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What exactly is proofreading?
Thread poster: Elvira Stoianov

Elvira Stoianov  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:08
German to Romanian
+ ...
Dec 1, 2002

Although I have studied translation, we were never told about proofreading and how this is done. I have only learned about this term when I came to ProZ. I had a vague idea what it could be, but now I would like to have a confirmation.

Recently I have seen in a posting that there is a difference between proofreading and editing. I don\'t know which posting this was, but this person stated that

a) proofreading means checking for spelling, grammar, correct usage of language

b) editing means checking terms and accuracy of the translation.

(I just found the excerpt at

\"In my experience, reviewing is much, much different than proofreading (checking for typos, misspells, etc.)or editing, (comparing the translated document against the original and making sure the translation is OK.

Reviewing involves both of the above, but in addition, the reviewer must provide a list of mistakes, from minor to serious, with an explanation of each mistake. That cannot be charged at the same rate as proofreading or editing.\" (written by Ricardo Martinez de la Torre)

Based on these statements, I assume that for proofreading you would not even need the source text, since you only check language and leave content errors.

I am starting this thread, because I actually thought that proofreading entails checking language, but at the same time checking correctness of the translation and make sure the message was rendered accurately.

So can you please enlighten me, what I am supposed to do when asked to proofread a document?

Thank you very much.

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Gino Amaral
Local time: 09:08
English to Portuguese
Yes, there is a difference... :) Dec 1, 2002


This what I have to say about this topic:

Proofreading includes correcting errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, use of capitals, format (headings, indents, spacing, word breaks etc.) Proofreading does not include rewriting or correcting translation.

Editing includes all the items described above, plus suggestions regarding consistency of style, syntax, rephrasing to improve clarity and readability.


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:08
German to English
+ ...
Proofreading means reading proofs Dec 1, 2002

Proofs are what a printer (i.e. the person, not the Epson sitting on your desk) sends back. The proofreader compares these against the author\'s manuscript to make sure that the typesetter has set the text correctly.

In the age of electronic editing, proofreading is often used to mean other things, but these meanings are incorrect usage. You can use \"proofreading\" to mean what ever you like, provided you agree in detail with your customer what is meant.


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English to Portuguese
Proofreading most of the times means comparing source and target texts throughly Dec 1, 2002


I agree with Tayfun. Most of the times we need to confirm with client what it is meant by proofreading. From my experience, proofreading in Europe always includes comparing both source and target texts for correctness in terminology, style, and so forth. This means a second translator revises the target text to see if translator has missed something (if text was left untranslated, if the correct meaning was expressed, if the right terminology was used throughout document, if translator has followed all guidelines). Might be a bit strange but even if the translator self-proofreads all his/her work (all translators should do) he/she can very often miss something. For that reason, many companies rely on a second translator to ensure that mistakes do not go beyond a second translator (a proofreader) if they have been overlooked by the translator. Very often too, the proofreader is a much more specialized translator working only in one or two subjects and with a full understanding of the field he/she proofreads into. The proofreader might also be someone that works as an experienced translator for a company for a long time and that knows more about a specific subject area. In that case, the proofreader helps new translators and sort of \"routes\" them along advising them on better ways of translating, better terminology, etc.

Hope this helps



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Johann Kristjansson  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:08
English to Icelandic
Yes, exactly Dec 1, 2002

My Icelandic understanding of proofreading is exactly the same as Gino points out. If you are asked to proofread something, you certainly don\'t need the source text since you are only supposed to check for usage, along with grammar-, spelling- and typing mistakes. It is a completely different cup of tea if you are asked to revise a translation. Then you are being asked to compare the source text and the target text.


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Local time: 21:08
English to Japanese
+ ...
What if the original translation wasn't satisfied? Dec 2, 2002

I have one small question. I have proofread others\' translations several times before, but the quality of one translation was so low, and I had to almost re-write the translation. In this case, could I request not the \"proofreading fee\" but the \"translation fee\"?

This happened before I actually took a look at the translation, and I could not make sure the quality.

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Raffaella Cornacchini  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:08
English to Italian
+ ...
more on proofreading Dec 2, 2002

I work in a publishing house and though I basically agree with what has been said, I wish to stress that source text is absolutely vital for proofreading (how can you check that a whole sentence has been cut by the typesetters if you don\'t have the source text? how can you check that the name of a XVIII-century economist has been spelled correctly?).

Moreover in proofreading you will also have to check the consistency of the graphical solutions adopted. Let\'s say that in a text all the titles should be in bold and the subtitles in italics - well, you will have to check that too. The same applies to fonts: if the text is in Times, for example, it should not turn into a Courier along the way.

I would say that proofreading requires a very keen eye for details, while for editing you will need a thorough competence of the subject and a complete command of the language.


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Eva Blanar  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:08
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Comments from a very tired proofreader Dec 2, 2002

Lately I keep receiving lots of different proofreading jobs and in most cases I wish I was the translator instead: it is simply incredible what sort of people are \"translators\"! (With all these CAT tools, it must be increasingly easy to translate, but it might become increasingly difficult to proofread.) For this reason, I was about to raise this issue anyway, because I find it is simply shameful to get half of the pay of a bad translator for this job. I know, I know, I should have checked first, have some basic quality control, but you see, in some cases you simply don\'t have an option: if it is a large project (like this one), with lots of translators and proofreaders involved, and the project has a strict timing schedule (and you, poor fool, you are a team player), you cannot throw back the low quality translations just like that!

Well, as to the real issue: yes, there is a difference between proofreading and editing, but no, I never heard of different rates for the two (or three) of these jobs. My experience is that the proofreader is in charge of everything (from the proper use of the industry-specific terms to formatting), but I know that in some happier countries, formatting is none of their job. Personally, I never heard about \"reviewing jobs\", but in this particular project, for instance, I am required to write a detailed \"proofreader\'s report\" indicating the number and character of the mistakes, explanation of the incorrect wording etc. - as if it was an exam (only the examinator does not have to \"redo\" the job).

In practice, I saw a differentiation of the related tasks only in the publishing business, where first the \"editor\" checks the translation (also for style) and then, a \"proofreader\" tackles the spelling, grammar and formatting. I like this scheme, it\'d be much easier that way.

In a pragmatical approach, I am afraid we\'ll have to go on with proofreading/editing as it is, we can only check with the client how \"deep\" we shall go, but if we are very choicy about accepting jobs, we might run out of clients.

The other thing to do is to keep your proofreading rates high: those who require quality will be ready to pay for it and, in my experience, these clients / agencies are less likely to hire cheapies for the translation jobs, too.

At any rate, if you know about an association to defend the interests of the proofreaders / editors, please let me know!

Good luck,


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Rob Albon  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:08
Japanese to English
+ ...
Proofreading should be negotiated before job... Jan 4, 2003

I agree with Tayfun. I have taken translation courses where proofreading, reviewing, editing have all been defined as different tasks. However, in actuality, proofreading is just making sure the client gets what he/she wants. That means that you have to negotiate what exactly the client wants. If you are just checking grammar, spelling, etc., be sure to let the client know that you cannot verify the accuracy of the translation, then collect your easy paycheck. If you are expected to check accuracy, and the translation is very poor, provide an example or two to the client and recommend that it be re-translated. Don\'t get in over your head, get under paid, and get blamed for someone else\'s errors (if the translation is crappy, you invariably will miss an error or two that could damage your reputation).

Don\'t make the mistakes I have done, accepting an assignment with many problems, getting underpaid to fix those problems, and then getting blamed when you are unable to fix all the problems. Once you accept the responsibility, it will become your fault, regardless of the initial quality, so be careful to negotiate your responsibilities beforehand!

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Yaotl Altan  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:08
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
One term Feb 13, 2008

Would it be possible to summarize proofreading/editin/reviewin using just ONE term?

Would it be feasible?

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