The Importance of Proofreading

Last Updated On: January 25, 2019

inTranslation Tips

importance of proofreading

Translation has become increasingly important today as people move around the world far more than they did in the past. With this movement comes the need to understand the languages of the countries visited. With 600 languages being spoken frequently there is little chance that anyone traveling to countries overseas, whether for business or tourism, is likely to be able to learn all the languages they encounter. This means in order to facilitate understanding translation is necessary to ensure that any important information is conveyed accurately between those that want and need to be understood.

Accuracy is the key to a successful translation and this can only be realized if all translations are thoroughly proofread before being handed to the client who has asked for the translation.

Embarrassing news headlines due to poor proofreading and mistranslations

From time to time, the news comes up with serious mistakes in translations which have affected people’s responses. Careful proofreading means that small typos and minor grammatical errors can be fixed while at the same time, potentially more serious mistakes shouldn’t slip through the cracks.


I agree to the Privacy Policy and the Collection Notice under the Australian Privacy Act.

There was an incident in 2011 when South Korea had to withdraw a bill from its parliament that was intended to ratify a trading agreement with the U.S. The reason for this wasn’t the content of the trade agreement as such, but a few translation mistakes that had to be evaluated and put right. Not long before this event, a free trade agreement set up between South Korea and the European Union had to be put on hold due to the discovery of just 200 translation mistakes in the Korean text.

If this isn’t enough of a shock when being given the job of proofreading a translation, then consider the next translation mistake that brought doubt to the ideology of the Catholic Church. In 2011, the Vatican was responsible for publishing a catechism companion called You Cat: Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church. It was about key church teachings and to be distributed at World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid. The document was translated into several languages, but there were so many errors in the translations that a special group had to be created to correct them. One such mistake indicated that the church approved of contraception when it didn’t. These examples show how important good, effective proofreading is.

An important feature of proofreading is catching any mistakes before they become public and as a result lead to delays, inconveniences, and embarrassment. Even if the translator has a good reputation for accuracy this doesn’t mean that slip-ups aren’t made from time to time.

The importance of proofreading for businesses

Businesses are increasingly trying to enter new markets overseas. One of the reasons for this is the spike in online sales. This means a business doesn’t have to physically move to gain more customers but instead must create a marketing website in the languages of its potential customers. Any wrong piece of information about a product due to a poor translation could spell disaster for a business’s reputation. It is vital for business success that before anything goes online it’s thoroughly proofread first. It’s not just a question of grammar and syntax, but the tone is important too.

A marketing message has to fit the way the potential customer will interpret it. A proof-reader for international business websites not only needs to have a good understanding of their two languages but also needs to ensure the tone of the marketing material meets what is expected by the targeted customer. Most customers prefer to buy products online when the information about the product is presented in their own language accurately. A poorly translated message will attract little interest from new customers.

Proofreading requires human intervention

A translator may use translation memories and glossaries when completing a translation, but there are no reliable automated proof-readers yet! This is still the domain of a human. Translation companies know this and they hire multiple proof-readers to check all translated documents before they are released to the client. A human proofreader who is competent in two languages can not only wean out grammar, spelling and sentence structure errors but can also confirm if the translated content is suitable for the targeted audience.

Proofreading is not just your average online spell-checker but it’s a meticulous look at a text which once the proofread is complete will be error-free and flow well. If there are images with captions, the proof-reader will check to ensure the captioned message has been translated appropriately to match the image. As well as correcting mistakes and inappropriate language for an audience the proof-reader may suggest better use of language which will be conveyed to the project manager.

Proofreading needs to be highly valued

Proofreading can’t be done by anyone. A proof-reader needs to be well trained and needs to build up a considerable amount of proofreading experience before he or she can be said to be good at the job. Most importantly the role of a proof-reader should be highly valued because no one wants their business to come under the spotlight because a poorly translated message which hasn’t been proofread is released.

How proofreading is done well

There is no point in emphasizing the importance of proofreading unless it’s done well. There are several ways to ensure text is proofread well.

  • Read the text out loud. This catches mistakes with words more easily.
  • Increase the size of the text so it’s easier to read.
  • Take breaks between proofreading chunks of text. This improves concentration levels.

Overall, the importance of proofreading can’t be underestimated, whether it’s printed text or online text. Mistakes in any form result in not only misinforming people but can also build up a bad reputation for the business or organization that publishes texts with noticeable errors. National incidences are caused by poor proofreading of translations which are supposed to be the key to enabling successful world communication. Perhaps in the future, proofreading will be just another online tool but today the best proofreading is done by a trained and experienced human proofreader.

Leave a Reply