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Every United Nations document is reviewed by an editor before it is translated and issued. Editors ensure that the documents are accurate, coherent, consistent, appropriate for the target audience and able to be translated into the other five official languages.

Editors, working on screen with track changes, correct factual, logical, spelling and grammatical errors, align the structure and style of documents with standardized formats and verify references. They revise and edit documents to ensure that they conform to the Organization’s standards and guidelines. Most United Nations editors have English as their mother tongue, as over 90 per cent of documents are drafted in English. Edited documents serve as a reliable source for UN multilingual terminology databases and translation memories used in computer-assisted translation.

The United Nations Editorial Manual online is the primary repository of information on UN editorial practice. Although based mainly on the practices and policies that have evolved at Headquarters, the Manual is meant to provide editorial guidance throughout the Secretariat. 

Political sensitivity is paramount for editors suggesting solutions to editorial problems. Patient research and in-depth consultations with authors, permanent mission staff and subject-matter experts, as well as translation services, may be required.

Resolutions and decisions adopted by United Nations Charter bodies are subject to a process called “concordance”, in which linguists from the Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish Translation Services work in teams headed by an English editor to eliminate errors and inadvertent ambiguities and to maximize consistency across the six language versions. This process is needed to ensure that the formal decisions of the United Nations are equally authentic in all six official languages.

  • Challenges of being a UN editor: Editors must be able to work against tight deadlines, be aware of and respect political sensitivities and cultural differences, consult and work extensively with authors and translators and understand their point of view, exercise sound judgment as to the best and most reliable sources of information, ensure factual accuracy and solve terminology issues, consistently apply UN style and be able to pinpoint and eliminate unintentional ambiguities and discrepancies in interpretation across the six official languages.
  • Rewards of being a UN editor: Editors have a "birds-eye” view of the work of the Organization, work with interesting, capable colleagues from many different cultures, gain insight into the workings of international diplomacy and current affairs beyond what is covered in the media, feel that their work is important and relevant, help authors whose main language might not be English to express their ideas effectively, have the opportunity to apply linguistic skills, enjoy working as part of a multilingual team and are proud to contribute to the achievement of the ideals of the UN.

Meet a UN Editor

United Nations Editors must: