Light and full post-editing: what is it and how to choose the right post-editing service

Machine translation can translate thousands of words in seconds at a fraction of the cost of human translation services. It’s impressive, no doubt, but there’s a catch. Without the discerning eye of a human, key insights and subtle nuances could easily get lost in translation. 

This brings us to an intriguing crossroads in machine translation: how can we translate something accurately and effectively? In the world of translation, quality is not just black or white; it’s a spectrum, and perceptions of it vary widely. 

To navigate this spectrum, there are two solutions: light and full post-editing. These solutions refine and elevate machine-generated output to meet all business quality requirements. In this blog post, we will explore how to use the efficiency of machines with irreplaceable human expertise, explaining the nuances of post-editing to achieve excellence in translation.

Woman doing light and full post-editing on a computer with an editor on the screen

What is post-editing? 

Post-editing is the process by which human translators polish and enhance machine translations. In post-editing, the initial translation is done by machine or AI translation. While fast and cost-effective, this translation may struggle to convey cultural nuances, idioms and specialised jargon accurately. Post-editing bridges this gap by bringing in human expertise to revise and enhance the machine-generated output. 

The role of MTPE in language translation services

Machine Translation Post-Editing (MTPE) has become a cornerstone in language translation services. It enables faster turnaround times while maintaining quality, making it an attractive option for businesses and individuals who require efficient and quality translation services.

However, it is important to set expectations and discuss how to achieve the desired level of quality. Generally, language service providers offer two levels of post-editing: light or full post-editing. 

Light post-editing

Light post-editing makes the text understandable and coherent without spending too much time on stylistic or linguistic perfection. The goal is to ensure the translation is accurate and conveys the intended meaning, but fine-tuning for style or fluency is minimal. Light post-editing includes:

  • Ensuring that no information has been added or omitted
  • Editing any inappropriate content
  • Restructuring sentences in the case of incorrect or unclear meaning

Full post-editing

Full post-editing involves a thorough review and revision of the machine-translated text. This level of post-editing includes checking for and correcting errors, ensuring stylistic consistency, and making sure the text reads as if it was originally written in the target language. It’s more time-consuming and detailed compared to light post-editing. Full post-editing includes:

  • Correcting mistakes in the terminology or jargon used
  • Correcting grammar and spelling mistakes
  • Correcting punctuation and syntax so the language flows naturally
  • Rewording sentences to make the text more fluent 
  • Ensuring the text is correct, consistent and appropriate for the target audience
  • Using preferred terminology from termbases and other terminology resources 


Light post-editing Full post-editing
Focus Accuracy and conveying the intended meaning Error correction, stylistic consistency, natural language flow
Tasks – Ensuring that no information has been added or omitted

– Editing any inappropriate content

– Restructuring sentences in the case of incorrect meaning

– Correcting terminology and jargon mistakes

– Grammar and spelling corrections

– Punctuation and syntax for clarity

– Rewording for fluency and style

– Ensuring text appropriateness for the audience

– Using preferred terminology

Time and effort Less time-consuming, with minimal fine-tuning More time-consuming, detailed review
Ideal for General content where precision is not a top priority Specialised content needing high accuracy and preservation of original nuances


What are the benefits of post-editing? 

Quality assurance

One of the primary benefits of post-editing is correcting mistakes in machine-translated texts. By combining machine translation with the precision of human editing, post-editing delivers reliable translations.

Consistency in translations

Consistency is key in translation, especially for businesses looking to maintain their brand voice across different languages. Post-editing helps achieve uniformity in terminology and style throughout current and future translated materials.

Cost reduction

Post-editing can significantly reduce translation costs compared to traditional human translation. While it does involve human intervention, the process is faster and requires less work, leading to lower overall costs.

Faster turnaround

Post-editing combines the speed of machine translation with the expertise of professional translators. This results in a significantly faster turnaround, making it ideal for projects with tight deadlines.

Choosing the right post-editing service

The first step in selecting a post-editing service is to evaluate the nature of your content. Light post-editing might be all you need for general content where absolute precision is not a top priority. 

However, accuracy becomes crucial when dealing with more specialised content, like medical or technical documents. In such cases, full post-editing is recommended to ensure that every detail is accurately translated and the nuances of the original text are preserved.

Budget is a key consideration in any business decision, and choosing a post-editing service is no exception. If budget constraints are a concern, light post-editing is a cost-effective solution. However, choosing a less expensive option could mean sacrificing some stylistic nuance, detail, and quality.

Understanding the requirements of each approach and how they align with your content’s nature, budget, and quality expectations is vital. By choosing the right post-editing service, you can elevate the quality of your translations, striking the perfect balance between efficiency and excellence. 

Do you need help navigating the different options of machine translation post-editing? Get in touch with our team and find out what the best translation solution for your needs is.