Did you know that you can work in the translation industry, even if you are not fluent in a second language?
As businesses internationalize and the internet spreads into even the most remote corners of the world, language remains the final barrier to full globalization. Millions of translators translate billions of words in the fields of e-commerce, international litigation, media, literature, and more. Working alongside these translators you will often find a proofreader, who serves as the final eye on these translations: checking for typos, missing text, and improper number formats. Even the most seasoned translators find that their work benefits from a proofreader’s fresh eyes, and at Meridian Linguistics, our proofreaders have saved us from many a catastrophe: because even one missing zero can mean a whole lot more when it comes to a client’s bottom line.
While it always helps to know a second language, many of our proofreaders get their start simply because they love writing in their native language, and have developed a keen eye for improving a text. Some of our proofreaders are studying to become translators themselves, and use this opportunity to get paid while they review the work of our professional translators and learn from their translation choices. Finally, many of our proofreaders are simply location-independent digital nomads roaming from hammock to co-working space, looking for a flexible source of income! All you really need is a stellar writing ability in your native language, as well as a meticulous eye.
Interested in taking the MLTS Proofreading Test? Learn more here.
What is the difference between editing and proofreading?
This is a distinction that not everyone makes, but we find it to be pretty important at Meridian Linguistics. Generally, we expect an editor to be just as responsible as the translator for accuracy, fluency, and style. An editor carefully checks all terminology, corrects mistranslations, and ensures that the target text reads smoothly and fluently. An editor should have highly advanced translation capabilities.
On the other hand, a proofreader serves to catch all the last typos, formatting issues, and numbering problems that the editor was unable to catch. Unfortunately, sometimes editors even introduce typos in their well-meaning revisions.
Proofreaders should not overzealously correct meaning, lest they accidentally add errors. This is where “Insert Comment” is your friend! This way, you can call attention to an issue you think the editor might not have seen. There is always a chance the editor or translator has a good reason for not making a certain change, so it is always good to check.
Linguistic vs. Non-linguistic Proofreading
While it always helps to know the source language, proofreaders are often expected to be able to proofread translations for source languages they don’t know, known as non-linguistic proofreading. Remember, translators and editors are the ones responsible for translation accuracy, so by the time a text gets to a proofreader, all that should be left is to clean up the final target translation.
Working with unfamiliar source languages may sound difficult. But trained proofreaders, over time, develop the skills necessary for comparing translations line by line, working with texts whose writing systems are very different, and recognizing date and measurement formats for dozens of languages. Over time they become familiar with converting Taiwanese years to Western years (thank goodness for Google!) and German capitalization to American lowercase. For linguists and polyglots, this sort of work can actually be really gratifying, since they can become minimally familiar with the basic writing styles of dozens of languages without actually having to learn them!
The Nuts and Bolts of Proofreading
Now that you know what proofreading is, let’s talk about the nuts and bolts.
The industry standard for the English-speaking world is to proofread in Microsoft Word (not an affiliate link!) This is because their markup system is extremely efficient and easy to use, leading to minimal errors in markup. While many freelance translators prefer to save money by working in free, open-source word processors, the difference in performance soon becomes apparent when a document reaches the quality assurance phase.
Familiarize yourself with these tools, as they are essential:
Why are track changes crucial? For several reasons. One: project managers, translators, and clients will sometimes want to easily be able to see what has been changed. Notes in red, highlighting, etc., is just confusing, especially if the client or project manager isn’t bilingual in the languages at hand.
With tracked changes, you can toggle your view to see the clean (Show Simple Markup) or the tracked version (Show All Markup), to see the changes tracked in red. A thorough proofreader toggles to Simple Markup for one last proofread, before considering the translation ready to go.
The second reason is because when it is time to send the document off to the client, the project manager doesn’t want to have to proofread a 300-page document again themselves to remove all your highlighting and notes. With Tracked Changes, they can simply “Accept All Changes and Stop Tracking” in order to return a “clean” document.
Sometimes, a certain issue needs to be discussed a bit further, or you don’t want to make a change until you are sure you have all the necessary information.
Insert Comments can easily be searched, addressed, and deleted. No need for a project manager to scroll through pages and pages of a large document to find one tiny note.
Uh oh…you just proofread a whole document and forgot to track changes, didn’t you!
No worries! Review/Compare/Compare Two Versions of a Document can help. Simply select the two documents, and it will generate a “redline” (tracked) version for you.
Exporting from CAT Tools
This is a crucial step that many translators and proofreaders forget: you should always proofread the exported file from a CAT tool. While CAT tools make most of the proofreading process infinitely easier (easily readable chunks of text side-by-side, built-in QA tools, etc.,) don’t forget that until you export the file you can’t be absolutely sure that the formatting has been perfectly replicated, or that a certain segment was actually translated out of context. Always check the exported file before delivering to your client. If the client requires the proofread return to be submitted in sdlxliff or the relevant CAT file, you should still proofread the exported file, making changes in the sdlxliff if necessary.
Why Do Project Managers Ask You to “Return Tracked and Clean”?
When in doubt, always return the Tracked Changes file. But if you want to go the extra mile and be a true professional, assume that the PM wants both a Tracked and a Clean file (in which you have Accepted All Changes and Stopped Tracking. This can help a PM immeasurably, especially when they are juggling one hundred jobs with tight deadlines and need to be able to quickly send off a file without accepting the changes themselves.
Proofreading Non-Native Text
Sometimes proofreaders will be asked to proofread non-native translations: this is particularly common for language pairs where it is hard to find native translators (for example, Vietnamese to English, or Mongolian to French). This takes a little more work than a standard proofreading task as you will also be asked to improve the overall fluency of the text, correcting grammar and getting rid of the inevitable oddities that arise in non-native text. Make sure you remember to charge the client a little more than your standard proofreading rate for texts like these.
Some clients will give you style guides with preferred date formats or glossaries. Read these carefully and make sure you make the necessary changes (but remember, while “Find” is your friend, make sure you use “Replace” with great caution!)
Want to see the Meridian Style Guide? You can download it here
How do you actually find proofreading jobs?
Most translation companies need proofreaders, as do law firms, advertising companies, and many other sorts of businesses. It is a good idea to start with advertising your services on a translation directory such as ProZ or TranslatorsCafe, but you might also consider sending your CV and any certifications to the HR departments of companies that probably need proofreaders. Some positions may be freelance, others in-house.
Meridian Linguistics hires only remote freelance proofreaders. As long as you can guarantee reliable internet, responsiveness to e-mail communication, and proofreading ability (learn more about our tests and certificates) then we are glad to have you onboard!
We hope this helps you become a more successful proofreader! Are you ready to get to work? You might want to consider getting certified as a proofreader, so that your clients know you are serious about what you do.
Are you looking for a proofreader? Thanks to our certification system, we have dozens of proofreaders available on call across several languages. Contact us here.