Blog - Proofreading and Copy Editing

Presenting Foreign-Language Terms

How do you incorporate foreign-language terms into an English-language text? There are two things to consider:

  • how to present the foreign word or phrase
  • how to present the translation

Foreign Words/Phrases

The editor must always consider the rules of the original language (spelling, accents, punctuation, etc.) but in general the following styles can be applied.

1. Use italic type for foreign terms to distinguish them from the English text.


In Spanish, the verb haber is used as the auxiliary verb in the perfect tense.

The word era comes from the late Latin aera.

NB Foreign proper names are not italicised. Example: She lived on rue St Michel for a decade.

2. Use roman type for terms that have been naturalised into the English language.


His frequent use of double entendres was starting to annoy her.

She had a severe case of déjà vu every time she entered the building.

NB A word that has been naturalised into the English language may or may not retain its original accents, e.g. regime and facade. Always check the dictionary.


You can present translations in a variety of ways, but your style must be consistently applied. Here are a couple of examples:

1. Enclose the translation in quotation marks.


In Italian, the verb comprare means ‘to buy’.

2. Enclose the translation in brackets (without quotation marks).


Horace’s use of repimus (we crawled) emphasises the slow pace.

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