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Editing and translation—Objective: optimizing the message

Sandra Gravel
Editors’ Association of Canada
(The Editors’ Association of Canada began using the name Editors Canada on July 1, 2015.)


In a country like Canada where two official languages coexist, interact and complement each other, language professionals work closely together to produce clear texts that can be easily understood by their intended readers, no matter what their mother tongue.

The inherent purpose of a text is to convey a message in the best possible way, regardless of whether this message is written in an informative, argumentative or literary style. The writing professional's objective is to ensure the most effective liaison possible between the author's message and the intended audience's understanding of that message.

The roles of language professionals

Starting from the author's original text, the editor then steps in to help produce the most polished version possible. In looking at the text from a fresh perspective, the professional editor checks the structural presentation of ideas, and then moves on to the stage of correction, which can focus on both grammatical elements and style. The objective is to optimize the author's message and eliminate any errors that may have occurred at the time of writing.

The author can then review the text in the light of the suggestions, recommendations or corrections made by the editor. The work may end here when the text is required in only one language. But when it must be translated, the translator will work, ideally, from this edited version.

The translator will reproduce the source language text in what is called the target language, ensuring that each translated word, sentence and idea accurately reproduces the author's original thoughts. The translator therefore produces, in the target language, a second text that is the source text's "twin."

Once the translation is completed, another editor will review it in the target language, with two specific objectives in mind:

  1. Editing: The editor will improve the text where necessary, while considering all the aspects related to context, culture, vocabulary, sentence structure, punctuation, grammar rules, etc.;
  2. Comparative editing: The editor will compare the source text with the target text and suggest changes to the target text where necessary to make it sound more idiomatic. Thus, the text will feel "natural" to the reader, as if it were originally written in the target language.

Each step in the creation of a text is important, and each professional helps give words their power and true sense, with the ultimate goal of ensuring effective communication. The translator and editor receive specific training and follow guidelines that characterize and define the text‑related tasks they carry out.

They participate in producing a text by working it from a different angle, within their respective areas of language expertise. The editor and translator are like the architect and engineer who erect a building: both help build it…and both are essential.