Why don't translators like editing jobs?

Published on 07/05/2021

If your company has already been looking for a translator to revise/edit a text that was translated in-house, you may have some experience of how difficult it can be to find one.

Even my blog “Translators and translation companies: their 4 favourite excuses” may sound familiar to you.

Without having official statistics, I would say that most translators, if given the choice between doing a translation job or an editing job (revision), they would choose translation.

On the contrary, only very few translators actually prefer edtiting over translating. That’s my statement, but, in fact, there no translator with this preference that I can think of right now

What is the reason for this proclivity?

Everyone is different, but I believe that most translators prefer to translate rather than performing editing/revision jobs for the three reasons I set out below.

1. Editing/Revision can be like opening Pandora’s box


At AbroadLink Translations, as in other translation companies, we offer our clients a translation process in accordance with the ISO 17100 standard on translation services. Also see “6 reasons to review translator's work”.

A translation process in accordance with this quality standard involves an editing step by a second professional translator.

This means that when a translation project is scheduled, the editor does not have the possibility to see the quality of the translation when accepting the assignment.

You have to bear in mind that the editor is generally paid lower rates per word. This means that if they receive a poor quality translation, editing often ends up being an underpaid nightmare.

To avoid this, many translators will not accept editing jobs unless they are paid an hourly rate based on the time they need to perform the editing job to a professional standard.

Translation companies and and their clients, often dislike this way of working, because they prefer to know the translation costs in advance.

On the other hand, although there are methods for assessing the quality of the initial translation and compensating the editor for having to review a poor quality translation, these processes are often time-consuming for all parties involved.

So, faced with all this casuistry, there are many freelance translators who make their lives a little easier by simply not accepting any editing jobs.

2. Translating is more fun than editing

Translating is more fun than editing

Even if the previous paragraph is considered to be the main reason for translators' general disdain for editing, many translators prefer to translate simply because they like it better.

We can affirm that translation is a process that requires greater creativity and it’s the translator himself who takes first hand decisions.

I believe that only people who who feel satisfied by finding errors in the work of others, may develop a preference for editing.

3. Translation means more paid work

Translation means more paid work

Imagine if you were a freelance translator and you were given the choice between translating or editing the text. As you are not a translator, you may not have a preference.

If I tell you now that you will be paid more than twice as much for translation as for editing, I imagine that you would already have a good reason to choose the translation job and leave the editing part to someone else.

Editing a text is a task that can be done much faster (measured in words/hour) than translating, hence the per-word rate charged is much lower.

Therefore, translators ensure a higher volume of work when translating. It also ultimately involves less project and administrative management. However, you earn about the same per hour, whether it’s a translation or an editing job.

Every time a translation job is done, the translator will have to read the project instructions, communicate with the project manager, deal with the passionate defences of translators and, finally, send an invoice.

I believe that this increased management burden (both administrative and, at times, emotional) together with paragraphs 1 and 2, somewhat justify, the reluctance of many freelance translators to accept editing jobs, especially for people from outside the translation sector.

In fact, I was one of them in the years I worked as a translator. What would you prefer?

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Josh Gambin's picture
Josh Gambin

Josh Gambin holds a 5-year degree in Biology from the University of Valencia (Spain) and a 4-year degree in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Granada (Spain). He has worked as a freelance translator, in-house translator, desktop publisher and project manager. From 2002, he is a founding member of AbroadLlink and currently works as Marketing and Sales Manager.

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