Why Proofreading is Vital For Translations

Translation is a complex process – it involves the communication of a message from the source language (original), to the target language (new), and will usually involve a team of translators and linguists who take each translation through the different stages, from its original form to a finished text that is ready for its target audience.

This process often includes specialists such as, linguists, designers, technical experts, editors and proof-readers.

Effective proofreading is an often overlooked, but vitally important, part of the translation process and is essential in assuring accuracy – especially in high-end marketing campaigns, or specialist translations such as, legal and medical translations, where small mistakes can literally be the difference between life and death.

This short guide explores the differences between editing and proofreading for translations, and explains why they are an essential part of the translation process.


Editing or Proofreading?

Many people assume that when a translation is edited it is also proofread. This isn’t usually the case as they are both very different, but essential, steps in a professional translation process.

• Editing – this primarily focuses on the terminology used within the translation, ensuring correct terms have been used throughout and that the layout, formatting and so on, are accurate. It will check for errors of a grammatical nature, but the majority of editing deals with issues around sentence structure, construction, clarity and fluidity of writing.

• Proofreading – this is usually the final check that a translation goes through before being delivered to the client. It will check for spelling mistakes, incorrect punctuation, inconsistencies, and surface grammatical errors. The essence of the message is checked for reliability, images and captions are checked for accuracy and cultural correctness, and it ensures the final piece is as error-free as possible.

Native Proof Readers

For a proof reader to accurately check a translation they should ideally be a native speaker of the target language.

This is because only a native speaker of a language will pick up on subtle inconsistencies and errors within the text. For instance, if you have commissioned a translation from English to Arabic for a high-end marking campaign there are vast differences in culture, religion, humour, phrases, and so on, which should be considered for their viability and accuracy so that they do not cause unnecessary offence. A mistake at this level can be costly.

There are also various meanings for the same sounding word which aren’t always picked up by spell checks, as they are spelt correctly, but used in the wrong context. For instance, in the English language, you might use ‘there’ instead of ‘their’, or ‘too’ instead of ‘to’. A native proof reader should easily pick up on this type of error.


Proofreading, Revisions, and Translation Tools

A professional translation company will use not only many different stages and people within the translation process but also many translation tools.
These tools will include Computer Aided Translation (CAT) software which might include the following:

• Spell checkers – automatically checks for errors in a multitude of languages

• Electronic dictionaries – search for terminology and track usage statistics

• Translation Memory (TM) – database with original and translated sections that can be automatically reused

• Machine Translation – an automated translation by a computer as opposed to a human.

Any revisions are made by the editing team, and then finally the proof reader. This ensures mistakes are kept to a minimum and that the translation is correct both for its intended context and its actual form. A final proof should be re-checked after any revisions have been made.


Proof readers are a vital part of the translation process that should never be glossed over, or skipped, in order to save money or time, as the likelihood is that it won’t!

Most professional translation companies use proof readers as the final check point in the process to ensure the work of their translation team is accurate, precise and well-structured. They should have a sharp eye for any linguistic, structural, grammar, punctuation, or formatting issues which will guarantee the finished translation is the best that it can be.

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