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The Four Eyes Principle and Translation Proofreading

Every act of writing requires editing, and translations are no different. In this week’s blog post, we’re going to look at the proofreading process for translation services: the four eyes principle.

Four eyes are better than two

The four eyes principle isn’t unique to translations, or even just to proofreading. The basic idea is that four eyes – two people – are responsible for checking work before it can be signed off. Depending on the industry, this works to address:

  • Security,
  • Accuracy, and
  • Ethics.

With that basic understanding to work with, how does the translation industry benefit from the use of the four eyes principle?

What is the four eyes principle?

Everyone knows the expression, “Two heads are better than one.” In the case of translation services, banking, and law, for example, two heads means four eyes. The idea is that while one person does the work – whether it’s translating a document, preparing a transaction, or drawing up a legal document – another will review it to ensure it suits the purpose required and that no mistakes have been made.

The proofreading process

Anyone who writes anything for professional publication relies on a proofreader to check their work. Proofreading in translation is used to check a number of different aspects of the translated piece, including:

  • Typos
  • Mistranslations of text
  • Omissions from the source document
  • Inconsistencies in translations of words or phrases.

Proofreading in the case of translation also addresses whether the translated piece is suitable for the intended purpose, which can mean addressing choices in terminology and phrasing and looking at references for a piece.

What doesn’t fall under the remit of the proofreader?

Proofreading is about correcting mistakes if they exist, but it shouldn’t be a means to completely edit a document. Stylistic choices belong to the translator, and should only be addressed in the proofreading process if the translated piece is inappropriate based on the requirements of the text.

Why do translators need a second set of eyes?

The short answer is that no one is perfect. Everyone makes a mistake eventually, and in the case of translation, the consequences of a poor translation can result in financial loss or embarrassment for the client, or pose a risk to the health and safety of the audience.

Proofreading doesn’t mean that a translator has made a mistake, or that they are prone to errors. Nor does proofreading by a second translator imply that the first translator is inadequate. Rather, the proofreading process is about ensuring as much is done to reduce errors for the benefit of the audience and the client of the text.

Tools of the trade

The main tool for proofreading translations falls into the category of Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT). CAT systems create a terminology database through the use of translation memory. Many translators rely on this sort of technology to speed up work and to ensure consistency.

Tools that fall under the remit of Linguistic Quality Assurance – such as a spell-checker in Google Docs or Grammarly in the consumer sphere – are used to help detect errors.

Why do translators need a proofreader when technology exists to help?

Translation technology has come a long way, and proofreading tools are constantly becoming more advanced, but a human element is still necessary to ensure text reads correctly. The complications of human language mean that no technology that currently exists can read and understand everything that is written, and ensure that a translation is accurate.

Further to this, while CAT tools can create a workable database, and Linguistic Quality Assurance tools assist with the proofreading process, they can’t pick up directly on typing errors where a sentence may still make sense. For this, a second set of eyes ensures the proofreading process is completed properly, without total reliance on technology to do the work.

How do we ensure the highest standards of translation?

We follow a straightforward process, simplified as such:

  • We discuss your needs, from languages to deadlines, and the purpose of the translation
  • We use only vetted translators for every job
  • Our Quality Assurance team reviews every translation

In this way, we aim for the highest standards to begin with, and have team members on site to review everything before we send it back to our clients, with proofreading and editing built in from the beginning.

What’s next for you?

We work in many industries and across multiple languages. Take a look at the translation services we have on offer, and when you’re ready, get in touch. We’d love to help you share your message with more people – and you can count on the four eyes principle to ensure you’re getting the best work.


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