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How to Distinguish Between Different Degrees of Post-editing

You may already know that post-editing is the “examination and correction of the text resulting from an automatic or semi-automatic machine system to ensure it complies with the natural laws of grammar, punctuation, spelling and meaning, etc.” (Draft of European Standard for Translation Services, Brussels, 2004). However, you might not already know that there are different degrees of post-editing that clients can request. One commonly agreed upon degree of post-editing is called “light” post-editing. Another is called “full” post-editing.

Now, you may be asking yourself what the difference is between these two different types of post-editing. The first commonly requested type of post-editing, light (or rapid) post-editing, is when the translator makes as few modifications as possible to the machine translation to make it correctly transmit the source content, while ignoring any stylistic issues. Typically this type of post-editing is used on short documents that need to be translated quickly. Common light post-editing tasks include replacing unknown words, removing redundant words, fixing machine-induced meaning distortion, and partially or completely rewriting sentences.

Another commonly requested type of post-editing is called full post-editing. This degree of post-editing is most similar to standard editing. It involves all of the practices that an editor usually follows including checking terminology and proper names, making grammatical and syntactic adjustments etc. This type of post-editing is typically used for documents that require a human quality translation and/or for those that will be published, or require publishing quality.

As post-editing is still in its early stages of development, these distinctions in the degree of post-editing may become more developed and better understood by clients over time. However, for now, it is important to keep in mind that different degrees of post-editing do exist, in order to customize the needs of the client.