I’m an IM! Or the difference between real proofreading and translation proofreading

I had a bit of a stressful week last week, but one thing that did cheer me up was receiving confirmation that I’d been accepted as an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP). Rather confusingly, these are known as IMs, a term that I always want to stick an apostrophe in the middle of every time I see it.

The logo I’m now authorised to use!

Of course I’ve been proofreading and editing for years alongside my translation work, but I felt it was about time I got some professional training, so this year I’ve completed CIEP’s Proofreading 1 and 2 courses.

Interestingly, it wasn’t learning the traditional BSI proofreading marks that gave me the biggest headache, but understanding the difference between proofreading for publication (where you’re working in the final stage before publishing and need to change as little as possible) and translation proofreading, where you tend to make bigger changes, especially if – as I tend to – you’re working for a client who actually wants copyediting and doesn’t intend to pay for proofreading separately.

In case you’re wondering “but what’s copyediting?”, this is how the editing process is supposed to work (image source):

The process runs from left to right. In theory.

But in my experience of the translation world, it’s common for the “proofreader” to be presented with a text that’s far from publication-ready. And at this point you have three choices:

  • Go back to the client and tell them that the text needs two different levels of edit (and risk losing the job to someone who’ll just do what they ask)
  • Do what they ask
  • Proofread and be damned!

If you’re a translator who offers proofreading, what do you do in this situation? Do you agree that in the translation world a “proofreading” job tends to be more than just checking for typos?

3 thoughts on “I’m an IM! Or the difference between real proofreading and translation proofreading

  1. Many congratulations, Jane. That’s fantastic news!
    Re. proofreading in translation, most people are just using the term incorrectly as they have no idea what it really means. We are generally required to check the translation against the source, which is called “revision” (bilingual editing) in ISO 17100:2015. This should then be followed by a “review” (monolingual editing), which should be done by an expert in the domain. And then, finally, the proofreader should take over before publication.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. (Sorry, clicked the wrong button and it published my comment before I’d finished.) As I’m sure you know, many clients requesting “proofreading” actually want you to perform all three phases I outlined in the above comment, which is hugely unfair. They are forcing the reviser to carry the burden of any and all mistakes, when this job should obviously be shared by three different professionals. In my experience, when I have offered a direct client a choice of adding the extra proofreading stage (for a text for publication), they have always declined to save money. I guess it is what it is. At most, translations only seem to go through two stages (translation and revision). And it’s up to the reviser to decide whether they’re being paid enough for the job. Only very rarely has a request to proofread been just that.


    1. Yes, exactly Nikki – and another thing I’ve noticed that varies is the responsibility for any mistakes. I’ve worked with agencies where it’s still the translator’s responsibility, even after the “proofreader” has done their bit, which means that as the translator you have to check their changes and integrate them into the text, urgently, sometimes several days after you’ve delivered it. And I’ve worked with agencies where it becomes the proofreader’s responsibility, despite them being paid a fraction of the translator’s fee. I’m not sure either is entirely fair!


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