What are the differences between editing and proofreading?

Idea TranslationsTranslationsWhat are the differences between editing and proofreading?
What are the differences between editing and proofreading?

Although they are often used as synonyms, bilingual editing (also called bilingual revision) is not the same as proofreading. They are two distinct and yet complementary steps, carried out at different stages within a translation process and by different professionals.

What are the characteristics of each of them and their most noteworthy differences?

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And within the translation process there is a key moment, linked to revision. “A change or a set of changes that corrects or improves something” is the initial meaning that the Encyclopedia Britannica gives to the term “revision“, while its second meaning is “a new version of something: something (such as a piece of writing or a song) that has been corrected or changed“. From these diverse concepts, the idea that revision depends 100% on the objective set by the client takes hold.

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Bilingual revision is the comparison of the original and translated text side by side. Although translators are expected to perform a final review of their work before delivery, there is a huge advantage when this step is also performed by a third party. This is why at Idea Translations, a different linguist unbiased in relation to the translation edits it. They can focus on style and tone corrections that respect the particular context in which the documents will be read.

In his paper Translation Revision as Rereading: Different Aspects of the Translator’s and Reviser’s Approach to the Revision Process, Scocchera adds that bilingual revision takes various forms, depending on whether it is done by the translator of the text or the reviewer of the translation: “In fact, revision is an additional second reading for the translator who has been working on his/her translation, but it is a “new” reading for the reviewer, who approaches the translated text for the first time and, because of his “new view”, can provide different points of view on the work done by the translator and detect any weaknesses he/she may have.”


Scocchera’s analysis reveals another concept, which although related to bilingual review, is very different. It is proofreading, defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica as “to read and correct mistakes in (a written or printed piece of writing)”. This critical reading is performed by a professional other than the bilingual editor. Confusion between the two terms arises because both are often referred to as “reviewers”.

64% of translation proofreaders read and proofread alone or mostly on screen; 16% do so mainly on paper and then enter text changes in the digital file; while 12% perform a first reading on screen and then a second or more readings on paper. Source: Translation Revision as Rereading

As several authors point out, because of the intimate knowledge of the text in question, translators may not be able to look at the translation with new and fresh eyes. “On the contrary, the proofreader reads the translation for the first time, and thanks to that, the undertaken revision will have the fresh and unbiased quality it needs to be carried out in the best manner possible. We could say that while the translator is the most careful and authentic reader of a text, the proofreader is the first reader of the translated text, and a special reader at that, because he/she combines two complementary reading attitudes and roles: the “naïve” and the professional reader”.

This naïve and, at the same time, professional reading is essential for translations, since it can not only help detect mistakes in the text, but can also approach the material keeping in mind the message intended for its recipients. However, unlike bilingual editing, proofreading only focuses on the translated text without looking at the original as a reference.

In short, they are complementary roles that cannot be missed in a quality translation process. Despite their differences, if a professional and ethical result is sought, neither bilingual editing nor proofreading can be missing in the equation. The goal should always be for the end readers to understand and enjoy the material, in a personalized and unambiguous way.

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