Let’s discuss!
+1 438 600 0063

By Riteba McCallum
June 28, 2022

The Difference Between Revising, Editing and Proofreading

Language professionals use a lot of different words to describe what they do. We’ve covered some of this jargon in a previous blog post. In this article, we want to dive a little deeper into three words that often get confused or used interchangeably: revising, editing and proofreading. We’ll explain what the difference is between these three processes and how to know which one you should request from your language service provider.  

What Is Revising

When we talk about revision in the translation industry (also sometimes called reviewing), we usually mean comparative or bilingual revision. Comparative revision is an essential step in the translation process. It’s when we carefully compare the source-language text line-by-line with the translated text to make sure that the translation is accurate and no important information has been omitted or mistranslated. We can also fix issues with style or consistency at the same time. 

At OXO, translations are revised at least twice; first by the translator who double-checks their own work before submitting it (we call this “self-revision”), and then by a separate reviser who can bring a fresh pair of eyes to the text. In fact, we have several full-time employees who do almost nothing but revise other people’s translations.

What is Editing

When we talk about editing we’re usually talking about unilingual revision, which is to say that we’re not comparing one text to another. There are different types of editing based on what stage a text is at and how much input the client/writer wants from the editor. To break it into three main categories, we can say there’s structural editing, stylistic editing, and copy editing.

Structural Editing

Also known as content editing, substantive editing or manuscript editing, structural editing happens early in the writing process, after the first draft. The editor makes or suggests changes that could include reordering, cutting or adding entire sentences if not paragraphs. They could recommend rewriting entire sections of the text if necessary. The goal is to make sure that the text flows in a logical order and that the most important messages are given the most emphasis.

As you can imagine, structural editing doesn’t usually play a big role in the translation process, since translators are expected to follow a similar structure to the source text and not move paragraphs around. However, a translator could make recommendations to the client if they notice a significant structural issue with the text. We also offer copywriting and editing services at OXO if this is what you need.

Stylistic Editing

Stylistic editing, as the name implies, means editing to improve the style of a text. To make sure it flows well, that the meaning is clear, and that the tone and language level are appropriate for the intended audience, medium and purpose. This can involve: 

  • Replacing jargon with plain language
  • Simplifying complicated syntax and making wordy sentences more concise
  • Replacing formal expressions with informal ones or vice versa, depending on the desired tone
  • Removing ambiguities
  • Ensuring the use of inclusive language 

Stylistic editing is an important part of the translation process and can happen either at the same time as bilingual revision, or as a second step after we’ve already gone over the translation once to make sure it’s accurate, depending on how important style is for the type of text. Your company’s “About Us” boilerplate that’s going to appear all over the place? We want to make sure it sounds amazing. An internal memo reminding employees to clear their leftovers out of the staff fridge on Friday? Let’s not overthink it.

Copy Editing

Copy editing is defined by Editors Canada as “editing to ensure correctness, accuracy, consistency, and completeness.” It includes:

  • Ensuring proper grammar, spelling, punctuation, and usage
  • Checking for consistency in terminology and capitalization
  • Making sure the client’s style guide and glossary are followed
  • Checking that hyperlinks work

What is Proofreading

We often use the term “proofreading” to describe copy editing as defined above. The two terms can be used interchangeably. The main difference between proofreading / copy editing and other forms of editing or revision is that at the proofreading stage we only correct for things that are objective errors. 

Proofreading is the last step before a text is published. Therefore, in addition to copy editing it also includes checking that the final proofs are formatted correctly. Proofreaders will compare the final document to the edited manuscript or copy deck and make sure no pages are missing, line breaks are in the right place, the page numbers match the table of contents, and so on.

But Wait, What’s Post-Editing?

Glad you asked. Machine translation post-editing (MTPE) is essentially the same thing as comparative revision, except that the text was translated by a computer instead of a human. That means it might need a bit more work than a human translation, and that we need to look out for different sorts of mistakes than a human would typically make. For example, a machine translation is more likely to perpetuate errors in the source text, which a human translator would have easily spotted and fixed. However, the end goal of MTPE is the same, which is to make sure that the translation is accurate, that it sounds natural, and that the style and register fit the intended audience. 


As you can see, there’s a lot of overlap between revision, editing and proofreading, and even experts within the industry tend to use these terms interchangeably in some cases or have different understandings of what they mean. For that reason, when requesting such a service, it’s always best to be specific about your needs and expectations (e.g. “please improve the style and structure of this text” or “only correct mistakes like spelling and grammar”). And if you’re not sure what level of intervention your text needs, just ask! Our language experts are always happy to lend their strategic advice.

Back to Blog