What Is the Difference Between an Editor and a Proofreader?

By Hagen Weiss

That’s a question that comes up a lot when we first start planning a new project with a client. We’ve already discussed the tasks and responsibilities of the proofreader in a previous blog post . Today, we’ll go over the duties of another key player on any major translation project, the editor.

What Is the Role of a Translation Editor?

On a translation project, the editor’s role is complementary to that of the translator and the proofreader. They usually are the one to give the final seal of approval on a completed translation; they ensure the quality of the text as a whole before it is sent for proofreading.

A good editor should not be overzealous; by the time the document lands on their desk, the content has already been professionally translated. Their role is to make sure that the emotions and tone of voice come across as originally intended and that the text flows naturally. The editor should be perfectly fluent in both the original and the target language to ensure that the meaning of the original text as well the style is retained.

The editor will also confirm that the proper terminology is used throughout the document, which may involve doing some research in the dictionary, online or in specialized reference sources, and ensure vocabulary consistency, which is especially crucial if more than one translator was involved.

Moreover, the editor will ensure that the expressions used throughout the text are appropriate for the target market. For example, expressions that are common in French (France) will be different to those used in French (Canada); the professional should therefore be familiar with popular idioms.

Once the editor has revised the document, it will usually be sent back to the translator for review (more on that below) and then sent to a proofreader, who will be in charge of correcting all technical mistakes (punctuation, spelling, grammar, etc.) in the text.


Does the Editor Work in Collaboration With the Translator?

Most of the time, the translator and editor will collaborate and communicate directly to make sure that they understand each other’s work. In other contexts, such as on larger projects, the translator will simply receive a new revised version of their translation with comments from the editor.

In any case, the editor will not make changes directly into the document, they will simply suggest modifications and include comments for the translator to review (which is often done using the “Track Changes” feature in Microsoft Word).

Indeed, the two professionals can sometimes disagree on the word to be used or the way in which a sentence should be written and may need to have a discussion to come to an agreement and decide on the best and final translation for the client.

Why Is Editing with Proofreader Important?

Having a translation editor working on your project can be particularly beneficial if it is a specialized translation that requires a strong knowledge of or a specific background in a specific subject (pharmaceutical, legal, technical). That’s also true when the tone of voice and style used is industry-specific, such as video game translation, which is often more informal and conversational than your typical content localization or translation.

By having a translator, an editor and a proofreader assigned to your project, you can rest assured that the text was the subject of an in-depth discussion and that the final translation has been properly localized for your target audience.

This is what is commonly referred to in the industry as TEP: Translation, Editing proofreading and is part of our standard workflow on all bigger projects here at iGlobe. However, following this three-step process may not be necessary for smaller projects or more straight-forward translations; this is something we can advise on based on your specific circumstances.

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