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Oh, The Editing Mistakes I Have Made (Part 1 of ∞)




I make a living in copywriting, but KoiRizo was my first attempt at editing a visual novel. Suffice to say, there were a few bumps along the way. So in the spirit of this blog, here are just a few of the many, many things I wish I had done differently.

1. I should have started out using a style guide.
From the very beginning, I should have picked one of the major styles guides and made it my bible. Instead, as I came across questions — Should this be hyphenated? Should that be capitalized? — I just googled the answer. As long as I had a browser open, I might as well have gone to Orbitz and bought myself a one-way ticket to Inconsistencyville. Population: this guy.

Thankfully, I quickly realized the error of my ways and was able to minimize the damage early on, but save yourself some pain and don’t repeat my mistake. Pick a style guide. Use it. My formal training is in journalism, so I’m partial to AP style, but most any style guide should do just fine: Chicago, MLA, MHRA, etc.

But if you don’t use the Oxford comma, you deserve to die alone.*

2. I should have (mostly) ignored the VO.
In hindsight, I spent a bit too much time worrying about how the English script would match up to the exact cadences of the voice over. As a result, I kept in far too many ellipses from the original Japanese. So … at times … the script reads … like this. And, as it turns out, most of those VO pauses weren’t even perceptible enough to warrant their inclusion in the English text. Feh.

Lesson learned. Next time, I’ll give priority to the written word. After all, it’s called a “visual novel,” not a “visual audio play.”

3. I should have established character voice cheat sheets early on.
This ranks pretty high on the list of things wish I had done differently when editing KoiRizo. The base translation was very literal, so, at least on the page, the characters’ speech patterns all read pretty much the same. The actual content of their dialogue gave them some level of characterization — oh Yuuhi, you so crazy — but still, I wish I’d been able to give everyone a more distinct voice ...

Next time out, I plan to make up an index card for each main character with notes on speech patterns, vocal tics, and catchphrases. And then, I’ll spend sufficient time with the translator agreeing on how each character should speak. (I'm just an editor. The nuances of untranslated Japanese speech are a bit beyond my pay grade.) Do they drop their “g”s when talkin’? Does one use painfully proper grammar when one speaks? This should go a long way toward making sure each character maintains a consistent voice, particularly if multiple translators and editors are involved.

4. I should have picked a visual novel I liked more.
I know, right? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with KoiRizo. It’s a perfectly fine moege. It’s light and fluffy and inconsequential. (Except for the dramatic bits, which are angsty and fluffy and inconsequential.) I guess that’s partly why I chose it; far easier to hone my craft on lighter titles like KoiRizo, then move onto more substantial fare.

But yeah, it never really clicked for me. (My VNDB rating for it has been hovering around a 6, if that tells you anything.) I tend toward VNs that take more narrative and metatextual risks, whereas KoiRizo is perfectly happy being an average, trope-heavy, cookie-cutter moege. Moreover, it had way too many H-scenes for my taste, often at the expense of plot. While it forced me to learn how to edit those types of scripts very quickly — more on that in a later blog post, I’m sure — it wasn’t something I always enjoyed.

But still, I never let any of this affect the quality of the output. I work in advertising, and we very rarely have the luxury of actually liking the brands we create campaigns for. You either learn to compartmentalize, or you get weeded out fast. All of which is to say, I always tried to honor both the original authorial intent and the lead TL’s vision for the project as best I could.


So there you go. Just a few of the many editing mistakes I have made, presented here for your approval. May you go forth and learn from my facepalms.

Because, as Goro says, forewarned is four-armed.

*Or surrounded by cats.


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I see no reason not to use this as advice for any potential instances I feel inclined to... eh... pretend I'm an editor?


Nevertheless, I can wallow in others' misery and learn simultaneously. How can this not be a wonderful blog post!


"But if you don’t use the Oxford comma, you deserve to die alone."

I redirect you to this wonderful translation team with which, I'm sure, you have a great deal in common:



It is highly recommended you read the acutely enlightening blog posts you will find within, relative to the Oxford Comma's Superiority.

You will finish an erudite man.

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Sweet job on KoiRizo :)


I should point out, overuse of ellipses is one of those things translated Visual Novels are constantly ridiculed over. You'll note that fan-translations mostly keep them in, whereas professional localisations (JAST, Sekai, and MG all use fan-TLs so they're not included) strongly limit ellipses use, and here localisations are doing the better job. Take NISA's translations, for example. An excess of ellipses makes me want to kill the first person I see... *looks at Tiag* :P


Japanese Language don't really have rules for ellipses use, so feel free to eliminate them where appropriate in the English. English don't use them anywhere near as freely as the Japanese - we have stricter rules, and a culture which frowns on abusing certain forms of punctuation. Take a look at how often ellipses are used in Western novels and compare that to how often Japanese Light Novels and other Japanese media use them. It's not because Western people don't pause, in case anybody was wondering xD

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On the context of ellipsis (and in an attempt to spare my life for yet another day), I've glanced through a couple of Portuguese novels, and particularly direct speech, ellipsis are indeed fairly common.
I have incredibly limited knowledge about novels, because, contrary to expectations, I don't often read, if ever. But as far as I know, dialogue doesn't appear too often (or in other words, there's much more narration that draws it out) in novels, and I'd like to say that's the reason there's such a lack of ellipsis. When a person speaks, certainly they make pauses, a novel could cut a piece of dialogue in the middle, fit a bit of narration as the pause and continue.
"I've got something to tell you" John said solemnly, and after taking a deep breath he added "your daughter has gone missing."
I don't know the proper structure in English, I don't even know it in Portuguese properly, but I think what's above is theoretically possible...?
Actual quote from Portuguese showcasing what I mean:

   - E ele - replicou Afonso sorrindo - perguntou-me quem lhe tinha dado a pistola, e torturou-me toda a manhâ para lhe dar também uma pistola... E aí está o resultado dessa revelação: é que tive de mandar vir do Porto uma pistola de vento...

   - And he - Afonso replied smiling - asked me who had given him the gun, and tortured me all the morning so I'd also give him a pistol as well... And that's the result of this revelation: I had to order a wind gun from Porto...

In short, VN's are mostly comprised of dialogue. They are also usually limited to a simple dialogue box. Under these circumstances one is constricted on the amount they can fit in the box, and each box can be only used for dialogue or can only be used for narration, not both.
I'd say using ellipsis to showcase the pauses in speech is really the only available option.
Overall it will seem like a huge amount of ellipsis, but I'll blame that on the huge amount of dialogue. VN's who write on top of the screen (http://i.ytimg.com/vi/y26b29CaMe0/maxresdefault.jpg) should theoretically suffer less from this, but since they're still voiced, and they end up getting ports to a console with the smaller box system ( http://i.ytimg.com/vi/5k5wpzVl2qY/maxresdefault.jpg), they're still made with that in mind and little to no dialogue/narration mingling.
Of course, ellipsis like these should still freeze in hell:
..............I don't know...........maybe it was my father.......?

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TiagFromVenice - (I don't intentionally muck up people's names, honest :P) that reply is hella insightful, and is fairly on the money. VNs replace a lot of written narration with pictures, and most VNs are prose light, which could be a reason a lot of ellipses are used.


The image you linked to features a voiceless protagonist (I'm fairly certain.) But you're right again when you imply that people are more tolerant of ellipses in dialogue, or internal dialogue, than narration. 


There still tends to be an overuse of ellipses in translations though, which comes from punctuation usage differences between the Japanese and English. Take the image you linked to, for example (WHOA that's an incredibly literal piece of translation.) The first 2 sentences. We have "..." followed by an ... in the narration. What is this actually supposed to denote? A pause ... followed by another pause? Wouldn't you normally just call this one long pause? In English you would, but in Japanese this sort of stuff is common, and you could have text box after text box after text box filled with nothing but ellipses. In English I'd suggest you'd just have one ellipsis here, and it would just be 3 dots, not 6. So you'd delete the ellipsis at the beginning of the second line, otherwise you get people wrinkling their nose.


And if you look at the second set of ellipses, down the bottom of your linked image you'll find an ellipsis separating two sentences. Separating two paragraphs. That's really tricky, in English an ellipsis at the end of a sentence usually indicates you're trailing off, and yet I've never seen an ellipsis stuck at the beginning of a sentence in narration. Sometimes you see one at the beginning of a sentence when somebody intrudes on a piece of dialogue (or narration), so you're catapulted half-way into something. So either way you're doing something considered weird in English. I would probably suggest joining those 2 sentences together to form a single sentence, so the ellipsis would no longer separate two sentences, but rather parts of a single sentence.


But that's not half as weird as that humongous dash at the end of the screen, what on Earth is that meant to mean? I dunno. 


Anyway, the point is that going from Japanese to English, punctuation, and even sentence lengths and structures, aren't fixed. This is because the language techniques of Japan are different from the language techniques of English. As a translator (and editor) there's a degree of latitude to fiddle with these language techniques as long as you keep tone and whatnot consistent, which a lot of fan-translators don't take up and unfortunately keeping things overly literal will result in abhorrent abuse of ellipses (along with other problems.)

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Rook - Admittedly, through everything I said, there are indeed a lot of ellipsis in fan translations.


The kind you can see don't bother me much (although ellipsis have 3 dots, there's no need to use more than one ellipsis to indicate a pause. 3 dots are enough. Not 6. Not 4. Not 12. Japan loves using more than three.), for instance, three dots at the start of a sentence is so incredibly normal and usual in a VN I've learnt to process them as some kind of pause before speaking (or in this case, monologuing, because he seems to be suffering from brain lapses on a regular basis).


Of course, it doesn't make much sense to have a dialogue of "..." followed by more ellipsis, but in context it just means he had no reply and instead transitioned to thinking/monologue.


Personally, ellipsis in a monologue are nigh on useless unless you're in the middle of rationalising or making deductions. That's what I figure happens in the second set of ellipsis that starts a sentence. Indeed, if you want to fix it in English, the ellipsis itself isn't the problem, but its positioning. Just move the ellipsis to the end of the previous sentence and it's much less offensive.


As for that mammoth of a dash, it indicates his thoughts were interrupted, or trailed off (because Japan does it differently). Presumably the writer was suffering from cramps and the "-" became a "---------".



Although this is all mostly irrelevant in the context of this blog post. While there are lots of ellipsis, if used correctly they aren't a problem.


Darbury has the problem of attempting to match the voice (which I personally consider an important factor. I don't know Japanese, but it throws me out of the flow when a complicated Japanese sentence magically transmutes into a one word reply; or when the -kun's accidentally dress up as -san's) to the textbox.


As it is dialogue, I think this shouldn't have become a problem, but apparently there were too many ellipsis. Logically one doesn't speak like the hyperbolic example we were given, so how do sentences end up like this?

"So … at times … the script reads … like this."

I'd say "Don't base yourself on the Japanese use of ellipsis, but feel free to follow dialogue pauses in speech."

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Oxford comma is a myth, a lie an and illusion (at least in Portuguese and maybe that's why it's named Oxford comma and not, say, Lisbon comma). So I find it very weird in English too.

I love the Oxford comma. And that is just one more reason why I constantly mess up when writing in Portuguese.

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