Raffel's main contribution to translation theory was the principle of "syntactic tracking", which he championed in a monograph published in 1994. According to this theory, a good translation of a prose literary text should track the syntax of the original element-by-element, never joining sentences where the original separated them, never splitting a long sentence, never rearranging the order of ideas. The accuracy of tracking is measured syntactically by counting punctuation marks: the best translation will be the one which comes closest to the original in a statistical analysis of commas, colons and full stops. Raffel claims that those translators who heed the syntax also make the best lexical choices, so that tracking becomes a measure not only syntactic accuracy but of translating skills per se. This principle has since been applied in scholarly studies of translations of classical and modern works.
^Burton Raffel, The Art of Translating Prose, University Park PA: Penn State University Press, 1994.
^For example: Steven J. Willett, "Thucydides Domesticated and 'Foreignized'". In: Arion 7,2 (1999), 118-145; Graeme Dunphy, "Tracking Christa Wolf: Problembewältigung und syntaktische Präzision in der englischen und französischen Übersetzung von Kindheitsmuster", in Michael Neecke & Lu Jiang, Unübersetzbar? Zur Kritik der literarischen Übersetzung, Hamburg 2013, 35-60.