No matter how good a translator is, they can make an occasional mistake. Typos or minor grammar mistakes do not look good on a translated document, however mistakes related to the meaning of certain words or phrases, omission of sentences or unfinished sentences/ideas will ruin the entire text and even change the overall meaning. While the translators read the entire text once they are done, they may not spot the mistake. Therefore, proofreading is essential. It should be done by professional proofreaders, who are trained linguists, speaking the same languages as those of the source and the target text. 

Every full-service translation agency offers proofreading services along with the translation service. You can see below why this is important and how proofreading improves the quality of the translated text. 

What is Proofreading and Why it is Needed?

Generally, proofreading means to check the initial copy or electronic version of a publication to detect and correct production errors of text or art. In other words, in translation this means to read and mark the mistakes on a given text and then correct them. 

Proofreading is necessary, since it makes sure that the quality of the service provided is the best possible. While the translator works, they may omit some mistakes or choose an inappropriate word. The job of the proofreader is to find those omissions and correct them, so that the final version of the text is mistake-free. 

Proofreading or Revision: What is the Difference?

In some cases, the service provided by a proofreader can be divided into two separate tasks: proofreading and revision. There is a difference between the two jobs in the sense of what they include: 

  • Proofreading is performed using only the target text. In other words, it involves one text and one language – the target ones. 
  • Revision of a translation is done when both the source and the target texts are present and compared. It involves two texts and two languages – the source and the target ones. 

Based on the above-written, it can be concluded that proofreading aims to check whether the text makes sense and that all the sentences are finished. It corrects typos, grammatical and stylistic mistakes but doesn’t guarantee 100% coverage of the meaning and nuances of the original text, since it is not present for comparison. 

The revision aims to correct all of the mistakes as the proofreading and additionally compares the two texts to make sure that all stylistic nuances are present and that the correct words are used in the translated text to convey exactly the same meaning as the source document. The revision may also include changing the appearance of the target text, so that it has the same layout as the source text. 

Most of the cases both revision and proofreading are combined into one and are presented under the term of proofreading. Some proofreaders, however, differentiate between both services, so make sure to clarify what exactly you need when contacting one. 

Why Spellchecker Only Doesn’t Work?

As per the definition given by the Oxford dictionary a spellchecker is a computer program that checks the spelling of words in a text, typically by comparison with a stored list of words. In other words, it checks whether the word you have written exists and whether it is spelled correct, however it doesn’t show if the words is used appropriately or not. For example: “We except your offer” is a sentence that is approved by the spellchecker as all the words exist and are correctly spelled, however the word except is inappropriately used instead of the word accept

So, while the spellchecker is a good tool to use for correcting typos while you write and/or translate, it is not to be used as the one and only ally in correcting all the mistakes of a translated text. 

How to Choose the Right Proofreader?

The proofreader is a professional translator, who provides one more additional service – proofreading a translation once it is done. In order to do the best job, the proofreader should:

  • Have the same language combination as the original translator of the text 
  • Preferably have specialized in the same sphere of translation – document translation, translation of diplomas or certificates (link to article How to translate diplomas and certificates), literary translation, technical translation, etc. 
  • Have access to both the source and the target text
  • Ideally be a native speaker of the target language
  • Have strong attention to detail
  • Have excellent knowledge of the linguistic aspects and cultural nuances of both languages 

Previous experience as a proofreader is also a plus and computer skills and knowledge of the newest CAT tools is a must. The job of the proofreader is to make sure that the final version of the translated text does not contain any typos, grammatical and stylistic mistakes. The meaning and tone of the target text should be the same as the source text. There should be no contradictions or ambiguity. 

Proofreading is an essential part of the complete translation service provided by translation agencies. Some freelancers work along with proofreaders, while others don’t, so when working with a freelance translator, always ask in advance if the text will be proofread or you need to find an expert to do it for you. If a translated text is proofread, it means that the quality is much higher and the chance of a mistake is taken down to the absolute minimum. You may end up paying a bit more to cover this service, however the investment is worth it as you know that your document will be immaculate and you won’t be embarrassed in front of colleagues, partners or clients. 


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