The Art of Translation: A Deep Dive into Light vs. Full Post-Editing

In the world of translation and localization, the advent of Large Language Models (LLMs) and Post-Editing has been a game-changer. However, deciding when to use a light or full post-editing approach remains a contentious issue. 

Today, we will delve into post-editing, the differences between light and full post-editing, its application, and the ongoing debate surrounding the role of human translators in the ever-evolving translation landscape.   

The Essence of Post-Editing Translation

Post-editing translation is a process of meticulous refinement, where human editors meticulously polish machine-generated translations. The primary aim is to achieve three critical objectives: accuracy, fluency, and cultural appropriateness. This careful revision ensures that the translated content not only conveys the intended message but does so in a manner that resonates with the target audience.

The significance of post-editing cannot be overstated, as it serves as an indispensable solution in various industries and scenarios. Many multinational corporations see it as a flexible and practical approach to overcoming language barriers. As businesses aim to reach a global audience, managing translation costs becomes a critical concern. Post-editing addresses this concern by harnessing the capabilities of machine translation, making the process more time and resource-efficient while ensuring that the final output maintains the necessary linguistic and cultural integrity. 

However, in a Slator Pod’s interview with Jakub Absolon, he made a bold claim that “full post-editing is simply human translation and should be priced and timed as such.” He argues that the biggest difference between machine translation-generated content and human translation is that human translators are liable for the content they translate. He argues that full post-editing falls under the same liability as human translation. 

What is the Difference Between Light and Full Post-Editing Translation?

So, to get a better understanding on what is the difference between the two, let's first define what is light and full post-editing. 

Light post-editing is characterized by a targeted and more restrained approach to refining machine-generated translations. This mode focuses primarily on correcting specific errors or improving fluency while preserving a significant portion of the original machine-generated content. It aims to balance efficiency and quality, recognizing that not all content requires extensive human intervention.

The essence of light post-editing lies in the concept of "post-editing light touches," where the changes made are minimal and mainly involve rectifying obvious errors, enhancing readability, and ensuring that the translation adheres to the required stylistic and terminological guidelines. 

In contrast, full post-editing signifies a more comprehensive and rigorous approach to translation refinement. It involves a thorough examination and revision of the entire machine-generated translation, often resulting in more substantial changes to the content. Its objective is to produce a translation that not only meets quality standards but also aligns closely with what a human translator would generate. 

Full post-editing is akin to completely transforming the machine-generated output into a more polished and human-like translation. This mode is typically employed when the initial machine translation is of lower quality, riddled with errors, or when the content necessitates a level of precision and nuance that can only be achieved through extensive human intervention.

When to Use Light or Full Post-Editing?

From what we see, there is a significant difference between light and full post-editing. In all situations, you can’t always use full post-editing, and the same goes for light post-editing. 

There are considerations that you should take note of before deciding to do light post-editing, which we listed below:

  1. Well-Structured Content: The generated translated content is a straightforward and well-structured format, such as product descriptions. 

  2. Time Constraints: When there's a tight deadline for translation projects, it allows quicker turnaround times, reducing the time required for extensive revisions.

  3. Budget Constraints: If you have budget constraints and need to keep translation costs in check, light post-editing can be a cost-effective solution. 

  4. Large Volumes of Content: Light post-editing is advantageous for translating extensive volumes of content, such as websites or e-commerce catalogs. It streamlines the process, making it feasible to manage large-scale translation projects efficiently.

  5. Gisting Purposes: When the primary goal is to understand the general meaning of the content rather than producing a polished final document, light post-editing ensures that the essential information is conveyed while accepting a more relaxed standard of fluency and style.

  6. Pre-Editing Quality: When the initial machine translation quality output is relatively high, light post-editing is suitable, especially with minimal modifications. 

  7. Non-Critical Content: Content that is not mission-critical or does not have severe consequences for minor errors, such as internal communications, can benefit from light post-editing.

The industries where light post-editing translation is suitable are as follows.

  • E-Commerce: Online retailers often deal with large volumes of product descriptions, user reviews, and catalog content. 

  • Information Technology (IT): Companies that need to translate software documentation, help files, or user interfaces can benefit from the timely release of multilingual products.

  • Internal Communications: In multinational corporate environments that need to translate content, such as internal documents, memos, and communication materials, intended for employees rather than external audiences.

  • Consumer Electronics: Companies producing electronic devices may use light post-editing for translating user manuals, product packaging, and support documentation, ensuring product information is available in various languages.

As for full post-editing is typically required when the machine-generated translation output is of lower quality and needs substantial human intervention to meet the desired linguistic and stylistic standards. Here are the factors to consider when opting for full post-editing:

  1. The Complexity of the Content: Complex content, such as legal documents, medical reports, or technical manuals, demands a high degree of precision, specialized terminology, and attention to detail that may be beyond the capabilities of the MT, so it requires full post-editing.

  2. Quality of Initial Machine Translation (MT): A strong indicator of this approach is if the MT generates poor quality content, is riddled with errors or inaccuracies, and lacks fluency.

  3. Critical or Sensitive Information: When dealing with content that contains vital or sensitive information, such as legal contracts, medical diagnoses, or financial reports, errors or misinterpretations in such content can have severe consequences, making human oversight crucial.

  4. Regulatory and Compliance Requirements: Industries with strict regulatory and compliance standards, such as pharmaceuticals, finance, or legal, often require full post-editing to ensure the translation aligns with the necessary legal and industry-specific guidelines.

  5. Industry-Specific Terminology: If the content uses highly specialized terminology, such as scientific research papers or technical manuals, it may necessitate full post-editing to ensure consistency and accuracy.

  6. Cultural Nuances and Context: Full post-editing may be needed when translating content with significant cultural nuances, idiomatic expressions, or context-specific references that need human post-editors to ensure the translation is culturally appropriate and resonates with the target audience.

  7. Client Preferences and Quality Expectations: If the client demands a translation that closely mirrors human-generated quality, full post-editing is the preferred choice to meet those expectations.

  8. Document Length and Project Scope: Longer documents or extensive projects may require a higher level of post-editing to maintain consistency and quality throughout.

Here are industries and scenarios where full post-editing is the preferred choice:

  1. Legal Industry: In the legal industry, where precise terminology and avoiding errors are critical, full post-editing is essential and requires human translation to ensure accuracy and legal validity.

  2. Medical and Healthcare: The healthcare sector demands precise and error-free translations for medical records, patient information, pharmaceutical documents, and research papers. It is crucial to safeguard patient safety and maintain regulatory compliance.

  3. Financial and Banking: It is needed in financial institutions dealing with intricate financial documents, reports, and investment materials to ensure accuracy in terminology and numbers, which is vital to prevent financial risks.

  4. Scientific Research: Scientific publications, research papers, and academic articles necessitate full post-editing to maintain the integrity of research findings and ensure clarity and precision in specialized terminology.

  5. Marketing Campaigns in Highly Regulated Industries: Some industries, such as pharmaceuticals, alcohol, and tobacco, have strict marketing materials regulations. Full post-editing is crucial to ensure compliance with advertising standards and legal requirements.

  6. Entertainment, Art, and Literature: Literary works, poetry, and creative content rely on full post-editing to preserve the artistic nuances and cultural richness of the original text.


How much involvement and liability of the translator in the translation editing process is the source of many issues regarding the rise of machine translation. Despite how advanced technology has become, the role of human translators is in the post-editing process. This article examined how ChatGPT and other LLMs mistranslate and misrepresent the culture of Low Resource Languages due to a lack of source materials in the data it gathers and the few safeguards in restricting the use of malicious content, which shows the need for careful review for certain scenarios.

The rising precision for high-resource languages shows how effective AI and machine translation are even for business use; however, the current gaps for low-resource ones can only be supported through post-editing. Tools that can identify segments in the MT-generated content that need human review and areas wherein light or full-post editing is necessary. Making it one of the most efficient solutions to fill the gap. At MachineTranslation.com, we are creating such a tool that would aid in identifying the best MT engine to use while picking out which areas in the MT-generated content require more human review and post-editing