Although professional translators make a clear distinction between editing and proofreading services, clients do not necessarily do the same. BY GRISEL CREMONESI

As language service providers, we deal with editing and proofreading on a daily basis, and, unfortunately, we find that sometimes clients use these terms interchangeably. Since we realize that there is a definite difference between editing a translated document and proofreading it, this article aims to dispel the notion that they are the same thing and elucidate the differences between each process.
It is not unusual for our office to receive requests asking for proofreading quotes when, as a matter of fact, what the client/agency needs is editing of their material. At times, this confusion is real; that is, many clients do not genuinely know (and of course they are not required to) what each process implies. Other times, the request may be made deliberately in order to obtain lower rates. For this reason, we strongly believe that clients and translation agencies need to be educated in this regard. Consequently, it is important for the language service provider to clearly and properly clarify ahead of time the terms used for these processes so that the client knows what to expect with regard to service and rates.
Because there seems to be no precise definition for these terms in the translation business, they are used indistinctly when, in reality, they involve different activities. Thus, we may come across various terms such as editing, copy editing, stylistic editing, line editing, proofreading, reviewing, and so on. In our practice, we consider that editing involves any kind of modification that affects both content and form, even though in the translation business the term editing is sometimes broadly used for copy editing. We primarily focus on two editing processes: copy editing and proofreading, and we define them as follows:

Copy editing encompasses a wide variety of linguistic activities with the purpose of preparing a translated document for publication. This process involves comparing the target text against the source text prior to the proofreader’s review. We divide our copy editing process into two steps. The first step entails a line-by-line comparison of the original text against the translated document in order to identify omissions and additions, as well as mistakes relating to meaning. The second step focuses on grammar, usage, word choice, inconsistencies, punctuation, and spelling errors, in addition to basic format considerations. It is very important to point out that copy editing does not involve content changes or major rewriting/reorganizing of the text (also called substantive, structural or content editing), or major stylistic changes (also called stylistic editing), unless the client specifically orders this type of editing. On the other hand, if necessary, we generally make minor style changes and also provide a few suggestions to enhance fluency.

Proofreading is performed on the final version of a copy-edited translation. It basically involves the revision of the translated piece in order to seek and correct typos and minor details that might have gone undetected during the copy editing process, such as a comma instead of a period, a straight opening quotation mark instead of a curly one, double spaces between words, among other possible typos. Proofreading is performed independently of the source text. There is yet another form of proofreading that we are frequently asked to perform: reviewing of typeset copies or proofs. This process encompasses two steps as well. The first one involves checking the final unformatted translation against its formatted proof in order to verify that there are no content discrepancies between them; for instance, ensuring that no text was omitted, left untranslated or accidentally modified. The second step involves checking the formatted proof of the target text against the formatted final version of the source text to verify correct location of graphics, illustrations, tables, and any other form of art; text placement; page numbering; table of contents; cross references; incorrect word breaks; captions; font; colors; etc. There are as many rounds of proofs as necessary. This is the last stage prior to the translation being published.

As we can see, even when these activities involve different levels of reviews and changes, there is some overlap among them. In order for us, as language service providers, to be able to charge what is fair for each service, it is our responsibility to clarify ahead of time what each process involves and what the price for each service is. We truly believe that the wisest thing to do when someone requests a proofreading quote is to ask the client to send a sample of the text. With sample in hand, we can then assess it, determine exactly what the client needs and prepare a quote accordingly. GC