Editing issues

I really enjoy editing other people’s work because I can concentrate on spotting the odd typo and grammatical mistake and improving the style of a text, which is made easier and more productive by the fact that I haven’t already spent hours translating it. I find that the more time I spend with a document, the more difficult it is to step back from it and look at my work coldly and truly critically. That is why I always try to leave a whole day between proofreading a translation and doing the very last check before sending it. While editing, I also like discovering other people’s way of dealing with particular issues, which can help me improve my own techniques and style.
However, if I can give one piece of advice to new (and old) translators, it’s the following: never ever accept an editing job without first making sure the translation is of a decent standard. An editor is meant to improve a translation, not to rewrite it entirely.
I recently got offered an editing job. I only checked a couple of pages and it looked good, so I didn’t look through to the end and accepted the job. Unfortunately, as I worked through the document, it became clear that the standard of work wasn’t very high, as everything had been translated in a very literal way. This was compounded by the fact that the English source text was also very poorly written. One might say that as a translator, you should be as faithful to the text as possible, and if the English text is badly written, the French should reflect that fact. I don’t agree with that; my job is to produce documents that should read like they were written by a native. If a source document is badly written, it’s normally not because it was intended to be badly written, but because someone along the line didn’t do their job properly.
So my dilemma was that I had agreed to do the job in a certain time (I charge hourly for editing, as the word count isn’t a good indication of the amount of time that will have to be spent on a document), and that it was going to take me a lot longer to do it. Thankfully my client was very understanding and we agreed I could charge more hours than anticipated.

By | 2016-10-18T15:51:24+00:00 February 22nd, 2005|Freelance Translation|3 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. Iain February 23, 2005 at 11:56 am

    The question of translating badly-written text (or editing badly-translated text) is an interesting one. I agree with you – your job is to produce something that reads like it was written by a native. When I was an in-house translator in an IT firm, my worst nightmare was to be asked to ‘edit / correct’ sales proposals written in English by non-EMT speakers. I sometimes ended up doing *twice* the amount of work, translating first from bad (or word-for-word) English to French, and then from French into good English. Lots of fun!

  2. TRANSLATOR'S BLOG February 24, 2005 at 8:32 pm

    The translation of text vs. the translation of meaning

    A recent post in the German Proz.com forum discussed the process of translation (or actually, is still discussing; the thread just started yesterday and is still open).
    A colleague raised the issue of translation at the beginner stage, when you bas…

  3. Jez February 24, 2005 at 9:06 pm

    Yes – I’ve fallen foul of that trap before. I’ve taken the most cursory of glances at a text and accepted it for proofing/editing. Then battled with it for ages to get it up to a decent level of English.

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