Editing, Proofreading, Revision. What's The Difference?

20. January 2023
Editing, Proofreading, Revision. What's The Difference?
Nadine Fischer
Nadine Fischer

When it comes to checking a text for accuracy, people like to talk about proofreading. Yet once you delve a little deeper into the subject, you quickly realize that there are a multitude of different names for what is supposedly the one and the same concept. There's editing, of course, while in the translation world, revision or reviewing is also commonplace. But can these terms really be considered synonyms or are there distinct differences between editing, proofreading, and revision?

What is Proofreading?

The goal of proofreading is to check and correct a text with respect to spelling, grammar, punctuation, and wording. This is the form of proofreading that we are most familiar with, such as when academic papers are checked prior to submission.

The main point here is that proofreaders do not change the style or content of the text and only correct linguistic and formal errors. Proofreading is therefore suitable for texts where the technical accuracy can already be guaranteed and only a final check for linguistic errors is needed.

What is Editing?

If, in addition to linguistic correctness, you also want to ensure that a text is flawless in terms of both content and style, then you need an editor. Editing is a far more comprehensive exercise than proofreading, but proofreading remains an aspect of editing. An edit can thus include the following tasks:

  • Proofreading (checking spelling, grammar, etc.)
  • Checking correctness of content
  • Checking of style

While editing a text, extra attention is paid to its comprehensibility, flow, and the consistent use of terminology. An important factor here is that only monolingual texts can be edited, including translations.

What is Revision?

Revision is the act of checking a translation for correctness. While editing and proofreading are only performed on monolingual texts, revision involves reading and comparing a translated text against the original. In addition to linguistic correctness, technical accuracy, style, adherence to terminology, and comprehensibility are all checked. Revision therefore includes the same quality criteria as editing, with the extra task of comparing the translated text against the source.

Moreover, revision is a required part of the translation process according to the ISO 17100 standard, and thus goes hand in hand with high-quality translations.

Editing, Proofreading, Revision. What's The Difference?
Editing, proofreading, and revision all involve checking a text for accuracy.
But what is the difference between these three approaches?

Proofreading, Editing, and Revision - The Key Differences at a Glance

The most important difference between proofreading, editing, and revision is the monolingual or bilingual nature of the review. If a translation needs to be checked against the original source text, then this process is called revision. Proofreading or editing are for texts where only a monolingual check is desired or possible.

The second important difference is the extent to which the text is examined. Proofreading concerns only the linguistic and formal correctness of the text. Editing and revision, on the other hand, also include a check of the content for technical and stylistic accuracy as well as the consistent use of terminology. Comprehensibility and, where necessary, compliance with other client stipulations are also checked while editing or revising.

Importance of Proofreading, Editing, and Revision for Successful Translations 

Proofreading, editing, and revision are indispensable components of a successful translation process. Proofreading and editing ensure that the source text is easy to understand and correct in terms of content and language. This in turn serves as an optimal basis for the translator to produce a high-quality translation.
A final revision then ensures the quality of the target text and thus achieves the best possible translation result.
If a language service provider receives a request to check or review a text, it is important to first clarify the following points with the client in order to ensure the correct task is performed:

  • Should the text be reviewed in just one language or will it also have to be compared against a source text? In the event that the source text is to be included, it must be specified what exactly is to be checked in order to optimize the time required and thus the costs.
  • If only for a monolingual text needs to be checked, extra information about the authors of the text is advantageous (Was the author a native speaker? Has the text been written from scratch or has it been created from existing text modules?).
  • To what extent should the text be checked? Is a simple check of spelling and grammar sufficient, or should style, content, and terminology also be considered? If style, content, and terminology are to be reviewed, defining the target audience will help to ensure that the text is understandable.
  • In which format will the text be provided and how should changes be made (for example, via comments in a PDF)?
  • Finally, performing a DTP check prior to publishing the reviewed text is considered good practice to ensure that all corrections have been correctly incorporated.

Proofreading, editing, or revision are not limited to just certain types of texts. For any type of text, they offer great advantages and can be used at any time for text optimization, in line with the credo of American writer Nancy Thayer: "It's never too late - in fiction or in life - to revise".

Would you like to find out more about proofreading, editing, and revision, or do you need advice on which type of text review is right for you? We would be happy to help!

This post has been translated by Anthony Dunn

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