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Editing vs. Edition

In the process of a translation project, there are many different workflow steps that can be involved, depending on the complexity of what’s being translated and the needs of the person or entity requesting the translation. One of the most common of these workflow steps is editing, part of the traditional “TEP” workflow process of Translation, Editing, and Proofreading. The first and more classic definition listed for edit by the Oxford Dictionary online is to “prepare (written material) for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it.” With globalization and the need for localization (which includes translation) services, and in the context of TEP, editing becomes a post-translation step in which the translation is reviewed by an editor against the source text, before being sent on for a final proofreading.

But there’s another word, edition, that is also sometimes mistakenly used to refer to this editing step. The words editing and edition are very similar, and it’s understandable that one could expect edition to be an appropriate word to use in this context. For native Spanish speakers, further confusion stems from the fact that the word for this editing step in Spanish is edición, which could naturally lead one to believe that the corresponding term in English should be edition. However, such is not the case. Let’s take a closer look at the two words and their histories.

As one would imagine, both words are derived from the same origin. According to Etymonline, an online etymology dictionary, the word edition first came into the English language in the 15th century, derived from the French word édition, which in turn has its roots ultimately in a form of the Latin verb edere, meaning “bring forth, produce.”

The word editing is the gerund form of the verb to edit, which in fact is a back-formation of the word editor. Editor comes from a Latin word of the same spelling, editor, a noun form that comes from the same root verb, edere.

So, what of edition’s meaning? Etymonline says that edition was used in the 16th century to mean the “act of publishing”; however, that usage has long since become obsolete. Today, according to the Oxford Dictionary online, edition is used to mean the following:

  1. A particular form or version of a published text.
  2. The total number of copies of a book, newspaper, or other published material issued at one time.
  3. A particular version or instance of a regular program or broadcast.

As we can see, edition is not an appropriate term to use to describe the “E” step in our TEP process. Making this distinction between editing and edition is important in order to avoid misunderstandings and confusion. So, next time you have a translation that needs to be reviewed before sending it for a final proofreading, remember this edition of the Trusted Translations blog, and ask for editing.