Glossary of proofreading terms

Linefeeds, widows and en dashes – ever wondered what your proofreader is trying to tell you? Proofreading terms can be puzzling if you don’t know what they mean. Here are the basic terms explained.

Thicker style of > type. The individual headings in this glossary are written in bold letters.

The word “September” starts with a capital letter. Writing something “in capitals” means spelling it out in big, capital letters: LIKE THAT.

To write or print in > capital letters or to begin a word with a capital letter.

Closed up
Punctuation with no space on either side: 3–4 p.m. There is no space between the numbers and the dash.

Em dash
The really long dash. Longer than the > en dash. Always used > closed up, either as punctuation instead of commas or > parentheses (It was—all in all—a successful launch.) or to indicate interrupted speech (“What the—”, he gasped.).

En dash
The medium-length dash – used > closed up to form ranges (page 12–23) or relations (Paris–Dakar rally); used > spaced as punctuation instead of a colon, brackets or commas (It was – all in all – a successful launch).

Fixed space
Used to keep two words together that are separated by a space. Often used between numbers and units (50 mg) so that they don’t get separated by a line break.

Name of a > type with a specific design; also called > typeface. “Times New Roman” or “Arial” are examples of different fonts.

Hard return
Key on the computer keyboard that starts a new line (the “Enter”or “Return” key); also called a > linefeed.

House style
Company-specific guidelines for spelling, terminology, hyphenation etc. Often collated in a > style sheet for copywriters and proofreaders to maintain a consistent style in all written texts.

The shortest dash. Can be used to form compound words, e.g. short-term, wide-ranging, pick-me-up (hard hyphen). Also indicates the division of a word at the end of a line (soft hyphen). Contrary to popular belief, the hyphen is not to be used as punctuation (use the > en dash or > em dash instead).

When a line or a block of text is set further away from the margin than the main text, it is indented.

> Type that slopes to the right. If you really want to stress something, you could write the word in italic script for emphasis. The links in this glossary are written in italic.

A text is justified if the margins on both sides are even. All full lines have the same length. Often found in newspaper columns and printed text because it looks neat.

Two or more letters joined together to form a single character, e.g. æ, ff, fi, ffl. Perhaps a bit old-fashioned these days, but some > types still use them to look pretty.

Starting a new line by hitting the “Return” (or “Enter”) key; distance between two lines of text, also called line spacing.

Lower case
Lower-case letters are letters that are not > capitalized. All of the words in the previous sentence are lower case, except for the word “Lower”, which starts with an upper-case letter “L”.

The first line of a new paragraph at the foot of a page. Should ideally be moved to the next page to join the rest of the paragraph it belongs to.

Pair of round brackets (such as these).

Parenthesis (plural: parentheses)
Word or phrase inserted into a sentence as an addition, usually marked by brackets, dashes or commas on either side: Nobody, not even the owner, expected this horse to win.

The regular upright > type or font style (such as this one) that texts are usually written in, as opposed to the > bold or > italic type.

Run on
Continuation; connecting two lines or paragraphs that had been separated before, for example if a sentence had been split unintentionally by a > hard return.

With a space on either side. Some punctuation is used with a space on either side – such as this en dash.

Latin for “let it stand”. Usually marked in form of a few dots underneath a correction made in error. Means to leave the text as it is. Not so much used anymore in digital proofreading, where you can simply delete a correction if it is wrong.

Style sheet
List of instructions about grammar or spelling preferences and other style-related matters, for example with regard to hyphenation, capitalization or word endings such as -ise or -ize.

Take back and take over
To correct a bad word break such as “leg- end”, you can either take back the second part to keep the entire word in the first line or take over the first part and move it to the next line.

If you swap around words or letters that are in the wrong order, you transpose them. In this exmaple, you need to transpose the letters m and a to form the word “example”.

Another word for character or letter. Originally a printing term for a piece of metal with a raised letter or character (which you can also find on an old typewriter).

Name of a > type with a specific design; also called > font. “Times New Roman” or “Arial” are examples of different typefaces.

The margin on the left side of the text is even (aligned) and the margin on the right is uneven (ragged). The lines have different lengths, but the spaces between the words are all the same size. Usually used for online texts (such as this one) and emails, as it is easier to read on screen.

Upper case
See > lower case.

A short last line of a paragraph (just a few words) spilling over to the top of the next page. Should be tucked under the paragraph it belongs to, if possible.

Are there any other proofreading terms you are not sure about? Let me know! I will try and answer them.

Glossary of translation-related terms

Looking for a translator but feeling a bit confused by the lingo? Here are the basic terms explained.

In two languages; or a person who speaks two languages fluently. Translators are bilingual (or even multilingual), but not every bilingual person is a > translator.

CAT tool
Software used by many translators to assist them in producing consistent translations. Useful for creating > termbases for individual clients and accessing previous translations (> TM).

Continuing professional development. Training that professional translators do throughout their career to hone their language, business and translation skills and subject knowledge.

Editable format
If the words of a text can be counted and changed directly, the format is editable. It is easier to work with editable Word documents than with PDFs or scanned documents.

Fuzzy match
Shows previously translated text segments that are similar to but not exactly the same as the actual segment that is being translated. It helps to produce consistent translations.

An interpreter orally translates speech from one language into another and vice versa. Often confusingly called > translator.

Orally translating speech into a different language or sign language and vice versa, usually during a conversation between two or more people who speak different languages.

Another term for > translation that emphasizes the need to adapt a text according to cultural aspects and local customs in the > target language.

Language service provider. Another term for translation agency. These days also used for technology firms offering > machine translations or other language tools.

Machine translation
Software that transfers words, sentences and syntax from one language into another using algorithms. Often used to get the gist of things, but strictly speaking not a > translation.

Mother tongue
The language we grow up and feel most familiar with. I grew up in Germany and lived there for the first 29 years of my life, so German is my mother tongue.

Native speaker
Someone who speaks their > mother tongue. Translators should generally be native speakers of the > target language, although reasonable exceptions are possible.

Reading a text very slowly and carefully in order to spot spelling and grammar mistakes, inconsistencies and layout issues. Not to be confused with > revision.

The intention behind a text. A text can be written to attract, inform or amuse an audience, to discuss theories, sell products, give comfort … The list is endless.

Entire segments of a text that are an exact match. These can be translated quicker using > TM and are sometimes charged at a reduced rate.

Comparing a translation against the > source text to check the accuracy of the translation and to correct any spelling or grammar mistakes. Often confusingly called > proofreading.

Source language
Language that the > source text is written in. If you send an English text to a translator for translation into another language, English is the source language.

Source text
Original text that is supposed to be translated into another language. It is the text that you send to the translator.

Subject area in which a translator has acquired extensive knowledge thanks to a previous career and/or continuing professional development (> CPD).

Target audience/readership
The people you have in mind when writing a text. They can be potential or existing customers, colleagues, experts or other end users, depending on the > purpose of the text.

Target language
Language that the translation will be written in. If you send an English text to a translator for translation into German, the target language is German.

Target text
Translation of the > source text in another language (the > target language). It is the text that the translator sends back to you.

> Bilingual database of terms (glossary) that helps to manage approved terms for individual clients and to use terms consistently in translations.

Translation memory. > Bilingual database containing text segments (usually sentences) that have already been translated earlier for reference in future translations.

Another word for > translation. It emphasizes the fact that a translation is more than a transfer of words from one language into another and that some aspects can’t be translated directly.

Creating a text in another language than the > source text that reads like a genuine text in the > target language while reflecting the style and evoking the same effect as the original.

A translator translates written text from a > source language into a > target language (usually their > mother tongue). This can be texts, subtitles or other forms of written material.

Word count
Amount of words in a written document. A translation fee is usually based on the word count of the > source text or on the estimated time it will take to translate it (hourly rate).

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Have I forgotten anything? Are there any other translation-related terms you are not sure about? Send them in!