No Editors in French.

As someone who makes his living editing, I am interested in foreign terms for my profession, and I always vaguely wondered about the French situation, because éditeur means ‘publisher.’ Now I learn from this Victor Mair post at the Log that there is no word for it; one commenter sums the situation up well:

The puzzle is that “éditeur” in French mainly means “publisher”, though it can also be a person who prepares, selects or annotates a text (an edition of Shakespeare). The editor of a multi-author volume is the “directeur (de la publication)”, the editor of a newspaper is a “rédacteur”, etc. But for some reason there doesn’t seem to be a word for the person who helps an author to get his text together, corrects spelling, suggests changes, and hand-holds generally, distinct from the publisher.

I still find it hard to believe. What do they put in the ads when they’re looking to hire an editor? What do editors put on their business cards?


  1. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    I think the editor of a book or journal would usually be rédacteur-en-chef leaving rédacteur available for what in the UK one would call a sub-editor, but I think you use copy-editor or “redactor” in the US (a word that would not be generally understood in the UK).

  2. As a former copyeditor, I don’t think “redactor” would be understood in the US either. People would probably assume that was someone working to remove sensitive information from documents before publication, since that’s the main context in which “redact” is used nowadays.

  3. What Keith Ivey said. You have sub-editors, we have copyeditors, the French have Those Who Shall Not Be Named.

  4. No, we don’t use redactor any more than you do. The term is specialized to the hypothetical (as opposed to known) editors who, according to the Documentary Hypothesis, assembled the books of the Bible out of pre-existing texts. The term is extended to equally hypothetical people who did similar things to other ancient and anonymous texts, like some of the Icelandic sagas.

    American lawyers are familiar with redact as a verb, meaning to remove material from a text that should not be published for reasons of privacy or secrecy. I suppose you could use redactor to mean ‘someone who redacts a text’ in this sense, but it would be a nonce formation.

    ISO, the International Organization for Standards, uses redactor to mean ‘editor’, but that’s a calque on rédacteur (en chef) and Spanish redactor (jefe).

    French newspapers and magazines have, or used to have, an éditeur responsable, the person on whom the rigors of the law would fall if the newspaper published anything libelous, seditious, or otherwise illegal. Supposedly this was frequently a drunken-bum relative of the actual publisher.

  5. There’s always the lecteur-correcteur (or plain old correcteur: see Le syndicat des correcteurs).

  6. Seconding Rebecca’s answer above, that’s the “correcteur” or “relecteur-correcteur.”

  7. What about relecteur?

  8. “Réviseur” is the Canadian term for copyeditor. Cf. Editors’ Association of Canada / Association canadienne des réviseurs (

  9. Serendipitously, I just watched an interview with Godard (one of the extras on the DVD of Adieu au langage) in which, talking about montage, he said “en anglais, c’est ‘editing,’ comme dans la presse.”

  10. SFReader says

    Secrétaire de rédaction
    En presse écrite, le secrétaire de rédaction (couramment abrégé en SR dans le jargon de la profession) est un journaliste dont la fonction n’est pas de recueillir l’information mais de travailler à sa lisibilité. De par cette fonction, il est ainsi souvent appelé « éditeur », par opposition au journaliste « rédacteur ».

    read the entire article.

    You’d be particularly thrilled to learn that

    En France
    Essentiel au bon fonctionnement d’un journal, particulièrement en raison de son sens de l’organisation, le secrétaire de rédaction est parmi les journalistes les plus correctement payés1 (rarement en dessous de 1 800 euros par mois, parfois au-delà de 3 000 euros en fonction de la périodicité et de la localisation du journal).

  11. I am not at all surprised, just mildly amused, that Russian words for the publishing trade are borrowed tout court from French.

  12. Anybody remember back to the days of stone editors? Hint: They had to be able to read text in mirror image.

  13. vrai.cabecou says

    When I lived in France, I always called myself a redactrice when asked, and no one ever corrected me. But perhaps my French questioners were in despair at my generally bad French.

  14. AFAIK, it’s just “rédacteur/rédactrice”, just like it is “redacteur/redactrice” in Dutch.

  15. There’s no single word for it in Italian either, since an editor can be a lot of different things. An editore is always solely a publisher. The person who puts together a book is a curatore, the person who corrects a text is a revisore, the person on the staff of a periodical who writes copy and juggles content is a redattore, the person at the head of a periodical is a direttore. And then there are traduttori like me who always get requests along the lines of “Senti, ho un testo in inglese che ha bisogno di un po’ di editing… ma forse solo un proofreading…”

  16. “Senti, ho un testo in inglese che ha bisogno di un po’ di editing… ma forse solo un proofreading…”

    That gave me a good laugh, thanks!

  17. Catherine Darley says

    The publisher is an “éditeur”. The editor is a “correcteur/-trice” or a “relecteur/-trice” (a “lecteur”, who’s never a “lectrice”, is reading the manuscripts send to a publisher) — “correcteurs” are mostly women.

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