There are many ways with which it is possible to evaluate a text and, therefore, the costs of its translation. Some ways are more suited for certain kinds of texts, others are more used in some countries. Certainly, whatever the chosen method of evaluation is, this must be absolutely clear to the client. Normally, a person who is not used to commission translations is led to base his evaluation on the number of pages he needs to translate. But the number of pages seldom represents the real size of the text. We know that the same text, written in different fonts and sizes, can have a very different effect on the number of pages. Just think of the translation of illustrative patient information leaflets, with tiny writing, compared to an advertising brochure full of slogans and images ... So it is necessary to go "beyond" the pages ... Perhaps the most widespread method used in Italy at least, which I usually apply, is the CALCULATION OF THE NUMBER OF STROKES, that give the exact NUMBER OF FOLDERS. However on some occasions I use other methods, depending on the characteristics of the text.

Let us see which are the several possibilities for evaluating a text to be translated.


The term FOLDER conventionally means 1,500 strokes (spaces and punctuation included). I recommend you mistrust people who do not specify the number of strokes per folder. Actually some people offer a more competitive price per folder but then they consider a folder every 1,350 strokes, or even every 1,200 strokes. If the document to be translated is in Word format, this is the fastest and most immediate method. Just go on the tool bar, click on word count and see the number of strokes (spaces included). This figure divided by 1,500 (which is therefore the unit of measurement) will give the exact number of folders. Then the translator usually assesses the difficulty and the complexity of the text and decides which the fairest price per folder is. Then with a simple multiplication of the price per folder by the number of folders you get the quotation price. The number of folders is usually rounded up or down to half a folder.

Numerical example:
text with 12,315 total strokes spaces included
12,315 : 1,500 = 8,21 number of the folders
folder price x 8 folders = final price

At the beginning of my career I was taught that the final price should be calculated at the end of the translation, according to the calculation of the strokes of the translated text, and not of the original text. But in this way I could only give an indicative idea of the price that left some uncertainty on the final figure, even if it never diverged too much from the final price. This is why, in order to submit fixed prices, sure estimates, my quotations are based on the number of strokes of the original text.

The formula "spaces included" is universally approved now. Although those who do not work in this field instinctively see spaces as "no translation", the translator needs the same amount of time to type a letter or the bar. This is why, independently from the keys that are typed, every stroke affects the quotation.

What is the price per folder? The price of the folder can vary a lot from one text to another, for different reasons: total amount of work, urgency, complexity of translation, use of highly technical terminology, ...

A curiosity ... The number of 1,500 strokes per folder dates back to the first days of the typewriter, when a standard page, under the margins of the sheet imposed by the typewriter, was actually composed of 25 lines of 60 strokes each ...


Counting lines is a rather disused method of evaluation. Today there are those who propose this method with competitive prices, but if you calculate the correct proportions it is not always convenient.


Word calculation is very common in the United States. In Italy on the contrary it is not very widespread. In my opinion it is a very valid method for some kinds of texts. I myself did several translations applying this method of evaluation. It is most useful for texts with lots of illustrations, graphs, charts and technical diagrams where the work does not only consist in translating but also in respecting the page layout. For the translation of classical pages of text, it is surely not the fairest way ... I have seen translations brimming with words and periphrases, the final effect of which was to undermine communication. There are actually some people who try to avoid using compound words (very often used in German) or abbreviated forms (the English possessive for instance) to get a larger number of words at the end, and therefore ask for a higher price.


Accepting to pay the translator on an hourly basis, depending on how long he takes to do the work, overlooks the important principle of clarity and transparency. Once the work is finished, the client will have to pay a price that - no matter how satisfied he is with it - will be "imposed" rather than previously accepted. The situation is different if between the two parties there is a relationship of great mutual trust and respect. A regular client, who trusts the translator's professionalism and ethics, can have significant economic advantages by commissioning a sui generis work, which will be cheaper compared to the ones previously commissioned. Thanks to the specific experience gained with the client, having become accustomed to certain types of work, issues and/or words, the translator can play with the speed factor and, while maintaining the quality of the work unchanged, can operate satisfactorily at a certain hourly rate that in the end is very convenient for the client too.

If the text is on paper and not in digital format, in order to make a correct quotation, it is necessary to copy a part of the text on the computer, to see how many strokes there are and then, with a simple proportion, to evaluate the total strokes of the text.