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Inspired by this question, a more complex question: how can I have two simultaneous sequences of footnotes?

For example, suppose I am translating a book. The book contains footnotes, numbered in sequence. But, I also feel the need to add the occasional "translator's note". (This is not the place to discuss whether should be adding those.) Those notes would be in footnotes too, and their numbering needs to be separate from the original footnotes. How can this be done?

The platforms that are of interest to me are Microsoft Word and LibreOffice.

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    I'm with Mark; don't use numbers for both. Make the "translator's notes" letters or symbols. I wouldn't use numbers in a different format though. Sep 23 '19 at 18:15
  • @Cyn sure, that's what I'd like. But letters, or symbols, or numbers - as far as the software is concerned, they're still all one sequence. It can convert them all to whatever format I like (letters, numbers, etc.) I can have separate sequences in separate sections, or even on separate pages. But can I have two sequences (one of numbers, one of letters, for instance) run parallel, throughout the book? Or would I need LaTeX for that, as Mark suggests in a comment? Sep 23 '19 at 19:58
  • Right. I don't know. You say you want two sets of footnotes "numbered in sequence...and their numbering needs to be separate from the original footnotes." This implies they're both numbers. I'm just saying don't do two sets of numbers; do numbers and something else entirely. But I can't answer your actual question, which is why I'm not putting it in an answer. Sep 23 '19 at 19:59
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1) This kind of formatting may be something which would have to be done manually by the end typesetter/layout person before publication. You would run everything in numerical sequence regardless of the kind of note. Indicate in the body of the footnote which was which (for example, every footnote would be preceded with [TN] or [FN] for translator's note/footnote) and the layout person would sort it out during the layout process.

2) Don't have both sets of information as "notes at the bottom of the page." Make one set footnotes and the other set endnotes or an appendix. Or better still, have two sets of endnotes. From my reader's perspective, footnotes on the page are becoming an increasing distraction. I'd much rather have everything together at the end – the end of the chapter, the end of the book — and then it's up to me if I choose to refer to the note when I'm reading or when I'm done.

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    Depends on how many there are. I'd rather have footnotes than a constant flipping back and forth.
    – Weckar E.
    Sep 25 '19 at 17:25
  • @WeckarE. More than one per chapter? I'd put them at the end. I have really, really become tired of interrupting my reading to look down and then look up again, over and over. Sep 25 '19 at 23:49
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    Must be a taste thing. I am going to interrupt my reading when I see that superscript one way or the other; don't also make me go to another page.
    – Weckar E.
    Sep 27 '19 at 4:48
  • @WeckarE. It is a YMMV issue; I agree. Sep 27 '19 at 10:07
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I'm not sure that it is a given that the numbering needs to be different from the original footnote numbers. Footnotes numbers are not necessarily a canonical part of the text, and since it would be virtually impossible to ensure that the pagination of the translated work would be the same as that of the original work, the numbers of the original footnotes will sometimes vary anyway.

My primary concern here would be with the ergonomics of the thing. Having two independent set of footnote numbers will be difficult for readers to navigate and understand. Lacking some compelling reason to treat the source footnote numbers as canonical (which will require preserving canonical pagination as well) I would use a single set of footnote numbers and mark the translators notes as such.

If you want to distinguish them more clearly, I would suggest some typographic convention that preserves one numbering sequence but perhaps makes the translator's notes and their numbers in the text bold or italic.

It that does not satisfy, I would suggest putting translator's notes in the margin next to line in question, so that there is no confusion with the footnotes. (This would also work in those cases were you might want to place a translator's note on a footnote.

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  • I have seen two independent sets of footnotes distinguished by the style of the numeration: Arabic numerals for the originals, symbols for translator's notes. But that was in professionally published literature, presumably done with more professional software than what I have access to. I was curious whether it was doable on the software I have available. Sep 23 '19 at 17:03
  • @Galastel I would be very surprised if they supported that. But I think you could make that (or the alternatives I suggested) work in LaTeX overleaf.com/learn/latex/Footnotes:
    – user16226
    Sep 23 '19 at 17:29
  • In Microsoft Word, at least, the end notes can be numbered and the footnotes marked with symbols (asterisk, dagger, etc.) I spent some years in publishing and when two series of notes were necessary, I would place anything the reader would want to see while reading the book as footnotes (immediately accessible, being on the same page) and background information, such as sources, in the end notes, either at the end of each chapter or at the end of the book.
    – Literalman
    Sep 25 '19 at 18:18
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A friend of mine with little to no technical background wrote a book in LaTeX with five(!) sequences of notes.

LaTeX is free but it is quite different from Word. Basically you type a plain text file with some semantical markup and the software turns it into a beautifully typeset pdf file.

It would require some effort to learn but it is pretty good and there are plenty of resources, including a site here on stackexchange. This question is about your exact problem but I'm afraid it will be hard to understand until you've had a look at the basics of the system.

As for where to get those basics, I will not reccommend a particular guide here. It's been a long time since I learned it and I came from a different background. I can attest that today a search for LaTeX guides online will yield plenty of results with different approaches.

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    This answer could be improve by actually detailing how to do it in LaTeX rather than simply stating that it can be done.
    – linksassin
    Sep 25 '19 at 1:41

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