What is the Difference Between Editing and Proofreading?

Editing and Proofreading

Proofreading and editing are both important ways to improve the quality of a piece of writing, improve its tone, effect, correctness, and so on. But they are not the same thing. What’s more, in general terms, there are various kinds of editing and various kinds of proofreading. There are, for example, developmental editing, comprehensive editing, line, and copy editing. In modern terms, a basic editing phase should consist of a first read. A good editor will look at each word individually and not attempt to scan. That is arguably the most labor-intensive part of the revision process. The second phase will usually involve using spell-checking and one or more automated grammar and spell checkers. Different pieces of editing software do different things, so it’ a good idea to run each page through two types of auto-editors like Grammarly and the Hemingway app.

Proofreading is what happens, or should happen, after the editing has been done to completion. Of course, there is no guarantee that an error might not be missed in editing and found in proofreading. But this is why we go over documents several times in several ways. It could be said that in proofreading, we are looking for tone, effect, style, and the like- but in reality, we are still looking for minor errors as well.

Consider the following sentence.

“The diveway is has the car is.”

In the initial editing stage, we will fix the spelling error and the grammatical error, with the following result:

“The driveway is where the car is.”

Now, on proofreading, we find the sentence could be written more eloquently, and we come up with the following revision:

“The car is in the driveway.”

Naturally, there’s a lot more to be said about editing and proofreading. But here, we are concerned about what these terms mean in the context of language translation.

What is Editing in Translation?

In translation, we may be dealing with a document that is fully edited, proofed, and polished- and we might have something a bit rawer. Because the purpose of translation is to transform the language in a document into another language, we have an additional step to complete. We are looking for;

  • Spelling errors
  • Word-use errors
  • Grammatical errors
  • Punctuation errors
    and, of course;
  • Translation errors

To do good editing in one’s own native language is a big job. It requires mastery of the rules of the written form of the language, and it requires the closest thing to manual labor one can do while sitting at a desk.

But translation editing means one not only needs mastery in the written form of one language but two. In business, it is often said that a person is worth as many people as the number of languages they speak. Now, we’re beginning to see why!

So, translation editing means scouring the document for multiple types of errors, not in one, but two languages. Sometimes errors in the pre-translation form of the document can cause errors in the final translation, and sometimes errors in the translation can obscure meaning in the original version. So we need our source material to be as clean as possible before doing the translation.

In other words, we’re doing the work of two editors on opposite sides of an international border! That’s a big job, and it takes a seasoned dual-linguistic professional to do it well. That’s why, here at Etcetera, we only hire the best translators in the business.

Why Editing is So Important for Translation?

You may have noticed that very few books are 100% free of typos, spelling errors, and the like. That’s because editing is hard! All too often, the reader sees the text she expects to see, and not the error. In other words, even the best people in the publishing industry can’t guarantee an error-free novel — even at today’s prices! That’s where automated editing software can be a great help. But it is no replacement for manual line editing.

Fortunately, in translation editing, we don’t have to translate a lot of novels. No translation service can guarantee 100% error-free documents each and every time, but we come as close as humanly possible, and we do it by following the rules and best practices of editing in the original document and the final translation.

But, of course, our job doesn’t end there.

What is Proofreading in Translation?

The proofread is the stage where one goes over the document, looking for higher-level errors. These could be an insufficiently accurate word or phrase, like our unfortunate first driveway sentence. It could also be spelling and grammatical errors. In general proofreading, we are looking to improve the style of the writing. This is true in translation proofreading, but it is more important that the original document is translated accurately. If the original is inelegant, it might have to remain inelegant in the translated form- especially in legal documents.

In ordinary proofreading, we are also attempting to provide “proof” that the document is free of basic errors. That’s sort of what is meant by “proof,” kind of like “bullet-proof.” The term comes from medieval anti-ballistic armor testing. They didn’t mean “impervious,” they meant “tested,” but that’s another story.

In translation proofreading, we are attempting to provide “proof” that the message of the original document has found its way into the translation. Only an expert in the final language can produce that level of assurance, and that’s what we do.

Why I Need Proofreading Translation Services

Every piece of written work intended to contain and deliver value must be thoroughly edited and proofed. This is doubly true of translated documents, and only a well-trained, methodical, and talented translation expert can do that.

To learn more about our process, get in touch with our team of translation experts here at Etcetera Language Group today. Our team of world-class translators works in dozens of international languages. But, more importantly, they have the work ethic and the tenacity to deliver fully edited, fully proofed translations.


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