Defining Terms: Translation, Copyediting, Proofreading

Someone asked me why I provide copyediting and proofreading services separately from translation services. She would never hand over a translated document without editing and proofreading during and after the translation process. Of course, checking one’s work is necessary to any quality work, but when I say that I copyedit and proofread, I don’t mean copyediting and proofreading my own work but other people’s work. Below is a quick guide to the differences between translation, copyediting, and proofreading.

Translation: Refers to rendering a piece of writing from one language to another while keeping in mind the cultural nuances and meaning of the original language. The best translations are not word-to-word translations, but meaning-to-meaning translations.

Copyediting: Refers to editing a piece of writing for spelling, grammar, syntax, and consistency of usages throughout. Copyediting for a publisher often requires following a specific style guide to ensure that all publications are consistent in style. A few style guides are the American Psychological Association Publication Manual for scientific publications, the Chicago Manual of Style for the social sciences, and American Medical Association Manual of Style for medical publications. Copyediting for individuals, however, doesn’t always require using a style guide.

Developmental editing: Developmental editors, also known as content editors, look at the big picture and edit for substance. Instead of a mechanical line-by-line editing, developmental editors take the whole book’s organization and ideas into consideration. Because of this, changes can range from the rewriting of sentences or paragraphs, to the reordering of the table of contents.

Proofreading: The purpose of proofreading is to make sure there are no typographical errors (typos), weird breaks (widows and orphans), or mistakes at the final stage before putting the writing into print. In publishing, proofreading happens after the copyediting stage, when the typeset pages have been printed. At this stage, it is expensive to make changes, so any changes should be limited to those that are especially jarring.

Because there  is often confusion as to what copyediting and proofreading involve, it’s always important to communicate with the client about what is expected of you.

For differences between translation and interpretation, please click here.

Happy translating, copyediting, and proofreading!

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