What is the difference between translation editing and translation proofreading?

Texts published in a language different than the one in which they were originally written require a complex editing approach, encompassing working with the original text and the translated version. Just like any other manuscript, translated texts will undergo editing and proofreading in preparation for publishing. But what is the difference between translation editing and translation proofreading? Translation editing performs the function of conventional copyediting to ensure the text is clear, consistent and correct. Moreover, it ensures the harmony between the translated and original text versions’ message, style and tone. Translation proofreading works only with the translated text to ensure it is correctly formatted, error-free and ready for printing. Read on to find out more about these two services.

What is translation editing?

Without translation editing, mistranslations, incorrect use of words, unfamiliar and confusing idioms and references can make the text less less compelling to the target readers. These issues may prompt the reader to put the book away, so translation editing is essential.

Translation editing prepares texts for publication in another language, working with the original text in the source language and its translated version. It takes place after translating the text and before proofreading it. Like regular copyediting, translation editing ensures the text’s clarity, correctness and consistency. Moreover, it incorporates three additional elements: bilingual expertise, transcreation and language localisation.

What are the components of translation editing?

Language expertise

The translation editor must have a perfect understanding of the two languages: the source and the translated language. Only then, can they ensure that the text has been copyedited and that language localisation and transcreation have been incorporated effectively. This way, the text becomes comprehensible and accessible to the target audience. Moreover, bilingual expertise allows the editor to look into the two other components of translation editing: transcreation and language localisation.

Language localisation

Effective language localisation is essential for texts published in a language different from the one in which they were originally written. It adapts the cultural references and other elements of the source text to the translated context. This way the translation becomes relevant and relatable to those reading the translated version. Simply put, localisation answers the question: Will the target audience understand the text’s terminology, cultural references and style?

During translation editing, the editor implements language localisation. Language localisation occurred when the Harry Potter manuscript, written in UK English and set in Britain, was adapted for the US readers. Although the US and UK use the same language, their Englishes differ, so among others, ‘sherbet lemon’ became a ‘lemon drop’ in the US version.


Transcreation is an essential element of translation editing. The ability to transcreate a text involves reviewing the translated document against the original to ensure that the message and tone are maintained in the translated text. In other words, transcreation answers this question: Does the translation preserve the meaning of the original text?

To make the translated texts relatable and relevant to the target audience, tasks comprising transcreation may include:

  • cultural adaptation of idioms, metaphors and other idiosyncratic references,
  • adaptation of jokes, puns and wordplay to maintain humour,
  • ensuring the translated content respects the cultural norms, taboos and sensitivities of the target audience,
  • adapting storytelling elements to match the cultural background of the new audience.

What is translation proofreading?

Just like regular proofreading, translation proofreading ensures that spelling, punctuation and grammar are correct and there are no format issues. It is a final check before publishing the translated text. Proofreading is a light-touch, final intervention that makes no significant changes. It checks if all the language, formatting and styling decisions made during translation editing have been consistently reflected.


Translation proofreading and editing are vital in bridging the gap between the original texts and their translations. The complexities arising from differences in grammar, expressions and cultural nuances require careful consideration during the editing process. By understanding the intricacies of both languages and cultures, translation editors can bring texts to life in another language while preserving their intrinsic meaning and engaging new readers. Translation editing is essential to ensure that the translated text accurately conveys the message and tone of the source text while catering to the target audience’s understanding and cultural context. On the other hand, translation proofreading ensures that the translated text is correct, consistent and ready for publication.

To work with an experienced translation editor and proofreader, contact me for a free sample edit (and remember to use my early bird discount). If you want to hear more from me, including self-editing and writing tips, follow me on MastodonTwitter, Facebook and LinkedIn or join my newsletter.

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I am an editor, indexer and a lifelong lover of literature with a PhD in literary history. I am an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) and a student member of the Society of Indexers.

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