Edited translation or unedited translation – that is the question

Toimetatud tõlge

Translation editing does not mean fixing the work of a sloppy translator. Editing is the careful processing of a translated text, during which the editor adds value to the translation created by the translator. The editor checks the translation for potential errors and irons out any kinks and inconsistencies, whether linguistic, content-related or visual.

Translation editing is often overlooked in favour of a lower price. But before declining the services of an editor, it is worth considering whether those savings outweigh the prospect of a lower quality. At Transly Translation Agency, we are pleased to say that our customers value quality above all, and most of our daily efforts go into delivering edited translations which have been refined to perfection. In this article, we provide an overview of the differences between edited and unedited translations.

Why might unedited translations not suffice?

As translators are language experts, one might thus assume that all that is needed for a good translation is a good translator. And sometimes that is true. However, even for the best translators, the abundance of linguistic, cultural and domain-specific nuances, the limitations of human abilities, and the nature of the translation process can often set limits on translation quality, which is why the best results can only be achieved with the help of another expert.

1. The translator alone cannot do it in time

Translation project deadlines are often short and strict. In addition, skilled translators often have several jobs lined up and the clock is constantly ticking. In order to work efficiently, translators are frequently forced to focus purely on conveying the general idea of the text, while the finish and surface polish take a back seat. Editors, on the other hand, are specialised in providing texts with precisely that final coat of polish. Language editing is not simply another gratuitous service – it is born out of a need to focus on different elements that fall slightly outside a translator’s core role. Without an editor involved in the translation process, translation quality inevitably drops. At the same time, expecting the translator to also go over the translation as an editor means that the translator has to constantly shift their focus when working with the text. This slows down the process and can ultimately cost more time than if you had used a separate translator and editor – and the final result is also likely to suffer.

2. The editor sees what the translator cannot

Anyone who has ever tried to proofread one of their own texts – whether it is a PowerPoint presentation or an e-mail – has probably, to their great dismay, still come across several obvious mistakes even after a thorough review. It is natural for our gaze to simply gloss over our own errors, because what we are trying to say in the text has often already been etched deeply into our mind and, when rereading recently written texts, the words tend to come to us as much from memory as the paper or screen in front of us. Although translators also generally review their work, there is no substitute for a fresh pair of eyes which are able to give a text the full attention it needs.

3. A translator and an editor working together ensures a better text

Each of us uses language slightly differently and has a personal writing style: a so-called idiolect. This means, among other things, that we tend to favour some words over others and constantly repeat them, while others may completely slip our mind or we may not even be aware that they exist. Including a second language specialist, an editor, in the translation process helps expand the base of linguistic knowledge used in the creation of the translation and almost always guarantees a more natural and appealing text. This is particularly important when translating creative texts, such as marketing copies, where a rich and memorable use of language has a clear effect on the reader. Leaving a text solely in the hands of a translator involves the risk of only engaging a limited group of people who find the translator’s writing style appealing, which means that it may not achieve the maximum possible impact.

4. A translator works with the source text, an editor works with the translation

As mentioned above, the main difference between the work of a translator and that of an editor is the focal point. A translator’s work inevitably starts with decoding the source text, which means that the focus of their attention is always the original text. An editor, on the other hand, looks at the finished translation as a self-contained text and ensures that it sounds natural and pleasing. Translations created without the help of an editor can almost never be of higher quality than the source text – in fact, they often sound somewhat peculiar and artificial due to the influence of the source language. This is not so much due to the translator being unskilled, but simply because of the way our mind works when working with texts. Just as noticing our own typos and other errors can be difficult when the text is already ingrained in our memory, source texts, too, can act like shackles, which can only ever be thrown off completely by an editor who begins at the target text.

5. The translator learns from the editor’s corrections

Including an editor in the translation process allows translators to receive ongoing feedback on their mistakes and areas for improvement, which means that each translation will be better than the last. This is particularly useful if you require translations on a regular basis. Opting for unedited translations, on the other hand, can result in translation errors due to the aforementioned factors, which, if left undiscovered, may even be repeated in future translations.

What makes edited translations better?

Edited translations are always more accurate, natural and refined than unedited translations. Edited translations are characterised by the following.

1. Better translation quality

The collaboration of the translator and the editor is a critical factor in ensuring a flawless translation. If the translator aims to reproduce the meaning of the text in the target language as accurately as possible, the editor’s job is to verify that everything is correct as well as stylistically consistent. The former consists of correcting any substantive (including terminological) and grammatical errors. Ensuring stylistic consistency, on the other hand, involves improving the readability and style of the text as well as ensuring that the formatting of the translation is identical to the original text.

2. Carefully considered use of language

The first stage in producing a perfectly crafted translation is the dedicated work of the translator. Once the translation is complete, the translator reviews the text for initial proofreading. When the translator is finished, the text is passed on to the editor. Every talented and experienced translator has a rich vocabulary, excellent linguistic intuitions, perfect spelling skills and a pleasantly neutral writing style. Nevertheless, as mentioned above, noticing one’s own mistakes is difficult even for a translator. As translation requires working closely with a foreign-language text, the translator may not always notice linguistic inconsistencies between the source text and the target text. In addition, translators are constantly under pressure to meet tight deadlines. Due to this, only the fresh pair of eyes of a skilled editor can ensure that the original content is conveyed without any deviations, exaggerations or understatements, using neutral language and a readable style.

3. Terminological accuracy

The translation is created through the work of two professional linguists who are native speakers of the target language or who have attained at least a C1 level in the language. This means that, in addition to the translator, the source text and the translation are also compared by the editor. In the event that any unusual or inappropriate terminology has made it to the target text, the editor, as a foreign-language specialist, is likely to notice this. At this point, you might be wondering how it is possible for a professionally trained, experienced, talented and fluent translator to make any mistakes in the first place. Languages are nuanced, complex and regulated systems. Translators are always pressed for time. If the translator becomes distracted for even a second, terminological errors can slip through and may go unnoticed even during the post-translation review. It is the job of the translation editor to find and correct such terminological slip-ups.

4. Field-specific language use

Every field has its peculiarities, established terms and sometimes even preferred sentence structure. Although professional translators and editors are necessarily highly knowledgeable specialists, even they cannot know everything. Some translators and editors are experts in the humanities, history, philosophy and theology, while others are stronger in chemistry and physics, or are trained in medicine, construction or food technology, etc. For editing field-specific texts, such as user manuals, technical documents, contracts or annual financial reports, we employ editors with an appropriate professional background. This ensures that the editor is able to resolve any issues the translator may have run into as well as correct any crude or inappropriate translations.

Note! Even an editor, however, is no substitute for a knowledgeable customer, who is always the highest expert when it comes to field-specific terminology and decides which of two possible terms to use or which dictionaries should be used for translation. Translations which use preferred terminology can only be achieved through the collaboration of the translation agency and the customer!

5. Peace of mind about translation quality

It is said that love has no price tag. At Transly Translation Agency, however, we believe that peace of mind does. At least when it comes to translations. Ordering an edited translation guarantees peace of mind about not having to be disappointed by the quality of the finished text. This is particularly true if you are not personally versed in both the source and target language – if you cannot verify the quality of the translation, you should always order an edited translation, because even a single small mistake in an important text is one too many. Having the translation edited is also a good idea if the text is long and you do not have the time for a detailed post-translation review. And, of course, by including an editor in the translation process you can be confident that you have done everything in your power to ensure the highest possible translation quality.

What types of translations should always be edited?

Ideally, every translation should be edited. However, there are some texts wherein translation editing is absolutely crucial because of the value it adds.

• Website translation

In the current age of e-commerce, social media and big data, no company can be successful without a website. The website is a company’s primary calling card on the Internet. Which is precisely why your website translations should always be edited. Spelling errors, unprofessional use of foreign language and untranslated sections can scare off potential customers and give a negative impression of the website owner. Our website translations are generally edited by editors who live in the target market and are native speakers of the target language, which enables them to recommend more appropriate terminology and improve the online visibility of the text, so that your potential foreign-language speaking customers can find the text more easily.

• User manual translation

User manual translations should also be edited whenever possible, because errors in user instructions can lead to disappointed customers and, at worst, may even result in a lawsuit. It is inevitable that an error or two occasionally finds their way into a translation, as translation deadlines are often too short for a translator alone to achieve a perfect result. That is why it is important for every user manual translation to be reviewed by another linguist with the aim of eliminating any linguistic or terminological inaccuracies and ensuring that every number and comma is in its rightful place.

• Marketing text translations

Marketing texts adapted to the target market are much like website translations: marketing materials bearing the logo of your company – whether a product sheet, brochure, catalogue, trade fair text, flyer, leaflet, poster, press release, advertising article, social media content or any others – are the company’s calling card. Marketing materials must be free of grammatical errors and missing or excessive commas and spaces. Ambiguous expressions, odd metaphors and complicated language should also be avoided. Marketing material translations should be simple, natural, pleasurable to read and understandable to every reader. The easiest way to achieve this is through the teamwork of a translator and an editor. At Transly Translation Agency, we call this the rule of two heads. Sticking to the rule of two heads ensures flawless marketing texts which attract customers instead of driving them away.

• Translations of official documents

Editing is also indispensable when translating official documents, because important agreements, official letters, medical histories, court rulings, graduation certificates, professional certificates and other certified translations must be free from any errors and the terminology of the translation must match that of the original text exactly. Even the slightest translation error in an official document can cause serious problems. Thus, having a fresh pair of eyes in the form of an editor go over the translation is absolutely critical when it comes to the translation of official documents.

Summary: what does translation editing involve?

Above, we have provided a detailed overview of what translation editing services involve. Here is a quick summary. Translation editing involves checking the text for

Additionally, the editor analyses whether the translation is suitable for the target audience in terms of

As a rule, Transly Translation Agency offers edited translations, because we always want to do our utmost to make sure our customers are satisfied with our translations. If it seems that you have finally found the translation agency you have been looking for, please send us a query and we will make you an excellent offer! Send your query here.


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