Author: Amanda Mao, PhD, CMPP

What are editing and revising translations like behind the scenes? medical translation

Over the years as a bilingual Chinese medical communicator, I have had the privilege to check other professionals’ translations as Team Lead in my business before delivering to the client; and from a client side, previously in corporate, and now blending into a client’s internal team.

Edit and revise a medical translation as part of a client project

The purpose is to ensure clients get the highest possible quality of translation. We aim to do translations right the first time, no back-and-forth revisions are needed. To achieve this, the translation delivered for the first time must be of high quality. Final quality control is integral to achieving the last mile of a high-quality translation. Towards this aim, my edits are more vigorous, keeping clients in mind.

Typical translation errors I’m looking for are:

1. Overall sentence structure, readability, flow and consistency


I ask for work in progress from a translator to have a feel. If it doesn’t read naturally, it’s a sign to expect issues throughout the translation if left as it is. In this case, I communicate with the translator about my concern. The translation needs to be redone, or a different translator is needed in extreme cases. To prevent this from happening, I always work with experienced and reliable translators.

2. Medical terminology


This is by far the most common edit I make.

I use three ways to check it:

  • When I’m sure about my revision, I’ll comment to the translator to make global changes.
  • If unsure, I’ll check dictionaries, reference books and relevant publications. I’ll also ask the client if they have a preferred term to use.
  • It’s a good idea to ask the translator why they choose a certain term, knowing they have strong medical and technical backgrounds as well. If the answer is satisfactory, and if the client doesn’t have an in-house preference, I’ll keep it in the translation.

3. English to Chinese punctuation issues


It’s another way to tell a good from a bad translation. Bear in mind punctuations are different in these two languages. If there are punctuation errors, it often means the overall quality is poor, which sometimes may warrant a retranslation altogether.

Overall, it’s a vigorous process keeping in mind the translated file will be delivered to the client with top-notch quality.

Edit and revise a medical translation from a client side

As a bilingual Chinese medical communicator, whether I was working in the cooperate world, or now working with clients in my business, I receive and check finished translations from service providers.

I use a slightly different approach, compared with doing it to deliver to a client.

  • If it’s optional to change, then don’t. There are different ways of translating the same word or phrase, all of which can be correct. If it’s just a matter of style, then respect the translator’s choice and go with it. I only change a translation when I’m sure it’s not the preferred way of translating it.
  • If the overall translation quality is fine and only a few changes are needed, I revise them myself, instead of returning them to the translator for revision. This way, I know exactly what I want and it actually saves time.

This highlights the importance of having high-quality translation to begin with. Once the translation is delivered to me, from the client side, even though I need to make minor changes, it’ll be quick and easy to make them myself.

What’s your tip to edit and revise a translated document? Connect with me on LinkedIn to let me know!