26/04/2022

What is proofreading and why is it a necessary step in translation?

Every translator and translation team has their own process in place for delivering what they feel is top quality work. While some translators follow a two-part process that involves translation and proofreading, at Terra Translations we suggest a three step process that includes editing. At first glance, editing and proofreading may seem somewhat redundant, so let’s look at why that isn’t the case, how these steps vary, and why proofreading is such a necessary step in the translation process. 

The Difference Between Editing and Proofreading

The point of undergoing both editing and proofreading is to ensure accuracy and create a quality translation, so it’s not surprising that many people use these terms interchangeably. However, there is a difference between editing and proofreading and they should be treated as separate activities. 

Editing is when you execute changes to the translation and make suggestions to improve the overall quality of the product. Ideally, editing will lead to the translation becoming more consistent, sharper, and error free. An editor typically takes on the following responsibilities: 

  • Doing a bilingual review between the original text and the translated version
  • Identifying and correcting any translation errors
  • Pointing out inconsistencies and adjusting to better suit market and audience needs
  • Ensuring the correct use of language
  • Confirming that the translated message is conveyed correctly in regards to both language and culture
  • Double check that the style is correct and make suggestions to improve it

Proofreading focuses on correcting any superficial errors in the translated content, such as spelling or grammar errors, formatting, punctuation, or syntax. The proofreading process begins once you have a potential “final” version of the content to work with. As this is the final step of the process, the proofreader should read the text and try to make sense of it as if they themselves were the target audience. This is especially helpful as they are the final pair of eyes on the content before submission to the client or publication.

The Importance of Proofreading

Proofreading is such an important step because during translation and editing, your original text can undergo many variations as it is reworded into a different language. When translating, the goal is not to translate word by word but to think how the same message would be said in the target language. During this process, translators may copy structures seen in the source language unintentionally and when the editor is fixing issues like this, they may introduce unintentional mistakes such as typos, double spaces, a missing word, repeated articles, and misplaced commas. These are the type of mistakes that ideally a proofreader will spot and fix.

Proofreading is a valuable step in the translation process and helps lead to an error-free translation product that illustrates how carefully translated the work is and what high quality work the translator does. 

When Should You Proofread?

The proofreading step should be the last part of your quality assurance process. You won’t dive as deep during proofreading as you did during editing. Proofreading gives you a fresh opportunity to catch any mistakes not found in the editing stage and as you’re more focused on looking for superficial errors than making massive changes to the language and expression, it can be easier to catch small errors such as grammatical or spelling ones. 

Ideally, you’ll have a second translator carry out the editing and a third translator take care of the proofreading process, as a fresh set of eyes can more easily spot errors that the first translator and editor may have overlooked. Proofreading is a challenging task and it can be tempting to make changes relating to personal preference, but at that stage the translator should focus on just fixing mistakes and syntax issues.