What is translation editing?

Translation editing takes place after translation into the target language and before proofreading. Like regular copyeditors, translation editors ensure the following qualities in the text: clarity, consistency and correctness. But in contrast to copyediting, the following pillars direct translation editing: language expertise, transcreation and language localisation.

In my lightning talk at the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading 2022 Conference, I discussed my journey from academic Sinology to editing and how translation editing became a bridge between these two worlds for me. In this post, I consider three components of translation editing: language expertise, transcreation and localisation, with some examples from my experience editing Chinese texts published in English.

What does translation editing consist of?

Language expertise

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

Copyediting Chinese texts translated into English

In editing texts translated from Chinese to English, the profound cultural and linguistic differences between the two languages create many areas that a translation editor needs to address. For instance, in Chinese, there are no articles that are obviously used in English. There are fewer prepositions than in English, and there is no verb conjugation, whether in the sense of tenses or subject-verb agreement. Most nouns take little notice of plural forms, and one word in Chinese can usually be translated into various words from the same word family in English. Another example is the comma splice, which occurs to joining two complete sentences without placing an appropriate conjunction between them. It is commonly found in texts translated from Chinese. Unlike English, Chinese tolerates longer sentences without creating issues of clarity.


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, the answer to the following question guides transcreation: Does the translation preserve the meaning of the original text?

Language localisation

The final element of translation editing, language localisation, adapts the references of the source text to the translated context. Simply put, localisation answers the following question: Will the target audience understand the terminology and style?

How is translation editing different from translating?

Translation editing is a different process from translation and takes place after the text is translated into the target language. Translating a text focuses on the message and transposes the text from one language to another. On the other hand, translation editing involves copyediting and harmonising the original and translated versions of the text. This harmonisation consists of aligning the translated version’s message, style and tone with the author’s intention (as reflected in the original text). It also ensures that the translated version is relevant and comprehensible to the target readers.

How is translation editing different from copyediting?

Translation editing has a more extensive scope and comprises copyediting. Additionally, it ensures effective language localisation and transcreation. On the other hand, copyediting works closely with grammar and spelling and addresses language and styling inconsistencies.

Not only copyediting is part of translation editing, but there are some similarities between copyediting and translation editing. For instance, both services work with sentences and paragraphs. Furthermore, they partake in creating the style sheet. A style sheet is the complete record of the language and styling decisions taken by the author and editor to ensure clarity and consistency of the text.


Translation editing is a complex process preparing a text for publication in a language different than the one in which it was originally written. It requires an understanding of the original text’s cultural context (transcreation), its translation audience (language localisation) and bilingual expertise. Working with a competent, bilingual editor may be the best way to achieve a clear and relevant translated text.

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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, a student member of the Society of Indexers and a vetted partner of the Alliance of Independent Authors.