How to be an Editor / Proofreader (For Translators) | Robert G | Skillshare

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How to be an Editor / Proofreader (For Translators)

teacher avatar Robert G, Translator/Freelancer/Traveler

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Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

15 Lessons (30m)
    • 1. About this course

    • 2. Revision

    • 3. Proofreading

    • 4. Editing

    • 5. Now Forget Everything

    • 6. What does this mean for you?

    • 7. MTPE

    • 8. What You Need

    • 9. How to Proceed

    • 10. How to Proceed - Ask questions

    • 11. How to Proceed - Make sure the translation is decent

    • 12. How to Proceed - What to do if...

    • 13. How to Proceed - Once you're done

    • 14. Other Issues

    • 15. Other Issues 2

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About This Class

This Course is for Translators who wish to concentrate more on Editing, Revision and Proofreading. 

Editing and Proofreading can be an interesting niche to have as a translator, and this course discusses topics and issues that are specific to this Niche. 

Please note, this course does not cover the other aspects of freelance translation. If you are interested in those you can see my other Course "How to be a Successful Freelance Translator", available here:

Meet Your Teacher

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Robert G



Robert is a Freelancer/Translator/Traveler/Coffee drinker.

Originally from Switzerland, he serves as Treasurer for the Carolina Association of Translators and Interpreters (CATI), is a member of the board for the Swiss Association of Charlotte, and has written books on Freelance Translation.

He has been a featured speaker at an ATA-sponsored conference, as well as the New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters Conference.

He worked in banking, market research, and received a Master’s degree (M.P.A.) from Cornell University in Finance. After this, he worked as a Freelance Translator and gradually set up his own Translation Agency, Lugano Translations.

His courses deal with becoming a successful freelancer, hiring freelancers ... See full profile

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1. About this course: A couple of notes about this course. First of all, this course will be about editing, proofreading, revision, stuff like that. It does not cover translation itself, although this is geared toward translators. This course itself is not about translation. If you are more interested in the translation aspect, I do have a course available. If you just search for how to be a successful freelance translate, you'll get there. And this covers everything having to do just with the translation aspect of being afraid freelance translator from a to Z really in fact, it touches upon a couple of things about editing and revision and stuff like that. I thought that it warranted going a bit more into depth just in terms of editing, proofreading and revisions. So that's what this course is about. But feel free to check how to be a successful freelance translator if that's what you're more interested in. Otherwise, we'll move on. This is going to be a quick practical guide. And what I mean by that is that it will give you the essentials. It'll help you feel more knowledgeable. It'll help you feel more sure of yourself when you're dealing with editing and proofreading and revision in terms of translations. And so you know what you're talking about and what to expect, et cetera, et cetera. Obviously, I can't deal with everything. I can't go too much into detail also because editing and revision and what not is very different depending on which language you speak. And even if I were to go into depth in terms of how to do it for English, it would take a long time, let alone every single language, because you will be editing in many different languages depending on what your language combination is. However, the tips I give here will apply to all languages. So everything that I talk about should apply no matter what language you translating from or what language you're translating into. 2. Revision: Now in terms of revision, as it pertains to translation, revision is an assessment of certain texts with the intention of making changes necessary. In layman's terms, this means that you will be looking over a text. You'll be noting if there are any mistakes or any things that ought to be changed. But that's pretty much it. You don't even have to make the changes and fetal feel they're needed. Very often revisions are performed as a quick check just to make sure that text is okay to see if it's acceptable. So this can be either at the beginning of a job where you want to make sure that test is ok. And so it can go into editing and proofreading, or it can be done at the very end after everything has already been done, you want to do another quick check. So once again, an assessment of a certain texts with the intention of making changes if necessary. 3. Proofreading: Now, in terms of proofreading, what is proofreading? Proofreading is reading a text and correcting errors and mistakes in syntax, spelling, and grammar. By and large, this is what your teacher used to do when your teacher was correcting your, your essays. This is also what Microsoft spellcheck does and stuff like that. This will be correcting all the errors you see and the mistakes very often when you're dealing with translations, it'll be sort of terms and expressions that maybe don't work so well in the target language and they don't make sense. You kinda want and need to make sure about that. But that's as far as you go in terms of in terms of making sure that a target text sounds like it should in the target language. You just make sure everything is correct and that there are no errors. 4. Editing: So what does editing mean? We'll editing is reading a text and correcting, condensing or otherwise modifying it. In layman's terms, this means that you take a text and you make sure it sounds fluent in the target language, that it does not sound like a translation. So not only do you need to make sure that all the expressions and metaphors and similes, et cetera, et cetera, are all correct. But you need to make sure everything flows as naturally as it could for a native speaker reading it. And so you take it one step further, if you will, than proofreading. And you make sure that the choices of words, even when there are synonyms, that they chose the right synonym, that they chose the right expression that everything fits together Well, that's it. It is perfectly suitable to the target audience, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. 5. Now Forget Everything: Now that you've learned these three main terms, you should forget everything you've just learned. And why is this? Well, the sad truth is, quite frankly, companies just don't see the difference. And this can be whether you're dealing with Ed clients or even translation agencies. If they ask you to proofread something or if they ask you to edit something there more or less asking for the same thing, there are obviously exceptions, but when you're dealing with a new agency, you kind of have to assume that what they're asking you for is Editing and Proofreading. Basically, they want you to go over all the syntax, all the grammar. They want to go over all of that and make sure there's no mistakes. But they also want to make sure that the translation itself is done well and that it sounds native in the target language. More often than not, when someone asks you to edit something or to proofread something, they mean to edit and proofread it both at the same time. And quite frankly, let's be honest, most project managers, whether they aren't an agency, are not. They don't really know the difference between revision and editing and proofreading. 6. What does this mean for you?: So what this means for you when you're dealing with this is that if you do receive a request, you basically have two options. You can educate them. But if this is a new client than well, good luck with that. If this is a client that you've worked with before and you feel comfortable with them, then absolutely feel free to educate them and tell them actually proofreading as this and editing as that. But many people, first of all, they don't like being told what is what. Second of all, if they are paying you, they kind of see themselves almost as your boss. Remember there the client, the client is always right. And so they don't like to be educated about this. And look, you can be a 100% correct, but let's face it, any type of project manager you deal with has an ego. And so that's why I say be very careful when you try to educate them. If you want to educate them, if you're used to working with them, then by all means you can see, but otherwise, it can be quite risky to try to educate them and say actually what you're looking for is proofreading, not editing because this, this, and that, it can come off sounding a bit too cocky. Let say. However, one thing you can do is you can detail the job that you will perform. So when you're offering to say proofread something you can say, I will check this for all grammar, syntax, mistakes and spelling mistakes, et cetera, et cetera. And just detail that precisely. And and asked for the client to confirm that it's okay and then you should be fine. And then when you're done detailing what you do, just say at what price you'll do it. Or if you're going to edit, you can say, I'm going to make sure that this sounds perfect in the target language and that the text is something that you can then produce for publication for the end client or for whatever it might be. And then once again, detail the price that you will charge for that. And that way at least you have it in writing confirming what you can do and what you will do. And you can be a bit more sure about what will be accepted and what won't. If you have to, you can also detail what you won't perform. So for example, if we're going to proofread but not edit, you can say, I will check the grammar, the syntax, that spelling errors, et cetera. But I won't be making sure that the text flows for the correct target audience or something like that. Maybe they haven't told you or they won't tell you who the target audience is. Or maybe they're leaving out some information, or maybe they don't want to pay you as much whatever it might be. But in this case, you can just detail what you will perform and what you won't perform. Look, all of this will be a judgement call for you depending on the job and also depending on the client and your relationship with the client. And so use your best judgment with your response. But it's important to keep these things in mind in the back of your head when you're dealing with any proofreading or editing or revision job. 7. MTPE: Now one other thing that we will not be getting away from anytime soon is what's referred to as machine translation post editing. Very often you'll see it written NTP. Quite frankly, it's going to keep growing and growing. We've seen that already, that it is growing to be more popular and we see a lot of people using it. In a nutshell, what it means is that the agency will use machine translation and then they need someone to edit it later. I know at annoys me two, it should be POS machine translation editing. Quite frankly, I don't know why as ENTP, but fine, that's the way it is. Now. I know a lot of translators do not like working with smtp, but I know a number of translators who actually don't mind that at all. And this is because it can really depend on the type of machine translation. There are many different types. All of you obviously heard of Google and Bing, but there are more serious ones as well. The bell is one. But many big companies, many corporations have their own type of empty that's built in and that's used to their types of forms. There are types of terminology, et cetera. And so there are quite a few types of machine translation that aren't bad. So once again, just keep this in mind. You will be seeing requests. I think you'll be seeing more and more requests for machine translation post editing. So feel free to give it a try and see if you can get used to it. If you do like it or don't mind it and see what works for you. Because once again, I've seen different reactions from all different types of translators. 8. What You Need: So what do you need? So what do you need when you are an editor or proofreader or just conducting revision? Well, let's go through some of those things. Let's go through some of the things you will need, not only in your head but externally as well. First of all, you're going to need both the original and the translated texts. This means that you will need the one in the original language and then the one that was translated by the translator. This is in order to make sure that things have been translated correctly. Obviously, if you're working with just a translated text, there can be quite a few issues that come up as you perform more editing and proofreading jobs, you'll see and you'll get a feel for what can go wrong. These can be different for all different types of specializations and all different types of languages. But there are quite a few issues that can come up. Maybe something was translated incorrectly or maybe they use something that can be ambiguous or can have two meanings, or maybe something in the original text and the source language can have two meanings and they translated it with the incorrect one. Or maybe there was a double negative in the original language and it was translated incorrectly in the target language. Remember, many languages have double negatives and others don't, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So it's always best to have both the original and the translated texts. Another thing you will need is superior knowledge of grammar, and you will definitely need to know when to use a conditional went to you, the subjunctive, and how to use different types of associations and different types of, from adverbs, adjectives to this, that and the other, especially in the target language, because you want to be able to express yourself very well and you want to be able to catch mistakes in expressions. You want to be able to catch mistakes that someone else who has even fluent in the target language did not catch. And so you want to make sure that you have a very good knowledge of the target language and of how it works. Now another thing you should have superior knowledge of expressions, and I emphasize here the source language. And this is because a lot of expressions sometimes are ambiguous or maybe you don't know them unless you're used to the source language. If I use the term off the wall, maybe someone might not know what it means, even if they speak English fluently or if I say I have an axe to grind, that's an expression that not everyone might know. And so it's important to be familiar with the expressions in the source language so you can make sure they're translated correctly. And I say the source language because you need to be able to recognize them right away in the target language. You can look up different ways to express it and you'll sort of get a feel because the target language is most likely your native language anyway. But the source language very often will have certain expressions or sayings or metaphors or similes or innuendos or whatever it might be and they might be hidden in there. Remember, this can also be references to pop culture, which are very common in many types of writing. But they're things that unless you follow what happens day today and in the news and with the local music or movies seen very often, you won't be very familiar with. 9. How to Proceed: So let's cover how to go about jobs and how to proceed. First of all, proofreading and revision is usually paid by the hour. Now I say usually because they're going to find all different types of ways to get paid no matter what job you're doing. But usually with proofreading, a revision is something that gets paid by the hour and chances are you want to keep it this way. You'll get a better feel for it as you go along. And once again, depending on your language combinations specialization. But if you're not sure at this point in time when you're starting out. Then just offered to work by the hour for proofreading your revision. The big exception obviously is if the client offers to pay you per word, that you can do a quick calculation and get an idea if that rate works for you or not. Don't forget to check on the forums on translators cafe to make sure that the rates are ok and that they are basically market rates. But by enlarge, proofreading, revision is usually paid by the hour while editing is usually paid per word, and usually is a fraction of your translation rate. And I put 1.5 there because that's generally what you find. You find many variations. But if you're charging, say, $0.08 a word for your translation, chances are you're editing rate is going to be $0.04 a word. So just bear this in mind once again and once again, as you perform more jobs, as you perform more editing and proofreading jobs, you'll get a better feel for it. And so you'll know whether you should be charging a bit more, a bit less or by the hour or per word, et cetera, et cetera. 10. How to Proceed - Ask questions: Another thing you should be doing is asking questions. So what do I mean by that? There's certain things you need to make sure that our answered by your client before you get started. And if they haven't mentioned them yet, then don't be afraid to ask certain things like do they want track changes or do they want to clean document? If you are making corrections to a text, maybe you should use track changes and comments along the side so they can see what you've corrected exactly. Or very often they just want the clean document after the editing and they just want something to work with and they don't want to deal with a trek changes. So be sure to ask them if they haven't stated it beforehand. Another thing you can ask is who the target audience is. Obviously, if you're translating, say something scientific and the target audience is another group of scientists. It'll be a different translation as compared to if the target audience is the general public. And they're trying to write a scientific texts that will appeal to anyone who might be reading general layman's journal. Also, obviously if the target audiences for kids or something along those lines, it'll be very different as well. You should also ask how many translators worked on it. And this is because if they have a big text that had many different translators working on it, you'll find that the same expression, the same terms, were translated using different words throughout the text. And this can end up being quite a bit of a mess hand. So you want to make sure ahead of time that you know how many translators worked on it, preferably, which translators worked on, which section. So you have a better feel and you sort of can see how they translated certain things. Ideally, obviously only one translator worked on it. And in fact, I know some editors who insist on having only one translator having worked on a file before they edit it, because otherwise they say it's too much of a mess. I think that's a bit picky, but it really depends on what you're doing. However, if many translators have worked on it, then you should also ask if they have a glossary available. I mean, obviously just one translator worked on it. You should also ask if they have a glossary available, but definitely if many translators worked on it, because then you'll know that they use a glossary to find certain terms, to use certain terms. And if you find two different translations of a certain term, you'll know which one is correct if they have a glossary available. So definitely ask if they have that as well. 11. How to Proceed - Make sure the translation is decent: Another thing you should do, and although this might seem obvious is you should make sure that translation is decent. So go through the translation quickly before you accept the job and make sure that it is decent that it was done more or less correctly. And if you find a couple of mistakes here and there, that's fine. That's what you're being paid for. But make sure that it's something that is least texts you can understand. If not, you can always offer to perform the translation itself. From my experience, you most likely won't get hired for this and you might not hear from them again. And this can be for various reasons. First of all, they already have their preferred translators. And second of all, they don't trust you, especially if it's your first time working with them and so they're going to check with someone else. However, you can still offer to perform the translation, obviously a year translation rate. Or you can offer to perform the editing itself, but for a higher rate. And you can just tell them, look, this translation was not done well at all. You can show some examples. This, this, and this don't make any sense. This was done incorrectly. This is obviously not a real word, et cetera, et cetera. And say, look, I can still perform the job, but unfortunately is gonna take me longer. It'll be harder for me, so I'll have to charge this higher rate. Once again, you might risk losing the job, but you also don't want to be wasting your time on something with really, really bad text. You can see at the end of the course where I go a bit more into depth about how to deal with certain problems. And especially it's certain problems with badly translated text because there can be various reasons for it. I won't get into that now. But for now this is enough to know when checking a translation to make sure it's decent. And a couple options in case it isn't. 12. How to Proceed - What to do if...: So what do you do if you find a mistake? Now if you find a mistake, more or less, it's clear what you should be doing. You should be correcting the mistake. If they asked you for track changes, then automatically it will show that you deleted something and you wrote something else inside. That you deleted something and that you wrote something else instead, if you don't have tracked changes well, then they can either see it or not. But just correct the mistake and that's basically all there is to it. Now what if you find something that can be improved? So this is something that's not necessarily a mistake, but you think it would sound a bit better or work a bit better in this different way. Here my recommendation is once again, to correct it. If you feel it's a bit ambiguous or that the initial translator might not agree with. You. Feel free to add a comment. And you can say, look, the initial translator translated this way, which sort of works. But it'll be better if you use this terminology because of et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, whatever your reason might be. If you feel that, once again, your version is better, the version you're coming up with is better than what the translator initially had and you can back it up then feel free to correct it. And yeah, if you feel it needs to be justified, you can add a comment or at least be ready to justify why you did it in case a client asks you. So what about if you find nothing wrong with it at all? Now you might say, well, that's a good thing if i find nothing wrong with a document, but actually this can bring up many different issues. In fact, so many that I created a whole new cipher. This, here's the problem. If you find nothing wrong at all in the whole text, you can leave the document blank and you can just return the text that they sent. You basically say, here you go, everything was fine except then maybe the client might think you weren't doing your job. They might start thinking, wait a minute in the whole text, you didn't find one mistake. You didn't find one thing wrong, seriously? Are you sure? And a lot of editors when this happens, kinda feel like they need to be earning their keep. Thinking, well I'm getting paid. And so I need to show that I'm worth the money. And so suddenly they start finding words and expressions and things to rearrange. They find things to correct even that don't need correcting. And suddenly they start just changing things randomly just to show that they made changes and that they are worth the money that they're being paid. This can be very dangerous, and I definitely do not recommend doing this. The problem with this is that if you're just finding changes to make, just to show that you've been working. Then the client will go back to the translator and say, hey, you translated all of this, but look at that is all marked in red. All of these things have been changed and corrected. How come you did such a poor job? And remember, agencies do this all the time. They don't want to pay a translator the full rate if they don't have to. And so they're going to ask the translator why there are all these corrections to be made. And in trying to push the rate down or something along those lines, this can make the translator mad. And then the translator might then go through all of the corrections you made and then say, Oh look this editor as just trying to make changes where the you don't need any because of this one and that one and that one and this 1 out all the places made corrections that didn't need to be corrected or maybe even made things sound worse. And suddenly it becomes a war between you and the translator. And this is never a good situation when you have the editor competing with the translator, the only person who wins is the agency or the client, because suddenly they can have U2 guys duke it out with each other. And what happens is maybe you guys get end up getting paid less or not at all or something along those lines. But either way, you guys both get very frustrated and get very mad at each other. So if you find nothing wrong in that document, I definitely do not recommend just finding changes to make, just to show that you may change as this can be very dangerous. But rather, if you don't want to leave the document blank because you're afraid of what the client might say. And rightly so I recommend doing things like leaving comments. You can leave comments and you can write things down, but they don't always have to be negative. You can say things like, Oh, I really agree with the choice at the translator used here, because very often translators use another expression, but the translator here you have this expression which is really good. And then maybe further down you can say, oh, I really agree with this. This other expression would work just as well, but the one that translator used works just as well as this one or whatever it might be. Feel free to leave comments, feel free to show that you did go through the whole text. That way. The client knows that you know what you're talking about, but you have an unnecessarily made the translator Matt. Obviously, if the translator made bad mistakes, the translator should be corrected. But if fear she didn't make any mistakes, then there's no reason to find them and feel free to leave comments and positive ones. In fact, the translator might be happy to see that and to say, oh, I really admired the fact that you use the correct terminology here, because very often there's a trap that people fall into, they use this instead of that or whatever it might be. And so feel free to leave positive comments, or at least comments showing that you've been reading through and you know what the text is talking about and what you are talking about. 13. How to Proceed - Once you're done: So a couple of other things to do, and more specifically, a couple of things to do once you're done with the translation or once you're done with the editing job. Now, once you have done with editing before sending it to the client, you should first of all, run the spell checker once more. I know it seems pretty elementary, but with all the changes that you've been making and with everything you've been doing, especially if you're using track changes because it can get quite confusing with all the Track Changes. Run the spell checker once again just to make sure that you didn't miss something or during the changes at something wrong didn't happen. So just be sure this is a very easy step, but a lot of times people forget it. So make sure you run the spell checker once more. If you can read it again after a break and be nitpicky about it. So what I mean by this is if you can take a break, if you finished it and you still have more than 24 hours left until the deadline, then maybe sleep on it or maybe take a few hours break and then read over it. And when you read over it, pretend like you're reading a paper or a book or an article or whatever it might be, and that you're trying to find mistakes in it. Pretend like your one of those, what they call the grammar Nazis, right? That tried to find mistakes with texts and try to be nitpicky and find every little thing that could be wrong with it. And you want to do this because you wanna make sure that everything that you've done is a 100% correct. And more specifically, you need to be ready to defend every single choice of word that you made, not only for the stuff you changed, but the stuff you didn't change. You need to be ready to say why you didn't change it. And so if you used a certain word instead of a certain other, if you use evaluate instead of assess or few used, I don't know bylaws instead of articles of association or anything along those lines, you need to be ready to defend that choice and say why you chose it. Now this might seem like a bit much, but it isn't. You get used to it after a while and a lot of it, if it's your native tongue, it'll be common sense and you'll say no, look if an, if a Native person told US this other word rather than this where it, it would sound a bit off to me if they said evaluate rather than assess, it sounds a bit too technical. And people, when they're just speaking, they say assess or vice versa. You can say no, you should use this because in this context it sounds better. Whatever it might be, you need to be ready to defend every word choice. You won't have to defend every word choice. But if you're reading the text like that is the case. Like you have to defend every word choice, then you can be very nitpicky and makes sure that everything works. 14. Other Issues: So here let's cover some other issues that can come up. As I mentioned before. One big issue that can come up is that the translation is absolutely terrible. What can happen here? If the translation is absolutely terrible? Then ask yourself if it was machine translated. I recommend actually taking some of the source text in the source language and putting it into Google Translate or Bing translate. This is just a trick that quite frankly, agencies like todo, I've had them do this to me before, but translators as well. And you really never know what you're going to end up with. If something is terrible, check to see if fuel is machine translated or if you have a suspicion. Check to see if it was machine translated. So you run the source text through the machine translation, meaning you copy and paste part of it onto Google Translate, onto Bing translate or whatever it might be. In fact, I think I've had people use Bing translate more than Google Translate. And if it wasn't machine translated, notify the client. And you notify the client because you can offer to translate it from scratch for a different rate. Obviously, you can say, look, this was obviously machine translated. Don't assume it's the client's fault. You can notify them and say It looks like your translator just use Google Translate rather than translating it themselves. And then say like, like, let your client off the hook. But you can tell them, look, they, they used machine translation. So I'm, I'll be happy to translate this from scratch for a different rate. You might also want to remind them that most machine translation is not private. If they use Google Translate, if they use Bing translate, these are not private. And so what do I mean by this? I mean that obviously Google Translate does not actually translate anything. What it does is it scours the web and it finds examples of various texts that already have been translated and it learns from them. That's great. But that also means that anytime you put a text into Google Translate, it's learning from you as well. So it right away becomes in the public domain. I mean, it becomes at least Google has access to it and actually other people can get access to it as well. I won't go into all the specifics, but suffice it to say that anytime you copy and paste the text into Google Translate, people can find out who uploaded it. They can find out when it was and the IP address, et cetera, et cetera. And you don't even need to be logged into Google for this to happen. If you wanna read more details about this, I, I link to an article that discuss it in a bit more than that also links directly to Google's privacy policies at the right point where it talks about it here I left the short link for a tiny dot cc slash Google T. And you'll see why machine translations such as Google translation and Bing translate or not private at all. And so if there's any text that has anything private and, um, so I mean anything, any type of legal contract, anything Legal really has to do with law firms, any financial statements or financial transactions, anything medical, I mean, anything that has to do with the school records, birth records, anything government related, even NGOs or anything along those lines. Let's face it, a lot of what's out there. People don't want it to be in the public domain. It should not be in Google translate. And so if something like this has happened to the client, you should definitely let them know and you should remind them that anything that goes into Google Translate is not public. And so they should keep that in mind at all times. 15. Other Issues 2: Now what if this translation is terrible, but it was not machine translated? So here we go back to the mistakes that I mentioned before. But what if there were many, many, many mistakes and it's really just a terrible translation. Well, first of all, once again, you should let the client to know. And you should say, look, this translation is terrible and it's really bad. And that's why you should always scour the translation, would be able to look over it before you accept it. Because if you've already accepted the job, then it's a bit harder to go ahead if you have already accepted the job that my recommendations to actually perform it, you already said you were going to do it. You should stand by your word. You should let them know for the future. And you can say something along the lines of, look, this translation is absolutely terrible. I already accepted it and accept it in these terms, so I will perform this job, but in the future really should not work with this translator. And in the future I'm more than happy to work on your translations, do that myself or to perform the editing, but it'll cost more or whatever you feel comfortable saying. I do recommend performing it though. If you've already accepted the terms, then it's the correct thing to do. Quite frankly.