Friday 17 July 2020

Hitting the Target

Translators are often asked to change a single sentence or paragraph in a finished document. No problem in the digital age. However, when I started work, documents were typed on stencils, and reproduced on a hand-turned duplicator. Corrections were inserted by painting a layer of red correcting fluid onto the stencil, waiting for it to dry, then retyping over the red varnish. I sometimes performed mental gymnastics fitting a new translation into the available space. As well as being accurate, it had to be neither too long, nor too short.

In a way, this was good training for entering flash fiction competitions with a given word count. Nowadays I relish the challenge of producing 53 words exactly, 81 words exactly, 100 including the title, or some other target.

My way of working is to write long, then cut back, checking the word count each time I delete or rephrase. My reward is to save the document with a smirk of triumph. Done it again.

Madeleine McDonald.

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