reviewers is to check translation completeness, accuracy, and clarity. Since ELSS translation focuses on meaning, problems in the original related to focus, clarity, and flow must be either fixed or pointed out in comments directed to the author's attention.  Translation reviewers should check such repairs and comments from the translator and feel free to supplement them with additional ones as appropriate for the document.

If serious problems of any kind are found upon review, the reviewer should contact the translator directly with a CC to ELSS and Rick. Such communications must be cordial and professional. Strive to achieve a consensus on how to proceed in bringing the translation up to ELSS standards.

 ELSS is seeking experienced substantive editors with expertise in chemistry (especially physical chemistry, catalysis, materials science, geochemistry, and biochemistry) and plant science (especially agronomy, crop breeding, and forestry). Click here for details. Further details of the ELSS editorial requirements are here.

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