There are competitive examinations for:

  • Copy preparers/proofreaders/production editors

  • Editors

  • Interpreters

  • Translators and translators/précis-writers

  • Verbatim reporters


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 public 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. For topics not addressed in the electronic manual, the 1983 version of the United Nations Editorial Manual remains the primary authority for United Nations editorial policy.

Political sensitivity is paramount for editors when they suggest solutions to editorial problems. Patient research and in-depth consultations with committee secretaries, author departments and sponsoring delegations, as well as translations services, may be required. In the case of heavily negotiated and politically sensitive texts, such as draft resolutions, editors’ freedom to make changes may be severely restricted. Texts submitted by Member States or external bodies such as non-governmental organizations are also subject to different levels of editing.

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 make sure 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 ambiguities and discrepancies in interpretation across the six official languages.

Rewards of being a UN editor: having a “birds-eye” view of the work of the Organization; working with interesting, capable colleagues from many different cultures; having insight into the workings of international diplomacy and current affairs beyond what is covered in the media; knowledge that your work is important and relevant; helping authors whose main language might not be English to express their ideas effectively; getting to apply linguistic skills; working as part of a multilingual team; and having pride in contributing to the achievement of the ideal of the UN.

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