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Editing and proofreading: combined or separate activities?
Thread poster: Vitaliy Plinto

Vitaliy Plinto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:17
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
Nov 27, 2008

Dear Colleagues,

One of my favorite topics of discussion is the relationship between editing and proofreading and how they should be viewed as activities. Despite the fact that I can tell the difference between editing and proofreading, thus, viewing editing as comparing source and target texts while looking for potential errors, and viewing proofreading as reading over the target text while looking for errors that may not sound right in the target language (but even if everything sounds right in the target language, that does not guarantee that everything has been translated correctly from the source text, that's where editing comes into play), I feel that editing and proofreading are combined activities in some way because editing entails some proofreading (e.g. I must proofread first and find the error before I can correct it, or in other words, edit it). So my two questions would be:

1. Do you think editing and proofreading should be viewed as combined or separate activities of the translation project? Why?

2. If you think that editing and proofreading can be viewed as combined activities, should we account for the cost of proofreading in the editing rate when we prepare our rate sheets, and thus, simply charge higher for the editing?

Thanks!

Vitaliy


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Susan Welsh  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:17
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
See ProZ archive of articles Nov 27, 2008

There's a useful article in the archives on this subject, by Viktoria Gimbe.
However, in my experience as chief-cook-and-bottle-washer/managing editor of a magazine, and with editing/proofreading jobs on ProZ (either proofreading/checking translations, or just monolingual English), most clients think of them as one and the same, and expect you to "make it nice." For sure you need to look at the document before committing to a price, to see how much work it is going to entail. That is sometimes not at all obvious, but at least you should look at the text.

Good luck,
Susan


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 13:17
English to French
+ ...
They overlap in many cases Nov 27, 2008

As Susan says, there is an article written by yours truly at http://www.proz.com/doc/543.

Proofreading and editing (or reviewing) are two different activities, with different purposes. However, editing often incorporates proofreading. When you edit, you compare source and target text and take note of any mistakes. However, since you thoroughly read both source and target texts while you edit, you also easily spot typos, word usage mistakes, readability issues and such, which is normally part of proofreading. In that sense, the two activities overlap. However, proofreading always deals only with the target text, so it seldom borrows from editing.

Perhaps I should stress here the importance of using both editing and proofreading separately for the same text. To me at least, that is the proper quality assurance method. That is, a text, once translated, should be edited, and once the edited text is available, it should still be proofread. The point of translation ultimately is to render a text in a different language. This also includes making it read as though it was originally written in the target language. This is where proofreading comes in, as proofreading deals more with style, readability and clarity. A professional translation is also polished, and polishing a text can only be done on the target text, without the distraction of the source text. In that sense, a translation can (and often should) be proofread by a person who is not at all a translator. To put it simply, written material should be polished by a writer.

Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of clients don't even know that these are two separate activities. Therefore, it is up to you to educate them (perhaps you can refer them to the above article). When I am asked for either of these services, my first response always is a brief explanation of what proofreading and editing mean to me, so the client has a better idea of what service they are ordering from me. For instance, I make it clear that proofreading only deals with the target text, so the client knows even before placing the work order that they can't expect me to check that the translation was accurate - unless they switch to editing and pay the price.

All the best!

Edit: Here are some resources to complement the article on the difference between editing and proofreading. Please, bear in mind that these were not written from the translator's point of view.

http://www.engineering.utoronto.ca/about/programs/communication/Online_Handbook/The_Writing_Process/Revising__Editing__and_Proofreading.htm (you also may want to check the site that contains this resource, which contains several useful guides on technical documentation topics - http://www.engineering.utoronto.ca/about/programs/communication/Online_Handbook.htm )

http://writing.colostate.edu/guides/processes/editing/ (its mother site, very useful, being http://writing.colostate.edu/guides/index.cfm )

http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite/editing.html#INTROCOMMA
.

[Edited at 2008-11-27 20:40 GMT]


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 16:17
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Client education Nov 27, 2008

Viktoria Gimbe wrote (and I edited to make it general):


Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of clients don't even know _____________.
Therefore, it is up to you to educate them.

When I am asked for these services, my first response always is a brief explanation of _______________, so the client has a better idea of what service they are ordering from me. For instance, I make it clear that ________________, so the client knows even before placing the work order that they can't expect me to ___________ - unless they ______________ and pay the price.


Viktoria,

The above fill-in-the-blanks exercise is a good one for all of us. A few thousand such forms completed by Prozians might develop into the TCU - Translation Client University.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 13:17
English to French
+ ...
I would like to be a teacher at TCU - where do I apply? Nov 27, 2008

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

A few thousand such forms completed by Prozians might develop into the TCU - Translation Client University.


Right you are, José! In a sense, I already consider this forum as such. I am well aware that these threads are not read only by those who post them, but also by the community at large. My aim is to help the poster, but I also hope that others will read (and hopefully apply) this guidance. I also hope that those who don't agree fully or who have something to add will post their own little gems. Indeed, this is a great substitute for business and technical education.

I like the little form you posted - as I was reading it, my Tourette's syndrome kicked in. I know that wasn't the original intention - but I had a good laugh!

[Edited at 2008-11-27 21:01 GMT]


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 16:17
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Right here, Viktoria! Nov 28, 2008

I've put some "classes" here on Proz. The latest one is on video translation:
http://www.proz.com/doc/2089

Maybe Proz would be willing to assemble the TCU from selected articles on the Knowledge Database. All that would be needed then is to create tests, each subject would earn "credits", and a certain number of these would turn into a CTC diploma: Certified Translation Client.


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Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 19:17
English
+ ...
In an attempt to educate clients.... Nov 29, 2008

on my profile page, I explain the difference between proofreading and editing (as I see it), and where they overlap, as Viktoria mentions. An excerpt follows:

"The difference between proofreading and editing is mainly a matter of degree, with editing the more intensive process of the two. The term "proofreading" is often interpreted to mean "light editing" or indeed, any kind of editing, but editing is distinctly different from proofreading. Briefly, proofreading is identifying and correcting typographical, spelling, punctuation and minor grammatical errors. Editing involves modifying a text to ensure that it is accurately written and makes sense to the reader. The basic distinction is that proofreading does not involve any rewriting of the text while editing does.

. . . In practice, proofreading and editing overlap somewhat. Editing addresses proofreading but in addition focuses on word usage, sentence structure, content logic, and writing style. An editor shows writers how to improve their writing so it is comprehensible, free of errors, and as well presented as possible. This goes far beyond merely checking for and correcting errors as in proofreading.

It is my opinion and experience that an editor can proofread but a proofreader cannot necessarily edit. Proofreading requires not much more than a sharp eye and knowledge of only spelling, punctuation and grammar. Editing demands command of the English language, excellent writing skills, and a broad range of knowledge in addition to proofreading skills."


I also point out there are different levels of editing, which I define as basic and intensive.

Generally I charge for proofreading by the word, and for editing by the hour. I've learned to ask to see a sample of the text before quoting a rate so I can assess for myself whether it is proofreading or editing that is required, and if editing, whether basic or intensive.

Many times a client will ask to have a text proofread, when in fact what is required is editing. As I mention above and on my profile, the basic distinction is that rewriting is involved in editing, but not in proofreading.


While I agree with Viktoria that written material should be polished by a writer, it should be obvious that I disagree on the point that "proofreading deals more with style, readability and clarity." An editor/writer deals with style, readability and clarity. A proofreader identifies and corrects typos and errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 13:17
English to French
+ ...
It depends on the context in which it is used Nov 29, 2008

Suzan Hamer wrote:

While I agree with Viktoria that written material should be polished by a writer, it should be obvious that I disagree on the point that "proofreading deals more with style, readability and clarity." An editor/writer deals with style, readability and clarity. A proofreader identifies and corrects typos and errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar.


You may be right in that, normally, that is what the two activities deal with. However, editing in a text production (or technical writing) environment is not at all the same as editing in the translation environment. Likewise, proofreading in a text production environment is not at all the same as proofreading in a translation setting. That is why I was suggesting a broader definition for proofreading.

While editing normally involves criticizing the text, in a translation setting, by the time editing is used, it is not possible to criticize the source text - it has already been approved and translated. However, editing in a translation setting involves a major task that classical editing doesn't, which is comparing source and target text. So, polishing the text cannot be done at that stage (especially because of the distraction of the source text). That is why I believe that polishing a translated text is best done at the proofreading stage, even though classical proofreading doesn't deal with this at all.


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Phong Le  Identity Verified
Vietnam
Local time: 01:17
Vietnamese
+ ...
Suggest 02 quotes Dec 25, 2008

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

When I am asked for either of these services, my first response always is a brief explanation of what proofreading and editing mean to me, so the client has a better idea of what service they are ordering from me. For instance, I make it clear that proofreading only deals with the target text, so the client knows even before placing the work order that they can't expect me to check that the translation was accurate - unless they switch to editing and pay the price

.

[Edited at 2008-11-27 20:40 GMT]


Totally agreed. I always try to quote Client in 02 rows:

1) Proofreading only: only checking typo and grammar of target text.
Rate: US$ 1/word
2) Editing: proofreading and correct any wrong translation and writting style.
Rate US$ 2/word

Then CLient will send me the PO with which rate he wants.

The issue is, as a professional translator, I would like to do option 2, but many case, Client send the PO for option 1.

Phong


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