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The Journal of Specialised Translation

Issue 8 - July 2007

he categorized each of these as X (“substantive error left unchanged or introduced by reviser”), F (“formal error left unchanged”), U (“unnecessary change made”) or C (“necessary correction or improvement in readability”). A formal error is one which “does not distort the overall meaning of the text” (unfortunately no textual examples are given, so that it is hard to know what is meant by this). Arthern proposed a scoring formula, namely S= X+F/2 + U/3. A reviser’s score is the number of substantive errors remaining after revision, plus half the number of formal errors remaining, plus one- third of the number of unnecessary changes made. In this formula, the three kinds of defect are weighted by seriousness, with unnecessary changes being regarded as least serious since they waste time but do not affect quality.

Scores of the twelve revisers considered ranged between 17 and 65 in one year; in a later year, the same twelve scored between 8 and 40. The lower the score, the better the reviser’s work. The worst score, 65, represents 16 substantive errors remaining, 92 formal errors remaining, and 9 unnecessary changes; this means that out of 200 interventions, only 83 corrections/improvements were made by this reviser. The best score, 8, represents 1 substantive error remaining, 2 formal errors remaining, and 18 unnecessary changes; thus 179 corrections/ improvements were made.

In a follow-up study:

Arthern, Peter (1991). "Quality by numbers: Assessing revision and translation." Proceedings of the Fifth Conference of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting, London: Aslib, The Association for Information Management, 85-91.

Arthern sought to find out what would happen if he simplified the formula to S= X+F, that is, if he ignored the time wasted on unnecessary changes and eliminated the weighting of formal errors. The latter move meant that it was no longer necessary to classify each change as substantive or formal, since the formula treats them identically. When he applied both the old and new formulas to the same set of revised texts, he found only small differences in the order of quality of 14 revisers rated from best to worst, though one reviser moved from 13th to 10th place under the new scheme because his many unnecessary changes were now being ignored. (Unfortunately Arthern does not give each reviser’s actual numbers for X, F and U.)

Though Arthern was examining the work of these revisers for purposes of employee evaluation, empirical studies of revision would also benefit if some such scoring method could be agreed on. Otherwise, the outcomes of different studies involving an evaluator will not be comparable. Ideally,

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