My "destination" specifies Chicago Manual of Style 16th edition, notes and bibliography style. However, I'm interested in the reasoning or philosophy behind the formatting decisions, so if another style guide has something specific to say about the topic, I'd like to know that, too.

I'm writing a translation. My sources, naturally enough, are not in English. When citing them, how much of the source details should I translate, and where? That is, which should be more verbose/informative: the endnote or the bibliography? How do I format a translation of a citation element: square brackets? parentheses? italics?

The things I'm translating were written circa 1600, but I do not have access to the original manuscripts. (One of them may no longer exist.) Instead, I'm using 19th century editions, as scanned and made available online in various digital repositories or archives. I have contacted the repositories and verified that the material is not under copyright, and that the online sources do not impose any restrictions on its use; they ask only that the archive be credited in the citation. How do I do this in such a way that an English-speaking reader will know that I'm naming an online repository?

I know that in the endnotes, only the first reference to a source needs to be complete; subsequent references can be abbreviated. Does a similar philosophy apply to the bibliography? That is, if the same unwieldily-named foreign entity published or archived multiple items on my list, can I abbreviate the name (to a commonly-used acronym) for all but the alphabetically earliest source? Is there a formatting convention that would make what I'm doing clear to an English-speaking reader?

Speaking of acronyms, one of my sources -- an online dictionary -- is pretty much universally known by the sponsoring institute's acronym. Should I provide a translation of the institute's full name somewhere? If so, where (endnote or bibliography)?

Edited to add: I found one relevant bit in CMoS 14th edition (which predates the Internet). I'm sure it's somewhere in the 16th edition, too, probably verbatim, but I haven't found it.

15.118 Titles in languages other than English
[...] When it is desirable to provide readers with a translation of a title, the translation follows the title and is enclosed in parentheses (sometimes in square brackets). The translation is set in roman type, without quotation marks, and only the first word (of title and subtitle) and proper nouns and adjectives are capitalized. [...]

The example citations put the translation in both the endnote and the bibliography, but this seems excessively redundant to me. (Of course, the notes-and-bibliography style is inherently rather redundant, which is annoying when space is at a premium.)

  • Can you tell us something about where you plan to publish this? Is it an academic endeavor?
    – SFWriter
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 17:32
  • Not quite academia, but not general audience, either: a quarterly publication of an educational non-profit organization. (The most recent issue was a reprint of someone's dissertation, but most issues are somewhere closer to the "research paper" end of the spectrum.)
    – JPmiaou
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 17:52
  • Do they provide formatting guidance? In academia the journal would give us these sorts of clues - in fact if we had the formatting wrong a good editor on their end would make it conform to their standards.
    – SFWriter
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 18:07
  • @DPT, as I wrote in my question, they specify CMoS16. I did ask the editor, but she didn't know all of the answers: they haven't done a translation like this before. Mostly, I want to be as thorough as I can in trying to get this right.
    – JPmiaou
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 1:28

1 Answer 1


I'm going to give up and assemble what little I've found into an answer, because nobody else has done so. The section numbers below refer to CMoS16 as found on the Chicago Manual's website (after signing up for the 30-day trial).

  1. How much of the source details should I translate, and where?

"How much":

14.71: You may translate things like "volume" and "edition" if you have a firm grasp of the language, but if the work is likely to be found in a library catalog with an abbreviation of the foreign term, it may be best to leave the abbreviation untranslated.

14.108 implies that you may provide a translation of the title if you feel it necessary.

14.137 says the names of cities should be in English if available (Munich, Vienna, Prague instead of München, Wien, Praha).

14.142 says "No part of a foreign publisher’s name should be translated, even though the city has been given in its English form."

14.194 says the same things about translations of article titles as 14.108 says about book titles.


14.14 "If the bibliography includes all works cited in the notes, the notes need not duplicate the source information in full because readers can consult the bibliography for publication details and other information."

In other words, the bibliography should be complete (more verbose than the notes), so that's where things like translations of the title go. (If you have lots of room to fill, you can repeat yourself between notes and bibliography.)

Formatting: 14.108 says that in the notes and bibliography, author- or editor-supplied title translations should be in brackets, with no italics or quotation marks, using sentence-style capitalization. (Brackets means square brackets.)

  1. How do I credit my source in such a way that an English-speaking reader will know that I'm naming an online repository?

I cannot find anything relevant. Citations of online sources of all sorts basically append the URL or DOI to the end of the print-style citation, without naming or identifying the repository in any way.

  1. If the same unwieldily-named foreign entity published or archived multiple items on my list, can I abbreviate the name for all but the alphabetically earliest source in the bibliography?

I haven't found anything directly relevant.

  1. Should I provide a translation of an institute's acronym? If so, where (endnote or bibliography)?

I cannot find any information on "should I"; if the answer is "yes", then based on (1), it probably goes in the bibliography. Based on 14.142, however, I suspect the advice is that I shouldn't.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.