Translation Revision Error Categories Explained

Every translator has had their work revised at one point or another throughout their career… Most probably more than one time.

Depending on the agencies you work with, these revisions can be different in how they are conducted. But, in the end all of it boils down to the same error categories.

You get that excel report file (data formats are different depending on the tools used) from the PM, and you have to go through the reviewer’s comments one by one, swallowing your pride and accepting your mistakes, while bursting triumphantly when you manage to disprove the reviewer.

Such is the world of translators and language reviewers. We are in perpetual war with each other’s self-opinionated selves, all for the good of the language and improving the final texts of our clients. Depending on how reasonable both sides are, the end text has to reflect a high professional level fit for the needs of the client.

But, enough of my rambling. Let us see the error categories by which your work will be (or is) revised.

Translation Error Categories and Error Severity

First of all, let’s just mention the three types of error severity: Minor, Major and Critical. All of these are scored differently. One Minor severity is scored 1, while one Major is scored 2, or something like that. In the end the formula gives a calculation if you have passed.

Critical errors are the worst, and they mean you should rethink your career options.

Sincerely, we’ve all had critical errors once in a while, but try to remember that only amateurs should be making critical errors. A critical error means you are lazy and you don’t quite understand why you are here.

Also, sometimes the reviewer will mark a change as ‘preferential edit‘, which means they are not necessarily fixing an error, it’s just preferential and can be rejected entirely; or ‘information‘, which means the reviewer wants to pass on an information to the translator and client which will serve for future reference.


This error category is divided into several sub-categories:

  • Addition: Translation includes information that is not present in the source, and this distorts the original meaning of the text.
  • Omission: Translation is missing the information that is present in the source, and this distorts the original meaning of the text.
  • Mistranslation: Translation does not accurately represent the source text
  • Untranslated: Content that should have been translated has been left untranslated.
  • Inconsistency: There are internal inconsistencies in the translation. This can refer to the same term with different translations, when it should have been unified, or non-matching numbers, and other inconsistent information.

But, even the reviewer can be wrong about some of the errors. For example, if an Addition or an Omission in the translation helps convey the meaning in your language better, it should not be counted as such. This way you can knock off some negative points from the report.

Check the words that were tagged as Mistranslations in order to see if the reviewer just changed them with synonyms that make no difference whatsoever to the meaning of the translation. Yes, I have fought off reviewers that were this way. Maybe they had a bad day and were not in the clear mind when they did the review, I wouldn’t know.

Or, in the case of Untranslated, you can double check if the client or the PM has sent you any instructions regarding anything that needs to be left untranslated or needs to be translated, and turn things to your advantage if no specific instructions were sent to you about this. You can knock off some additional points with this as well. It’s called survival!

It’s best that you ask questions about any doubts before or during translation, so that you can be sincere and straightforward with the project manager, as to not make your work look like this:

Client Guidelines

Any violation of company guidelines, instructions or ignoring the information provided in the reference resources, including the violation of the client’s term base.

  • Terminology: A term is used inconsistently with a specified term base.
  • Style Guide: The text violates company specific guidelines.
  • Project Instruction: Translation shows that project instructions were not taken into account.

More massive companies like Facebook, Airbnb, Canva etc. have very specific and detailed style guides, project instructions and terminologies, due to the shear scale of their operations, whereas smaller scale clients usually give out just instructions, terminology or both (or oftentimes none).

Be careful, because clients are very strict about their reference materials and guidelines.

Linguistic Errors

Any issue that can be proven by official linguistic reference source.

  • Punctuation: Punctuation is used incorrectly (for the locale or style).
  • Spelling: Issues related to spelling of words, including typos.
  • Grammar: Issues related to the grammar or syntax of the text, other than spelling or orthography.
  • Locale conventions/format: Content uses incorrect format according to locale’s conventions (address, currency, measurement, time, date or telephone).

Know your target language!


The style of the translation is not suitable for the content type or the target audience, translation does not sound or feel native; literal or awkward translation.

  • Inconsistent style or tone: Style is inconsistent within a text. Formal and informal language use within the same text where you are not supposed to.
  • Readability: Translation does not read well (due to heavy sentence structure, frequent repetitions, etc.). It is not typical for the target language.
  • Unidiomatic/Convulated: The translation is grammatical, but not idiomatic. It means, you are a robot and you sound weird!

Repeated Errors

A repeated error throughout the translation that is the result of a single misunderstanding. However, typos are not repeated errors.

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