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Review of  Revising and Editing for Translators

Reviewer: Claire Louise Ellender
Book Title: Revising and Editing for Translators
Book Author: Brian Mossop
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Translation
Issue Number: 25.5209

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Review's Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry

This work is part of the Translation Practices Explained Series whose three principal aims are to: ‘help self-learners and teachers of translation’, ‘address specific aspects of professional practices on which little teaching and learning material is available’ and ‘encourage learners to [solve] problems [...] from examples and case studies [...]’ (p. i). The purpose of the present review is two-fold. First, it provides brief summaries of the Introduction and fourteen principal chapters of Mossop’s textbook. Second, it highlights this book’s merits and shortcomings before determining the extent to which the work fulfils both the three above-stated aims of the Translation Practices Explained Series and the specific objectives which Mossop states in his Introduction.


Mossop’s ‘Introduction for Users’ first defines the work’s intended audience: i) professionals and students who are seeking to revise their own translations (self-revision) or revise the translations of others (other-revision) and ii) students who are learning to edit original writing by others. The author clearly explains, and distinguishes between, the two key concepts which he uses. ‘Revising’ consists in ‘reading a translation in order to spot problematic passages, and making any needed corrections and improvements’ (p. 1). ‘Editing’, by contrast, ‘is the same task applied to texts which are not translations’ (ibid.). After stating explicitly what this book does not intend to do, Mossop clarifies that revising and editing both require application of certain principles; his work thus helps readers to formulate procedures for good practice. This Introduction concludes with a brief section which is aimed at different types of instructors. It deals with supervising trainees in the work place, outlines approaches to marking, learning outcomes, exercises and tests, and offers a number of syllabus suggestions (pp. 9-17).

Chapter One explains why editing and revising are necessary. Sentences in a text may be written unclearly and therefore difficult for readers to understand, or the author may not have borne in mind the text’s readership and therefore not tailored the text appropriately. Issues relating to correct use of language and genre may also arise. Chapter One then lists some ways in which a text may be defective before discussing the difficulty of writing (including an interesting classification of different types of writer, p. 20), the need for writers to respect rules (linguistic ones and those of publishers) and concepts of quality which assist the reviser’s work. The chapter concludes with a comprehensive summary of its main points.

The work of an editor forms the focus of Chapter Two. The tasks which editors carry out are listed and four categories of amending work are defined, thereby introducing the subjects which are covered in Chapters Three to Six. Further definitions are provided (editing, rewriting, adapting) and are followed by a series of practice exercises (pp. 40-1).

The first type of textual amending work to be dealt with in depth is copyediting. Chapter Three defines this process as ‘[...] checking and correcting a document to bring it into conformance with pre-set rules’ (p. 42), before considering it under five headings: house style, spelling, syntax and idiom, punctuation and correct usage. Subsequently there is a series of ten exercises, each of which suggests a particular aspect of copyediting on which to focus, for instance style sheets, punctuation or syntax.

In Chapter Four, stylistic editing is considered. This task involves tailoring vocabulary and sentence structure to the text’s target audience and creating a smooth-flowing, easily readable text. The chapter discusses tailoring language to readers, smoothing, readability, how stylistic editing can be carried out during translation and traps to avoid, notably making too many changes to a text. Again, a number of exercises, which encourage identification and correction of stylistic problems, are proposed.

Structural editing concerns both the conceptual structure of texts (organisation of argument) and their physical structure (parts and sequencing). In Chapter Five, a number of issues relating to physical structure are identified, structural editing during translation is touched upon, and further practice exercises are provided. Content editing consists in checking and amending a text for its ideas (p. 83). This occurs at both the macro level (on a large scale) and the micro level (on a small scale). Translators are mostly concerned with micro-level tasks and these form the focus of Chapter Six. Factual, conceptual and logical errors are all detailed and the issues of content editing, both during and after translation, are discussed.

Chapters Seven and Eight focus on checking for consistency and computer aids to checking. In the former, such subjects as degrees of consistency and translation databases are covered. In Chapter Eight, the use of Internet search engines, multilingual sites and translation databases in the processes of editing and revising are all discussed, and a number of practical tips are offered. Mossop details the multiple benefits of Google, be this for checking the authenticity and idiomatic quality of expressions (pp. 97-9), searching for terminology in on-line, specialised multilingual glossaries, or carrying out research on subject-matter. The editing functions of word-processors and revision tools are also explained in some depth.

Concentrating on the work of a reviser, Chapter Nine first defines revising as ‘[...] that function of professional translators in which they find features of the draft translation that fall short of what is acceptable, as determined by some concept of quality, and make any needed corrections and improvements’ (p. 115). At times, the reviser has to correct the text (omissions, mistranslations, terminological errors); at other times, it is necessary to improve the text (stylistic editing, semantic adjustments). In this extremely detailed chapter, a whole range of issues are covered, from revision of terminology, through measuring the quality of revision and the trade-off between time and quality, to quality assurance. This paves the way for Chapter Ten, ‘The Revision Parameters’, which details features of a draft translation which may require revision (p. 134). Twelve parameters are presented and are divided into four groups: problems of (meaning) Transfer, Content, Language and Presentation (TCLP).

Once degrees of revision have been discussed in Chapter Eleven (the need for revision by a second translator, determining degree of revision, and a ‘good enough’ approach to revision p. 163), concrete revision procedures are set out in Chapter Twelve. The book’s final two chapters cover the vital process of self-revision (Chapter Thirteen), including a helpful section on ‘self-diagnosis’ and some detailed exercises; these relate to revising not only the work of human translators (Chapter Fourteen) but also machine translation (MT) and translation memory (TM) outputs. Mossop’s work concludes with six appendices, amongst which are twelve principles for revision (pp. 205-6), a discussion of quality assessment (pp. 207-13), a grading scheme for editing assignments (pp. 214-17) and a glossary of the terminology used throughout the book (pp. 222-9).


As explained at the outset, the present review will now highlight the merits and shortcomings of Mossop’s ‘Revising and Editing for Translators’ and assess the extent to which this work fulfils both the Translation Practices Explained Series’ three aims and the specific, clearly related, objectives which Mossop states in his Introduction.

Mossop’s textbook, now in its third edition, is evidently a popular and successful work. Its structure is eminently clear and easy to follow, the language in which it is written is easily accessible and, as would be expected of a book which deals with revising and editing, the copy- and stylistic editing are impeccable. ‘Revising and Editing for Translators’ also contains a considerable amount of detailed information and honest discussion of practical scenarios and related dilemmas (p. 127), and offers both interesting ideas for hands-on exercises and ample suggestions for further reading at the end of each chapter.

Despite this book’s considerable merits, there are a small number of points upon which it could potentially improve:

i) Useful summaries are provided at the end of Chapters One and Twelve; it may be helpful to add a similar section at the end of each chapter;

ii) Although honest, the section of Mossop’s Introduction which details everything which the book will not do could perhaps be removed, or at least toned down; as it stands, it does tend to raise doubts about how useful the book will actually be;

iii) Certain suggestions made in the book may not sit easily with conscientious readers / translators. Comments which suggest that it is not necessary to be consistent in the use of terminology (pp. 90, 96) or to be a perfectionist (pp. 158, 163), and that it is acceptable to delete elements of the source text (ST) when translating (p. 177) do, on first reading, appear to encourage a lax and somewhat unprofessional attitude. Mossop does however justify his recommendations which, ultimately, all aim to increase reviser-editor productivity.

In line with the Translation Practices Explained Series’ objectives, Mossop’s work does indeed help both self-learners and teachers of translation, encouraging them to engage with the text and solve problems through its multiple suggestions for practical exercises and discussions. Of particular significance is the fact that this book deals with the professional practices of revising and editing for translators, on which relatively little teaching and learning material is presently available. Numerous websites give guidance on the revising and editing of academic and non-academic writing (Fleming 2009; Thomson 2014) and many books on these subjects are also available (Billingham and Seely 2002; Luey 2007). As regards the revision of translations, a range of on-line manuals (European Commission 2010), articles (; and blogs ( are easily accessible. However, books on this subject tend to deal, predominantly, with the revision of MT, that is, post-editing (Allen 2003; Krings 2001). Apart from Mossop’s work, there is indeed a lack of books, or manuals, which serve as comprehensive guides for practitioners, students and instructors in the field.

Mossop’s own objectives, which are closely related to those of the series, are also certainly achieved. The work is targeted at both professionals and students / newcomers. For the former, it encourages objective self-reflection on current practices (p. 180) and for the latter, it provides a wealth of useful, practical information and tips (pp. 98-111). The work contains clear sections on self-revision, other-revision and editing original writing by others (Chapters Thirteen and Fourteen). On many occasions, it helps students to formulate procedures for editing and revising which will provide them with a solid foundation on which to build their career. Lastly, the work provides guidance for different types of instructors through syllabus suggestions (pp. 116-17) and a sample grading scheme for editing assessments (pp. 214-17).

‘Revising and Editing for Translators’ is a practically-oriented, well organised textbook which is of relevance to all members of the multidimensional readership which it intends to target. It plugs an important gap in literature on revising/editing practice and would be a useful addition to the library of current and future editors/revisers and trainers in the field.


Allen, Jeffrey. 2003. Post-editing. In (ed.) Harold Somers, Computers and Translation: A Translators’ Guide. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Fleming, Grace. 2009. The difference between revising and editing. (accessed 22.06.14).

Billingham, Jo and John Seely. 2002. One Step Ahead: editing and Revising Text. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Krings, Hans. 2001. Repairing texts: empirical investigations of machine translations and post-editing processes. Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press.

Luey, Beth and Sanford Thatcher (eds.) 2007. Revising your Dissertation: Advice from Leading Editors. California: University of California Press.

[n.a.]. 2010. ‘European Commission: Directorate-General for Translation. Spanish Department. (accessed 22.06.14)

[n.a.] 2014. High Quality Translation and Interpreting Services: Revision Guidelines for Translations. (accessed 22.06.14)

[n.a.]. 2014. Revision, Editing and Proofreading. (accessed 22.06.14)
[n.a.]. 2013. Proofreading, editing, revising: What’s the difference? (accessed 22.06.14)

Thomson, Pat. 2014. Good academic writing: it’s about revision not editing. (accessed 22.06.14)
Claire Ellender is Maître de Conférences in Translation at the Université de Lille III, France and has previously worked as an in-house translator in Paris and a consultant course author for The Open University. She is an academic member of ITI (Institute for Translation and Interpreting) and carries out research in the fields of audiovisual and literary translation. Her recent publications include 'Preserving Polyphonies: Translating the Writings of Claude Sarraute' (2013, Peter Lang).

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