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Translation editing vs proofreading: what’s the difference?

Translation editing vs proofreading: what’s the difference?
Home » Blog » Document translation » Translation editing vs proofreading: what’s the difference?

When undertaking a translation project, it’s vital that the work is completed to the highest possible standard. This can be a lengthy process, which involves editing and proofreading the text after translation – sometimes more than once – but ultimately, it’s something that has to be done. Without the process of editing and proofreading, the quality of your translation can suffer and be detrimental to the message you are trying to convey.

Editing and proofreading are often used interchangeably, with not many people understanding the core differences between the two processes. That’s not to say that they aren’t similar –  because they definitely are – but they use different techniques and are very much focused on different elements of the revision process. To help clarify these differences, we’ve created this guide to make things a little easier.

What is editing?

To put it simply, the process of editing involves reviewing a piece of text and making changes to improve its quality. By doing this, the flow of writing improves, thereby creating a more cohesive piece of copy.

The role of a translation editor

Once a document has been translated, the editing can begin. The process starts with an editor rectifying any obvious errors in spelling and grammar, although their main goal is to ensure the document makes sense, is clear, concise, and that it fits the brief. This could involve altering the structure of a sentence, or rewriting entire paragraphs – it all depends on what the editor feels, the copy needs to be as cohesive as possible.

Any small spelling and grammar changes are typically made on the spot, but when it comes to terminology or factual changes, an editor will usually ‘track changes’ so that they can be reviewed before being implemented. So you don’t have to worry about big changes being implemented without you knowing about it.

If you used a professional translation agency to translate your content, the chances are that the agency will also undertake the editing process. If, however, you translated the document yourself, it’s always a good idea to use a professional linguist to edit your work. That way, you can be sure that the translated text is rid of any mistranslations, misinterpretations, vocabulary inconsistencies or linguistic errors; as well as ensuring overall consistency.

Post editing machine translation

If you opted to use machine translation (MT) for your translation project, the standard of translation is likely to be of a lesser quality in comparison with content that has been translated by a professional. That’s why it’s essential to use MT alongside a professional human translator to edit the content – a process which is often referred to as post editing machine translation (PEMT).

The PEMT process can be done as little or as much as you like, depending on your budget.The expert eye of an experienced linguist will pickup on words which don’t quite make sense in the context the machine has produced, or notice that the copy may need to be localised to be acceptable within the target culture. Either way, it really is important that you have a professional translator edit your content. You will regret it if you don’t!

Why is editing important in translation?

Using an editor to review translated content comes with a number of benefits, and it really is worth the investment.

Here are a few of the reasons we think editing is vital to the translation process:

  • Some translation editors may have a particular specialism that allows them a deeper insight into the subject area of your translated content. This means that they’ll have a thorough understanding of the context, resulting in an improved editing process. At Brightlines, our vast network of translators have experience in a broad range of industry sectors, so you know that your content is in safe hands!
  • Part of an editor’s role is to fact check any stats or figures that might have come from an unreliable source or that could have been misinterpreted, so you can rest assured that your content has legitimate facts that originate from reliable sources.
  • Translation editors will ensure that the correct terminology is used throughout the text and that this terminology is catered to the audience you’re trying to target. This is known as localisation.  
  • Another skill that translation editors bring to the table is their ability to transcreate your content. This involves reviewing the translated document against the original to ensure that the messaging and tone of voice is maintained in the translated text.

What is proofreading?

After the text has been edited and any necessary changes have been made, it’s time for proofreading to take centre stage.

Proofreading is the process of reviewing the final draft to ensure there are absolutely no faults or errors. Unlike editing, the context, terminology and facts aren’t considered in as much detail – unless of course there are clearly obvious mistakes. The job primarily focuses on making certain that the text is grammatically correct.

The role of a translation proofreader

A proofreader checks the spelling, punctuation and grammar of a document, reviewing the syntax and ensuring that there are no unintended mistakes that were overlooked or unnoticed during the editing process.

Their job is often split into three areas:

  1. Before any grammatical or spelling errors are reviewed, a proofreader must first read through a document to ensure that the translated text can be clearly understood. If there are parts of the text that the proofreader struggles to follow, they will then speak to the editor and translator to resolve any translational issues and settle any confusion.
  2. Once any issues have been rectified with the overall readability, the proofreader reviews the text for grammatical errors and typos.
  3. Finally, they ensure that all formatting is correct and that the layout corresponds with any requirements given in the brief.

Throughout this process, proofreaders can sometimes make comments and suggestions that refer to the content as well. These suggestions aren’t actually applied to the text, but are included as comments for the editor to review. It’s then up to the editor to decide whether or not to implement their recommendations.

Why is proofreading important in translation?

Proofreading is a vital element of the translation process. It ensures that all of the translated copy is 100% correct, and that it reads as fluently as possible in the target language. Without it, grammatical errors could go unnoticed which could hugely alter the meaning of the text. In the long run, this could alienate your target audience and be detrimental to the perception of your brand.

Let’s sum it up

In a nutshell, any changes relating to style and content are addressed by editors, while proofreaders focus on spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Ultimately, the responsibility of a flawless final product lies with the proofreader, but it’s very much a joint effort from both parties.

For the most effective outcome, using both an editor and a proofreader is the way to go – although this might not be necessary depending on the task at hand. The process of Translation, Editing and Proofing (TEP) is typically reserved for larger marketing projects – such as magazines and sales brochures – or when the content is particularly specialised or technical to ensure that the content has been perfectly translated.

A straightforward piece of content like basic product descriptions, training documents and instructions often don’t require the full TEP process. On average, a typical translation project will consist of translating and proofreading – but of course this varies on a case by case basis!

If you want to know more about the process of editing and proofreading for translation, or have an upcoming project you’d like to discuss, contact Brightlines today.