Distinguishing Proofreading vs. Editing
Thread poster: Vadney (X)

Vadney (X)
German to English
+ ...
Mar 9, 2006

Hello, everyone:

Has anyone experienced the agency asking for proofreading and expecting editing?

Why don't agencies and project managers know the difference? If anyone has a more concise distinction between the two, I would very much like to hear from you. Here's a nice link: http://www.writing-world.com/tech/corpedit.shtml

Here's my response to one:
That's not a common mistake made by PMs and agencies. Most people asking for proofreading or editing mix the two up. Here's a working definition of both.

Proofreading: Requires target language knowledge of grammar, spelling and an ability to identify obvious mistakes and omissions. Post-translation checking of grammar, spelling, completeness of the text and correction of obvious errors. Proofreading means the critical revision of a text. In translation, this task mainly consists of checking aspects of spelling, grammar and syntax plus the general coherency and integrity of the target text. Proofreading constitutes the translator's quality assurance; a factor that is always necessary within a purely human procedure. Proofreading should always be carried out by an experienced translator. OR: Proofreading is the procedure of checking composed material against the original manuscript for the purpose of locating errors before the newsletter is published or printed.

Editing: Requires subject-matter expertise. Post-translation critical evaluation of the author's (or translator's) understanding of the material and/or use of terminology or concepts in the text. Includes also correction of obvious errors.
Editors are not proofreaders, although reading proofs is often part of the job description. The difference is that proofreaders are charged with simply looking for typographical and mechanical errors in copy. Proofreaders check written material, usually as the final step before it is set into type, to correct errors in grammar, spelling, usage and style (in this case, style refers to a given publication's guidelines for consistency in how words, phrases, typographical elements, etc., are to be used -- or not used).

This is probably less true of editors in other fields, but editors are expected to be fully qualified professionals. Just as judges are lawyers, astronauts are pilots and FBI agents are cops,

An editor's mandate also includes keeping an eye out for libel errors of fact. The extent to which copy editors must verify facts varies widely. In magazine and book publishing, this is usually considered an essential task; sometimes it falls on the shoulders of a copy editor, but often it is the job of a separate fact checker. Assigning editors (the writer's/translator's direct supervisors, who usually edit stories for content and organization before they are sent out) and copy editors will check "facts" that appear questionable, but they do not have the time to verify that every comma is in place, every name is spelled correctly and every figure is accurate.

Proofreading and editing are two different activities, each requiring different skills and levels of expertise; hence, they command different rates of compensation, depending on what needs to be done.

Hope that helps,


Rosa Maria Duenas Rios (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:29
Revision, editing, and proofreading Mar 9, 2006

Hello Harold,

I agree with you, there is much confusion about what tasks each of these activities encompass and, if client and translator do not agree beforehand to what these terms mean, missunedrstandings are bound to arise in many cases.

However, what you define as "proofreading", would be "revision" to me, which is the first step of the quality control in a translation.

The second step would be "editing", and here I completely agree with your definition.

And the last step would be "proofreading" which, to me, only means making sure that there are no mistakes of any kind (spelling, grammar, typos, inconsistencies in format, capitalizing, etc.) in the original that will be sent to print.

But I am not surprised that our definitions are not the same. This happens all the time, and my conclusion has been that no matter what we call the processes to ensure the quality of a document, we have to agree with our clients beforehand, on how we are going to call these processes, what they entail, and who is going to re responsible for completing them.

And last, but not least, in the February 2006 issue of the ATA Chronicle (page 32) there is an interesting article on the subject, by Alexandra Russell-Bitting, entitled "A Second Pair of Eyes: Revision, Editing, Proofreading."


Peter Enright  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:29
French to English
+ ...
Could ProZ help here? Mar 10, 2006

I agree too. I wonder if ProZ could provide such definitions for potential clients, as they do for 'interpreting' vs 'translating' which terms laypeople frequently confuse. This would save time and stress for members trying to ascertain customers' expectations.


Marc P (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:29
German to English
+ ...
Distinguishing Proofreading vs. Editing Mar 10, 2006

Harold Vadney wrote:

Why don't agencies and project managers know the difference?

Because there is no consensus on what the terms actually mean.

I refuse to use "proofreading" for anything other than the checking of proofs against a manuscript for typographical errors, in accordance with your second definition: "Proofreading is the procedure of checking composed material against the original manuscript for the purpose of locating errors before the newsletter is published or printed." As soon as this function is extended to include matters of style, grammar, or even spelling, any clear demarcation between it and revising/checking or editing is lost.

The reason why "proofreading" is used for revising or checking (or editing) is that it sounds fancier. The term "quality assurance" is widely abused for much the same reason: when used by translators or agencies, it invariably just means "checking", and not any formal procedure for controlling the checking process in the strict sense of the word.



Claire Titchmarsh (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:29
Italian to English
+ ...
Concise definitions Mar 10, 2006

The Oxford English says:

proofreading - means reading proofs or other material and marking errors.

editing - preparing written material for publication by correcting, condensing or otherwise modifying it.

I only know of one (excellent) agency that makes this distinction. The two services are called "evaluation" and "revision". "Evaluation" basically involves reading through someone else's translation and pointing out anything that's wrong with it, without making any physical changes, then sending it back to the agency. "Revision" is what we could also call "editing" and involves actually making all the various corrections etc. The agency pays two different fees for these services and expects you to spend different amounts of time, i.e. much longer on "revision". Unfortunately, this agency is the only one of its kind, in Italy at least.


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