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Proofreading, editing, copy editing and post-editing

I had a very interesting experience recently. An agency that I really like (I've been working with them for a long time) asked me to proofread several files which had already been translated by somebody else. I had some free time so I agreed. At first everything went well. I did just what I was supposed to:
Proofreading is the final stage of the editing process, focusing on surface errors such as misspellings and mistakes in grammar and punctuation. You should proofread only after you have finished all of your other editing revisions. (the definition is taken from here)
Then I found myself in an interesting situation. I noticed that the text suddenly became very weird. The Russian version of the file stopped making sense. Suddenly it dawned on me that part of the text was done by MT! So I suddenly found myself doing post-editing work as well.
Postediting (also written post-editing) “is the process of improving a machine-generated translation with a minimum of manual labour”. (you can read the whole article here)
Thankfully, I didn't have to post-edit all the files. But that didn't mean my job continued to be predictable and within the scope of work that I had agreed to do. In the next several files, the source text became so different from the translation that I had to copy edit it.
Copy editing (also written as copy-editing or copyediting, and sometimes abbreviated to ce) is the work that an editor does to improve the formatting, style, and accuracy of text. Unlike general editing, copy editing might not involve changing the substance of the text. (see the whole article here)
 In fact, in several places the source and the target text were so different that I just had to make a new translation.
As a result, I missed the deadline because it was set for proofreading. Or course, I had to contact the agency and explain the situation because I really, really hate breaking deadlines. This is sad when clients want to cheat and think that they are always right no matter what they do. Dear clients, proofreading, editing, copy editing and post-editing are different jobs. You don't have to know all the terms, but you should know that cheating is bad! Did this company really think that they could do some of their translation by an MT tool and nobody would notice? I wonder what they were thinking... Anyway, I'll get the money and the raise in rate that I requested... And I'll be extra careful when this particular client wants another proofreading... Although I am pretty sure this agency (and it's a good and trusted one!) will be very careful when they hear more from this client, too!


  1. Very useful post, Olga! I always find myself confused about all these different terms and feel that a lot of people use them incorrectly. This clears everything up! :)

  2. Hi Arnout! Many thanks for your feedback! I am always glad to help :)

  3. Hi Olga, I've just discovered your blog thanks to @wwwforxl8 on Twitter and I will come back :)

    Thanks for your article, I'm sometimes a little confused between all these terms.

  4. Dear Louise, I am so glad you found my blog useful and worthy to come back to! I'd be happy to see you here again ;)


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