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?