Why do you charge based on number of words in the source document?

We’ve been getting quotes for an English to Spanish translation from various agencies. Some are saying they will charge us based on the number of words in the source document which I understand to mean our English document? and some say they will charge us based on the number words in the target document which I think is the translated document?

I see from your website that you charge based on the source document, why is this and what’s the advantages and disadvantages of doing this please?

Hi Belen,

Thanks for your question. I know this can be a bit confusion so I’ll try to clarify.

First of all I think it’s useful to define the terms.

You are perfectly correct, the source document is the document which you have in your hand which needs translating and the target document refers to the completed Spanish translation.

Some agencies quote on the number of words in the target document but we always quote on the number of words in the source document to be translated.

Advantages of quoting on the source translation document

The advantage of quoting based on the number of words in the source document is it allows us to give you certainty.

As you have the document in front of you we can analyse it and give you a quote which we can be confident will not change.

Disadvantages of quoting on the target translation document

The problem with quoting on the number of words in the target translated document is we have no way of knowing how many words it will contain until the document has actually been translated.

This is due to a phenomenon known as translation word growth caused by the difference in the number of words required to say the same thing in two different languages.

For instance the English “waffle maker” (2 words) translated into Romanian is “aparat de făcut waffe” (3 words) and translated into Italian is “macchina per fare i waffle” (4 words!).

Word growth means that you may accept a lower quote based on the number of target words only to find out the job ends up costing you more than a quote for the same job based on the number of words in the source document.

Also, if the translator is being paid by the number of words they produce then you are incentivising them to produce long-winded copy when you’re paying for a concise, accurate translation.

Finally, we use translation memory tools which enable us to offer discounts for segments of documents where there are matches or partial matches.

If we charged on the number of words in the target document we would have no idea what level of discount we could give you until the work had been done which means uncertainty in your quote.

Why it’s best to charge for translation the the number of source words

In summary, charging for translation based on the number of words in the source document allows us to be certain of giving you the lowest price quote possible whilst being confident we can deliver on that promise.

We know our customers don’t like surprises when it comes to price and so always quote on the number of source words.

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