How do we go about editing an academic text?

A client’s academic article, having been carefully translated by a member of Cadenza’s freelance team, has just come back to our in-house editors. What happens next?

  1. Pre-editing checks

First, we ask ourselves a few questions: What variety of English has the client requested? Has a style guide been stipulated? What kind of referencing style has been used­—author-date, footnotes, or a hybrid system? Has the project manager left any specific comments or requirements for this job?

Next, we scroll through the document to get an overall picture of the text and scan through any comments left for us by the translator.

Then, we run the text through our proofreading tool, PerfectIt. It is particularly helpful for quickly correcting any errors that have been repeated throughout the article—for example, if ‘favour’ has been used instead of ‘favor’ in a US English article.

  1. First edit: Line by line

The first full edit requires a thorough line-by-line edit of the English translation with close reference to the original foreign-language article.

As editors, we’re on the hunt for any errors or inconsistencies that may have originated in the source text or been introduced in the process of translation. These may be surface-level errors (such as typos, extra spaces, missing italics, etc.) or sense-level errors, such as a mistranslation or a lack of clarity/coherence in the argument.

We also keep a close eye on how faithfully the target text echoes the style and register of the original. Some authors draw on rhetoric and literary techniques to make their point, tell anecdotes, or use an informal register to speak to their audience more directly. And believe it or not, academic texts can use humour too!

Finally, we carefully fact-check all of the details of the text and its references (e.g., proper nouns, titles, place names, dates, etc.). We also use our research skills to ensure that specialist terminology or concepts have been translated accurately and to confirm the wording of any quotations present in the text.

  1. Second edit: Proofread

The second edit is closer to a proofread, with the aim of catching any remaining errors and addressing any unresolved issues. We also place greater emphasis on how the English translation flows, seeking to get a comprehensive, uninterrupted sense of the text as a whole.

Sometimes when you’re reading line by line, you can miss the bigger picture, such as a contradiction in the author’s argument part way through the text. This readthrough is therefore essential for picking up anything that might have got past you during the first, deeper edit.

  1. Preparing the article for the senior editor

The final step is to ensure that the document is as clean as possible for the senior editor, who addresses any remaining queries and gives the text a last look over before it goes back to the client.

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And that’s the whole process! If you’d like to learn more about what happens before and after a text is edited, we’d recommend watching the talk given by the Cadenza team at the Exeter Translation! Festival in May 2022, posted on our blog in June 2022. Entitled ‘The Journey of an Academic Translation’, the talk covers a wide range of topics, from applying to join Cadenza’s freelance team, to project management, translation, editing, amendments, and more!