Editing of marketing translation: what, how, why

In technical and marketing translation, editing can include various stages of the editing process, often combining editing and proofreading – the reason why it is also called proofediting.

Editing of translated contents is a complex task and its aim is to check that meaning and tone of voice are the same in both languages, as well as to improve the quality of the final text. It is also the last chance to avoid mistakes that can cost dearly.

But what does it take to do a good editing job, how is it done and why is it always a good idea?

“Let the reader find that he cannot afford to omit any line of your writing because you have omitted every word that he can spare.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

So what does it take to do a good job when editing a marketing translated text?

> First, a thorough knowledge of both source and target language (as well as a knowledge of translation theory and editing techniques). It may sound self-evident, but it is not. Having a perfect grasp of the functioning of two languages is not easy, it is something you build up over many years of study and continuous practice.

> A perfect knowledge of the culture and world view these two languages express. What feels natural in one and not so much in the other. Habits, likes and dislikes. The ability to understand what’s the tone of voice of preference in each language according to context, audience and medium.

> Attention to finer details, as you need to go through each and every sentence with a fine tooth comb.

> Fact checking skills. Fact checking can be an additional paid service or it can be done randomly to check whether facts included in the text check out or have been translated or localized appropriately.

> A good eye: to catch typos, graphic issues, spell-checker mistakes, missing captions, or anything which doesn’t make sense.

> And what about subject matter expertise? Well, it surely helps. But sometimes, having a non-specialist check your work can be a good way to ensure clarity and that the text makes sense for the final reader.

“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

And how is it done?

The editing of a translated text includes an additional step compared with the editing of a text written originally in that language.

> It is actually the first step of the editing process: the checking of the target text vs. the original – or source – text, to check whether:

– all the content has been translated;

– the meaning has been translated correctly.

> Then a stylistic review, to check for tone of voice, style, register, rhythm. Repetitions and redundancies. Stylistic, logical and substantial inconsistencies. Contents needing localization. A spot or thorough fact checking, if needed. If the writer had to follow a brand style guide or a translation brief, whether they were actually adhered to.

> And a final proofreading to check for typos and any final inconsistencies.

If the content is to be published on paper, the editing process will include further stages and proofs before being finally approved and going to print.

In the case of transcreation (broadly speaking the translation of highly creative contents) projects, editing is also key in assuring the adaptation in the target language, which may also be totally different in wording from the original, expresses the same concept, meaning, style and feelings of the original headline or advert.

Also, not all texts need the same level of editing, depending on various factors:

– It can be a thorough editing or just a proofreading.

– It can include various stages if your contents are going to print.

– Does your text need checking for legal compliance?

– Is a quality assurance check needed?

– Are there time constraints?

“Be a good editor. The universe needs more good editors, God knows.”

― Kurt Vonnegut, Letters

Why is editing always a good practice?

Well, a million reasons come to mind. But let’s list just a few:

> Inconsistencies undermine your brand and your customers’ trust.

> Badly written contents reflect badly on its owner, brand or company: a sloppy text equals a sloppy brand in your customer’s mind, undermining business integrity and trust.

> Your mistakes will be shared on social media (much more likely than your achievements).

> Contents must always be clear and free of mistakes, even more so in the case of contracts and legal contents, or when safety is at stake.

> Editing boosts the potential of a text, it refines it (a fresh set of eyes can work wonders!).

“Edit your author as you would be edited.”

― Barbara Sjoholm, An Editor’s Guide to Working with Authors

Writer and editor: the ultimate dream team

Sometimes translators and writers are afraid editing will disrupt their text. But a good, professional editor will never do that. The aim is to improve the quality of the final text, not to make preferential or unnecessary changes (hyper-revision) just to stand out.

Editors shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions: the editing process is the last step before the text goes live, so it is even more important to clarify doubts and ask questions. Asking questions, when needed, shows your client you are committed to deliver the best possible result.

A good relationship between writer and editor is key: editing should be viewed as a shared enterprise, based on cooperation, constructive in purpose, proactive in suggesting viable alternatives when needed.

It is also good advice to always keep in mind the big picture: if the changes you’re introducing are small but significant, they could have a great impact. So always think twice.

Think of the editor as your first reader, someone who can see the text from an external perspective and then pick up any inconsistencies more easily.

Editing takes writing from pretty good to wow. Whether it’s a medical study, a business case, a resume, a website or a marketing text, it makes you STAND OUT. Nice, right?


About the author
I am an Italian specialist in translation and proofediting, working in the marketing, creative and legal fields. I put my many years of experience to the advantage of my clients by creating texts resonating with the Italian-speaking audience and making brands locally relevant. Connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter or visit my website.