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What is pre-editing and how can it help?

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In the world of translation and localization, there are various ways to accelerate the machine translation workflow and produce higher-quality results. One of these methods is known as pre-editing. But what exactly is pre-editing, and how can it help? MEINRAD takes a closer look at this process and explains the benefits.

The saying “prevention is better than cure” applies just as much to translations as it does elsewhere. Because the better that is, the more translation-friendly a text is, the easier it will be to translate and the higher the quality of the translation. That’s true for all translations, but it’s particularly important formachine translation. Why? A human translator thinks about the text, understands which sections relate to each other or refer to other things, and can identify inconsistencies, ambiguities and mistakes in the source text. The MT engine can’t do that, so if the source text is poorly written, the results it produces will be similarly poor, if not completely wrong. This can cause major problems, especially if the text is being translated into multiple languages, so a productive approach is to turn the tables: rather than spending hours post-editing the MT output, focus on optimizing the source text and checking that it’s suitable for translation.

What is pre-editing?

Pre-editing is more than just proofreading a text to make sure there aren’t any errors or typos. It refers to the process of preparing (i.e. editing and optimizing) texts for the specific purpose of getting them machine translatedbefore they are actually fed into a CAT tool or a machine translation engine. The aim of pre-editing is to revise and adapt source texts to facilitate machine translation and to improve the quality of the output. There are various techniques which help make the text clearer, more consistent and more suitable for the MT process.

What happens in pre-editing? 

A professional pre-editor will rewrite (or simply delete) sections of texts that are not specific, clear or objective enough – whether it’s individual terms, grammatical ambiguities, compound words, idiomatic turns of phrase, complex syntax, metaphors or whatever else may be problematic. They’ll make sure that every sentence is correct in and of itself, as clear as it possibly can be, and free from grammatical and syntactical errors. And the pre-editor’s job also includes cleaning up the terminology and removing synonyms, abbreviations and creative language.

Specifically, pre-editing involves:

  • Simplifying the language: removing complex sentences and specialist jargon to make the text easier to understand.
  • Ensuring consistent terminology: standardizing the use of terms and phrases to avoid confusion.
  • Removing ambiguities: clarifying terms and sentences which could be interpreted in several ways.
  • Adhering to conventions: complying with grammatical and stylistic norms, which machine translation engines can handle more easily.
  • Checking syntax and spelling: making sure the text is free from typos and grammatical mistakes.

Benefits of pre-editing

If you follow the motto “Garbage in, garbage out” and don’t do any pre-editing, poor phrasing in source texts will often lead to machine translation results that make little sense or are simply wrong. Pre-editing can significantly improve these results. It’s a simple formula: the more pre-editing you do, the better the MT results and the less post-editing will be required. And there are other benefits too:

  1. Higher-quality machine translations
    Pre-editing the source text to meet the requirements of machine translation can considerably improve the quality of the output, reducing the amount of post-editing and enabling a smoother overall translation workflow.
  1. Save time and money
    Optimizing the source text means less post-editing is required, which saves time and money for human translators and for companies that use machine translations.
  1. Consistency and accuracy
    A well-written text ensures that the translation is consistent and accurate. Standardizing terminology and removing ambiguities minimizes the likelihood of mistakes in the translation.
  1. Texts are easier to understand
    A readable end product is a key factor, even when using machine translation. Pre-editing helps make the translated text more fluent and easier to understand, which will increase acceptance among readers.
  1. Human translators work faster
    When human translators start post-editing, they’re working with a text that has already been optimized. This makes their life easier and allows them to concentrate on the finer details and nuances of the text, rather than having to correct serious mistakes.

Who carries out pre-editing? 

Pre-editing is usually carried out by specialist linguists or translators who have in-depth knowledge of the source and target language and are well-versed in machine translation. These experts understand the challenges and the drawbacks of machine translation engines and know how texts need to be adapted to make them suitable for MT. They may need to work with content creators and/or technical editors to ensure that the source text is written as well as it can be.


Pre-editing is a key step in the translation workflow, especially when working with machine translation. Careful preparation of the source text can considerably enhance the quality of the translations and accelerate the overall process. And the benefits of pre-editing also include saving money, producing more readable texts, and ensuring greater consistency.




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