Version 2022

Section 1. Target Language Mechanics

  • The following errors clearly violate one or more rules that prescribe the “correct” written forms of the target language (e.g., grammar and spelling).
  • For errors that affect (distort) the reader’s understanding of facts/ideas in the source text, see Section 2 (Meaning Transfer).
  • For errors that do not overtly violate any rules but still “sound wrong,” see Section 3 (Writing Quality).

Grammar (G):

A grammar error occurs when a sentence in the translation violates the morphosyntactic (grammatical) rules of the target language. Grammar errors include lack of agreement between subject and verb, incorrect verb inflections, and incorrect declension of nouns, pronouns, or adjectives.

In applicable cases, the G error may be subcategorized as syntax (SYN) or word form/part of speech (WF/PS); see explanations below.

Syntax (SYN):
A syntax error occurs when the arrangement of words or other elements of a sentence does not conform to the syntactic rules of the target language. Errors in this category include improper modification, lack of parallelism, unnatural word order, and run-on structure. If incorrect syntax changes or obscures the meaning, the error is more serious and may be classified as a different type of error using the Flowchart and Framework.

Word Form / Part of Speech (WF/PS):
A word form error occurs when the root of the word is correct, but the form of the word (e.g. number or case of noun or pronoun) is incorrect or nonexistent in the target language (e.g., “tooths,” or “conspiration” instead of “conspiracy”). A part of speech error occurs when the grammatical form (adjective, adverb, verb, etc.) is incorrect (e.g., “a conspire” instead of “a conspiracy”).

If an incorrect word form (e.g., an inflection that signals the wrong verb tense) changes the meaning, then assign a category under Meaning Transfer instead (e.g., verb form).

Spelling (SP) / Character (CH) for non-alphabetic languages:
A spelling/character error occurs when a word or character in the translation is spelled/used incorrectly according to target-language conventions. A spelling/character error that causes confusion about the intended meaning is more serious and may be classified as a different type of error, using the Flowchart and Framework. If a word has alternate acceptable spellings, the candidate should be consistent throughout the passage.

NOTE: In applicable cases, the SP/CH error should be subcategorized as capitalization (C) or diacritical marks (D), as in the Framework; see explanations below.

Capitalization (C):
A capitalization error occurs when the conventions of the target language concerning upper and lower-case usage are not followed.

Diacritical Marks / Accents (D):
A diacritical marks error occurs when the target-language conventions of accents and diacritical marks are not followed. If incorrect or missing diacritical marks obscure meaning (sense), the error is more serious.

Punctuation (P):
A punctuation error occurs when the conventions of the target language regarding punctuation are not followed, including those governing the use of quotation marks, commas, semicolons, and colons. Incorrect or unclear paragraphing is also counted as a punctuation error.

NOTE: If a punctuation choice creates ambiguity or changes meaning, it constitutes a transfer error; see Section 2.

Other Errors:

For target-language errors that do not clearly fit the descriptions above, use the category OTH-ME or see Section 3 (Writing Quality).


Section 2. Meaning Transfer

  • The following errors affect (distort) the reader’s understanding of facts/ideas in the source text and/or the original author’s evaluation of them.
  • For errors that do not affect understanding but “sound wrong,” see Section 3 (Writing Quality).

Transfer Errors at the Word/Phrase Level

Addition (A):
An addition error occurs when the translator introduces superfluous elements of meaning, including aspects of tone (irony, intensification, etc.). Candidates should generally resist the tendency to insert “clarifying” material. Explicitation is permissible. Explicitation is defined as “A translation procedure where the translator introduces precise semantic details into the target text for clarification or due to constraints imposed by the target language that were not expressed in the source text, but which are available from contextual knowledge or the situation described in the source text” (Jean Delisle, Translation Terminology, Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, 1991, p. 139).

Omission (O):
An omission error occurs when one or more elements of meaning in the ST are left out of the TT. This covers not only textual information but also the author's tone (irony, intensification, etc.). Implicitation is permissible. Implicitation is defined as “A translation procedure intended to increase the economy of the TT and achieved by not explicitly rendering elements of information from the ST in the TT when they are evident from the context or the described situation and can be readily inferred by speakers of the TL” (Translation Terminology, p. 145). For more substantial omissions, see below under Unfinished (UNF) in this section.

Terminology (T):
A terminology error occurs in a general text when the candidate chooses a content word or phrase (noun, verb, modifier) with an incorrect or inappropriate meaning in relation to the source text. The T error also applies when a term appropriate to a specific subject field is not used when the corresponding term is used in the source text.

(a) If the erroneous word or term is based on the choice of a target-language cognate that has a different meaning, the subcategory Faux Ami (FA) may be used; see below.

(b) If the word choice violates conventions of collocation (e.g., subject-verb or adjective-noun combinations that are specific to the target language), then a usage (U) error may be marked. See Section 3 (Writing Quality).

Faux Ami (FA):
A faux ami error occurs when words of similar form but dissimilar meaning across the language pair are confused. Faux amis, also known as false friends, are words in two or more languages that probably are derived from similar roots and that have very similar or identical forms, but that have different meanings, at least in some contexts.

Verb Form (VF):
A verb form error occurs when the translation includes a verb in a grammatically possible form (as to person, number, gender, tense, mood, aspect, etc.) that conveys a meaning different from that of the source text.

(a) “I lived here for 20 years” instead of “I have lived here for 20 years.” (b) “When he arrived, she made tea,” where “When he arrived, she was making tea” is meant.
(c) “It is difficult to succeed,” for “It would be difficult to succeed.”

NOTE: If a verb is incorrectly inflected (for person, number, gender, etc.), the error G (Grammar) should be marked; see Section 1.

Transfer Errors That Can Apply to Various Levels

Ambiguity (AMB):
An ambiguity error occurs when either the source or target text segment allows for more than one semantic interpretation, where its counterpart in the other language does not.

Cohesion (COH):
The term “cohesion” refers to the way meanings and ideas link to each other in a logical chain or sequence within or across sentences or through a longer text. It is an overarching term that covers a dozen different devices by which this logical linking is achieved and maintained, usually grouped under four main types of grammatical cohesion: reference, substitution, ellipsis, and conjunction, and a fifth category, named lexical cohesion. A cohesion error occurs when a text is hard to follow because of the inappropriate or incorrect use of any of these devices.  For the purposes of the present document, cohesion is best explained by reference to a brief series of examples that illustrate each of the five types and their sub-types (see Appendix).

Faithfulness (F):
A faithfulness error occurs when the target text does not respect the meaning of the source text as much as possible. Candidates are asked to translate the meaning and intent of the source text, not to rewrite it or improve upon it. The grader will carefully compare the translation to the source text. If a “creative” rendition changes the meaning, an error will be marked. If recasting a sentence or paragraph—i.e., altering the order of its major elements—destroys the flow, changes the emphasis, or obscures the author’s intent, an error may be marked.


  • Acceptable translation: It is relatively common for right-wing extremists in Switzerland to come in conflict with the federal law on guns, gun accessories and ammunition.
  • Translation with F error (“too free”): It is relatively common for right-wing extremists in Switzerland to violate federal gun control laws

Literalness (L):
A literalness error occurs when a translation that follows the source text word for word results in an unclear or incorrect rendition—for example, “the subsequent best alternative” instead of “the next-best alternative.”

A “literal” translation of a single word that results in incorrect meaning (e.g., “actually” for French actuellement) is a terminology error, optional subcategory FA (see above).

A word-for-word rendition that sounds awkward but does not change meaning—e.g., “reductions of taxes on income” instead of “income tax reductions”—is a usage error (see Section 3).

Misunderstanding (MU):
A misunderstanding error occurs when the translation clearly results from a misinterpreted word or idiom, or the incorrectly parsed structure of a phrase or sentence.

Indecision (IND):
An indecision error occurs when the candidate gives more than one option for a given translation unit. Graders will not choose the right word for the candidate. Even if both options are correct, an error will be marked. More points will be deducted if one or both options are incorrect. NOTE: Inconsistent translations of a term or phrase at different points in the passage may constitute a cohesion error (see above).

Unfinished (UNF):
A substantially unfinished passage (more than a full sentence missing at the end) is not graded. Missing titles, headings, or sentences within a passage may be marked as one or more errors of omission, depending on how much is missing (see Omission in this section).

Other Meaning Transfer Errors (OTH-MT):
Use this category only if meaning is affected and only if no other descriptions above apply. If meaning is not affected, see Section 3 (Writing Quality).

Section 3. Writing Quality

  • The following are target-language errors that do not clearly violate rules of spelling, grammar or punctuation, but detract from the quality of the translation with nonidiomatic, inappropriate or unclear wording/phrasing.

Usage (U):
A usage error occurs when conventions of wording or phrasing in the target language are not followed (“We don’t say it that way”). Correct and idiomatic usage of the target language is expected. This category includes definite/indefinite articles, idiomatic use of prepositions (e.g., “married to,” not “with”), and collocations (“committed a crime,” rather than “performed a crime”).

Usage errors can also arise from word-for-word translation of entire phrases, such as “reductions of taxes on income” instead of “income tax reductions.”

If incorrect usage ends up changing the meaning (e.g., “She took a train in  Berlin,” when “to  Berlin” is meant), then we are dealing with a transfer error, which may be penalized with a greater number of points.

Similarly, an incorrect collocation that changes the reader’s understanding (e.g., “He illustrated the conclusion” rather than “He drew the conclusion”) is not a usage error, but a transfer error.

Text Type (TT):
A text type error occurs when some component of the translation is either inappropriate for the implied target audience of an exam passage (educated monolingual speakers of the target language) or fails to comply with specifications stated in the Translation Instructions (TIs). For example, if the TIs specify that the largest city in Vietnam should be rendered as “Ho Chi Minh City,” it is a TT error to use the former name “Saigon.” Optional sub-categories within TT are Register and Style:

Register (R):
A register error occurs when the language level or degree of formality is not appropriate for the implied target audience of the passage. (e.g., in an academic textbook: “Some years, El Niño comes on with a vengeance” instead of “occurs with particular intensity").

Style (ST):
A style error occurs when choices of grammatical structure or other elements are inappropriate for the type of publication or other functional use specified by the TIs. Examples: (a) step-by-step instructions: if the target language typically uses infinitive verb forms, then the use of imperative verbs is an ST error; (b) numerals: e.g., “39 thousand” is standard in some languages, but not in English.

Illegibility (ILL):
(Handwritten exams only) An illegibility error occurs when graders cannot read what the candidate has written. It is the candidate’s responsibility to ensure that the graders can clearly discern what is written. Candidates are instructed to use pen or dark pencil and to write firmly enough to produce legible photocopies. Deletions, insertions, and revisions are acceptable if they do not make the intent unclear.


Devices That Produce Cohesion

Examples drawn from Halliday and Hasan, 19761

   I.   Reference

1. Pronouns

  • John has moved to a new house. He had it built last year.

2. Demonstratives

  • Lyndon Johnson made rapid progress once he was elected to the Senate.  That was where he made his reputation, as Majority Leader.

3. Comparatives

  • General Middleton was a man of mildly but persistently depressive temperament.  Such men are not at their best at breakfast.
   II.  Substitution

4. Grammatical substitution

  • These biscuits are stale.— Get some fresh ones.
  • I had serious doubts about this. — I think we all did, at times.
  III.  Ellipsis

5. Ellipsis, i.e., omission

  • How did you enjoy the paintings?

—A lot […] were very good, though not all.

  • Has anybody fed the cat?

—Somebody must have […].

   IV.  Conjunction

6. Additive

  • For the whole day he climbed up the steep mountainside, almost without stopping.  And in all that time he met no one.

7. Adversative

  • For the whole day he climbed up the steep mountainside, almost without stopping.  Yet he was hardly aware of being tired.

8. Causal

  • For the whole day he climbed up the steep mountainside, almost without stopping.  So by night time the valley was far below him.

9. Temporal

  • For the whole day he climbed up the steep mountainside, almost without stopping.  Then, as dusk fell, he sat down to rest.

10. Continuatives (miscellaneous)

  • Are you ready?  Now when I tell you to jump, close your eyes and jump.
   V.   Lexical cohesion

11. Reiteration

      1. repetition of the same word
  • There’s a boy climbing that tree.  The boy’s going to fall if he doesn’t take care.
      1. synonym or near synonym
  • There’s a boy climbing that tree.  The lad’s going to fall if he doesn’t take care.
      1. superordinate
  • There’s a boy climbing that tree.  The child’s going to fall if he doesn’t take care.
      1. general word
  • There’s a boy climbing that tree.  The idiot’s going to fall if he doesn’t take care.

12. Collocation

      1. words in same semantic field
  • Why does this little boy wriggle all the time? Girls don’t wriggle.

1 M. A. K. Halliday and Ruqaiya Hasan, Cohesion in English (London:  Longman, 1976).