What is proofreading?

Effective proofreading techniques are necessary whenever new text is created, whether these are fictional stories, medical documents or correspondence. Translated documents must also be proofread before being released to the client wanting the translations done for them.

Proofreading is part of a wider process of maintaining accuracy in any type of text. It should not be confused with copyediting or editing which may accompany proofreading.

Proofreading is usually the last stage in the translation process. It consists of checking the accuracy of spelling and grammar and ensuring there are no simple mistakes in the print, such as typos and spacing errors. Most word-processing programmes include a spelling and basic grammar checker, and there is no reason why this shouldn’t be used as long as it is not the only proofreading technique used.

Why is proofreading important?

Proofreading is important to ensure that a document is as accurate and error free as possible. It usually follows any editing which may have to be done depending on the complexity of the text. Proofreading is not an indication that the translator is necessarily error prone, but a recognition that any chunk of text that has been written for the first time, including translated text, can contain easy to make errors which can spoil the meaning of the text as well as mean an embarrassment for the translator.

Most translators proofread their own work, but may also use another person to do a second translation. There is a balance between the amount of time spent on proofreading and potentially having a document that could have errors. There are several different proofreading tips that can be used to help proofread a translated document. Every translator has their own favourites, and some of these are described briefly below.

Some proofreading tips


Get someone else to proofread the document that you have translated yourself.

Often, it can be hard to spot simple errors that you made while translating a document, or when you typed out the translated version of the document. A second person can examine the document with fresh eyes.


Proofread the document more than once.

Time balance is important as has already been mentioned, but if you can afford to do so, just go through the document more than once. It can be surprising just how many mistakes you pick up on a second proofread! To improve your second proofread, allow some time between each proofreading session.


Proofread the document from right to left (or left to right if in Arabic!) or bottom to top.

Just be altering the pattern in which you see the text can mean that errors are picked up that you might not have seen beforehand.


Ask the client to proofread their own pre-translated document before you work on it.

Generally, most translators charge by the number of words they translate, although there are also corrections for documents that are more complex than usual, or which take longer to decipher. It is a win-win situation for both client and translator if the client provides a proofread document for translation to the translator and ensures that it is easy to read. This makes the task of the translator easier and means that there is less time needed for final editing and proofreading after the translation has been done.


To ensure an error free, well proofread translation, hire a professional translation agency well known for its thoroughness and accuracy.