PDA

View Full Version : Copyediting Outsourced to India



inkkognito
07-16-2008, 02:09 AM
http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/jul2008/gb2008078_678274.htm?campaign_id=rss_daily

I've run into too many language barriers with tech. support, customer service lines, etc. to have any faith in this.

zenwriter
07-16-2008, 03:10 AM
I just spent this week fixing some content for a client who hired a copywriter in India, so I don't have much faith, either. One of the actual lines this writer wrote included the phrase: "Exciting, throbbing cities in the US..." The piece was about web design.

Calla Lily
07-16-2008, 05:54 AM
:Headbang:

This is why I have my typing job with insurance and a steady paycheck.

Of course, us copyeditors on AW could form a cooperative that does just what zenwriter had to do: Fix the unintentionally funny errors caused by the language barriers.

:rolleyes:

Soccer Mom
07-16-2008, 06:49 AM
Oh noes. I think some penicillan would fix those throbbing cities. Goodness.

There is a limit to what we can outsource. I think they've found it.

SPMiller
07-16-2008, 07:05 AM
I believe it's important that they're outsourcing copyediting, not any other type of editing. Isn't the purpose of the copyeditor to identify technical errata? I've met plenty of Indians (granted, probably the smarter ones who made it to US universities) who had excellent control of English orthographical conventions. They aren't being asked to do any "real" editing and they aren't being asked to actually be fluent in the language. They're just fixing the written form...

Alpha Echo
07-16-2008, 07:39 AM
There is a limit to what we can. I think they've found it.

Amen! I agree.

Alpha Echo
07-16-2008, 07:39 AM
I believe it's important that they're outsourcing copyediting, not any other type of editing. Isn't the purpose of the copyeditor to identify technical errata? I've met plenty of Indians (granted, probably the smarter ones who made it to US universities) who had excellent control of English orthographical conventions. They aren't being asked to do any "real" editing and they aren't being asked to actually be fluent in the language. They're just fixing the written form...

Perhaps this is a good point. :)

blacbird
07-16-2008, 10:40 AM
Oh my goodness golly gosh!

caw

aadams73
07-16-2008, 12:20 PM
Hell no. HELL no. I can't even sort out cell phone billing problems, and I'm supposed to rely on outsourcing to work in this instance? Hell no.

Calla Lily
07-16-2008, 03:42 PM
I believe it's important that they're outsourcing copyediting, not any other type of editing. Isn't the purpose of the copyeditor to identify technical errata? I've met plenty of Indians (granted, probably the smarter ones who made it to US universities) who had excellent control of English orthographical conventions. They aren't being asked to do any "real" editing and they aren't being asked to actually be fluent in the language. They're just fixing the written form...


Augh, no. There's NO WAY to copyedit UNLESS you're fluent in the language. That includes colloquialisms, nuances, nitpicky connections between ideas, EVERYTHING. I've been a copyeditor since 1984, and it's a darn hard skill to perfect. Just knowing how to spell and the basics of the Chicago Manual ar NOT enough. It's an art.

Proofreading can be more of a science. Spelling is fixed and grammar can be memorized. But copyediting is a whole 'nother animal.

Momento Mori
07-16-2008, 04:00 PM
It depends on exactly what's being done. From the article, it seems to be limited to page layout, grammar/typographical checking and some fact checking.

Given that standards of English amongst Indians working in the sector are generally pretty high (in fact, I've dealt with Indian graduates out in Mumbai who'd put English university graduates to shame in terms of written English skills), there should be no problem with their doing it and I would presume that any contract would specify the skills base required of the employees. In addition, most outsourcing contracts have 'bedding in' periods where the companies work closely to flush out and then resolve any potential issues.

In fact, the only issue I'd have with outsourcing this type of work to India is that there are power problems out there as the electricity network isn't particularly stable, particularly in the summer when they can be prone to blackouts. In an industry where you're subject to tight deadlines and dependent on technology to stay in touch, it could lead to significant problems.

Call centres on the other hand, are a whole different ball-game (although that doesn't excuse the abuse that call-centre operatives have to take on a day-in-day-out basis).

MM

scheherazade
07-16-2008, 05:41 PM
Possible for technical documents. But I doubt fiction or creative nonfiction publishers will find success in outsourcing copyediting. If they think it's hard enough trying to get a copyeditor to accept a writer's clever turn of phrase (if not stretch of the definition of a word), then having a technically-oriented non-native speaker certainly won't help, no matter how fluent that person may be. Isn't it the natural tendency of copyeditors to reduce a lot of the expressiveness in the language into something straightforward and direct (and therefore bland and/or cliched)? The best copyeditors know how to find a balance between creativity and clarity/conciseness/correctness, but I think someone with a technical orientation (as the Indian education system generally encourages) wouldn't understand the "art" of copyediting.

Shadow_Ferret
07-16-2008, 05:45 PM
I can't imagine how this would work for a daily newspaper which has tight deadlines. Seems an in-office copyeditor would be much more efficient and right there when you need him.

Calla Lily
07-16-2008, 05:57 PM
Isn't it the natural tendency of copyeditors to reduce a lot of the expressiveness in the language into something straightforward and direct (and therefore bland and/or cliched)?

No. We aim for accuracy and consistency. We know that bland and cliche copy won't get sold/win clients/sell the product/pass the Marketing Gods' test of ROI. :)

Soccer Mom
07-16-2008, 06:11 PM
There is a big difference in proofreading and copyediting. Anyone can learn to proof. copyediting requires a much higher skill set.

inkkognito
07-16-2008, 08:40 PM
Given that standards of English amongst Indians working in the sector are generally pretty high (in fact, I've dealt with Indian graduates out in Mumbai who'd put English university graduates to shame in terms of written English skills), there should be no problem with their doing it and I would presume that any contract would specify the skills base required of the employees.
While I will agree that many university-educated Indians have excellent written English skills, there is still a difference that is hard to quantify between their ways of expressing themselves vs. a native English speaker. In my online counseling job, I work with clients from around the world including many Indians, via IM. While their English is excellent, I can almost always pick up on the fact that it's not native even before they tell me their location. It's not that they make blatant errors, but there's just a subtle difference that I don't think can be negated unless the person lives in the U.S. for a substantial length of time. I think that difference could cause problems with copy editing.

zenwriter
07-16-2008, 11:09 PM
Given that standards of English amongst Indians working in the sector are generally pretty high (in fact, I've dealt with Indian graduates out in Mumbai who'd put English university graduates to shame in terms of written English skills), there should be no problem

I agree with inkkognito. I also think that companies who outsource are often not looking for the types of workers you describe -- they often seem to be looking for the least expensive workers. That's a big part of the problem.

pconsidine
07-17-2008, 12:41 AM
Given the vast amount of publishing work that's already being done in India, I see no reason something like copyediting should be immune. Not to say that I don't completely agree that it's a bad idea, but in these bottom-line times, "cheap" wins over "good" every time.

Actually, in my experience working with Indian vendors, there's very little that they can't get the hang of eventually, but there are times when that learning curve can be absolutely brutal.

Storm Dream
07-17-2008, 03:28 AM
The CEs at my publication have been watching this with interest/dread.

I don't have anything else constructive to add at the moment. :\

Matera the Mad
07-17-2008, 04:17 AM
Let 'em muck with the ads, I don't read them anyway. :tongue

Pagey's_Girl
07-17-2008, 04:52 AM
The company I work for is headquartered in India (is that proper English?) so the majority of my coworkers are Indian. In my experience, some of them aren't as fluent yet as others, but for many of them, you wouldn't be able to tell from their writing style that English was not their first language. So I think it could prove to be interesting.