four pea is Kirsten Fischer
Before somebody asks: Then why not Kirsten Fischer right away?
Answer: Because the universe is full of Kirsten Fischers, but not of four peas.
Apart from a name that would allow me to easily disappear into anonymity, I have many years of experience in writing, translating, editing and proofreading of virtually any kind of marketing copy. Even though I would not have foreseen this at the start of my career.
In fact, I graduated from the University of Greenwich, London, with a degree in Business Studies and embarked on what seemed to be unfolding into a classic career in marketing, starting off as a product manager for various international consumer goods companies. As it happens, though, my responsibilities in product management included exactly the tasks that I am specializing in now. Since, apparently, I had been pretty good at them and also greatly enjoyed working and fiddling around with words, I finally decided to make a cut and try my luck as a freelancer.
I gained my skills and experience in writing, translating and proofreading of advertising copy and other written marketing communication right on the job as part of my function as an international product manager.
My command of the English language is a result of the six years I studied and worked in London (for all lovers of academic qualifications: I passed the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English with a straight A) and of daily usage in an international company environment during my years as a product manager.
My feel for language and style can be attributed to endless reading and luck with my linguistic genes (a big thank you for that to my parents).
How I work – in the light of neuroscience
I used to think that most of my colleagues were much faster than me at translating, editing or proofreading a text. I now know that this is true. And I also know that I will definitely not change this. Because the way I work leads precisely to the text quality that keeps my clients coming back to me time after time.
As a general rule, I always go through a text two or even three times, depending on the complexity of the task. Because the human brain – and not just mine – has an extremely limited ability to multitask. In order to achieve maximum perfection and efficiency, it can only focus on one task at a time. So much so that it has virtually got no capacity left for anything else. An impressive demonstration of this effect has been the famous gorilla experiment by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, where participants were asked to count the number of passes between the members of a basketball team. While concentrating ever so hard on the ball, the majority of participants did not notice a human-sized gorilla suddenly appearing among the players.
On the other hand, if the brain is forced to face the impossible and tackle several tasks simultaneously, it actually cheats by constantly switching between the individual tasks. It works on each task for just a very short time before moving on to the next one, thereby, in effect, constantly interrupting itself. Not surprisingly, this leads to a significantly greater proneness to errors. And that is exactly why, when working on a text, I only focus on one related group of aspects at a time, for example on spelling, grammar and punctuation or on style, flow and plausibility or on consistent formatting.
How I work – in practice
Translations: In a first step, I will create a translation which in terms of style and contents corresponds as much as possible to the source text. Then, without looking at the source text, I will edit and proofread my translation in exactly the same way that I would edit and proofread any other German text. In this second step I particularly focus on the optimization of wording and style, in order to adapt the text to its German target audience and make it sound as if it had been written in German right from the start. If the project timing allows me to do so, I will put the text aside for a day or so and then, having gained some mental distance, quickly read through it for another time, in order to check whether the text does indeed sound and flow as intended when read in the same way as its target audience is likely to read it.
Copy editing and proofreading: I will start off by checking a text in terms of spelling, grammar and punctuation. This also includes the correct spelling of company and brand names, for example by looking them up on the respective company websites. Furthermore I will test the functionality of hyperlinks within a text and ensure the consistent spelling of words that can be written in more than one correct way (these days, the German language is full of them). When reading a text for the first time, in order to circumvent the „auto-repair function“ of the brain, I usually read longer words (and yes, the German language is also full of those) syllable by syllable and pay particular attention to the words‘ endings (a „popular“ source of errors in German, due to the different cases that change the ending of a word). Often, I also read individual paragraphs or even whole texts aloud to myself, because in this way mistakes and other deficits can be identified in a particularly effective way.
In a second step I will check the text with regards to contents and style, particularly choice of words, flow and plausibility. Wherever possible I suggest concrete terms and phrases to optimize the text, instead of simply indicating the need for optimization by marking a passage with comments like „style“ or „repetition“. If you would like me to check and correct further aspects of a text, such as the consistency of formatting, I will do this in an additional step.
Finally, I will read through the edited text pretty fast for a very last time, particularly if the text required many corrections and heavy editing, in order to check whether it also „works as a whole“.
How I work – your requirements
If you would like me to divert from my usual way of working as described above, for example by focusing on just a few selected aspects of a text during proofreading, that’s fine with me too. I only have to know about it beforehand. If I am told afterwards „But you did not have to check all the company and product names, we have already done that ourselves“, I still have to invoice you for completing this task, because unfortunately, when it comes to time, „what’s gone is gone“.