About the Breton and/or French words

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Post by Guest »

Hello there fellow writers. I have an editing question. In my historical novel, I use a lot of Breton and/or French words. Should I leave them as is, make them italic? I've placed them in single quotation mark and was told that it's unnecessary. Any thought welcome. Thanks

Post by Saskia »

Either italics or just insert them. I'm currently reading a book where the dialogue has a lot of foreign words (i.e. a language I don't know) and it's not an issue. I can understand from context. Just make sure you use them correctly, so it doesn't sound wrong to people who do know that language.

Post by Louise »

If you're writing in US English, which follows the Chicago Manual of Style (and this may be true for UK English—I'd have to look that up), the convention is to put *unfamiliar* foreign terms in italics. If the word will be recognized by a lot of readers, like tres bien, you don't need to put those in italics. Quotation marks are not used for foreign terms.
Also, if you introduce a not well-known foreign term and put it in italics, but then use it again in the next few chapters, you don't have to italicize the next appearances of the word. However, if you have a term in chapter 1 that you don't use again until chapter 12, enough time has elapsed for the reader that you will need to italicize the second appearance in chapter 12. -(US based) copy editor Louise

Post by Clare »

Master's degree in translation here. This is the kind of thing that got discussed a LOT in my program, so this is gonna be a long answer lol. Unless your (current or future) publisher has specific requirements, these are the pros and cons of each:

- Italicizing the terms is a standard convention for this type of thing, and it'll be readily intelligible and widely accepted, but it deliberately calls attention to the fact that the words are foreign and "other." Again, this can help with comprehension, but it also leans heavily away from acceptance and assimilation of the culture you're portraying.

- Just inserting them into the text and using context clues has the opposite effect—it leans most heavily towards acceptance and assimilation, like it's a natural part of the conversation, but if you're worried about confusing or alienating your readers and don't want to rock the boat too much, then this is a much less "safe" tactic.

- Glossaries are also an option—they're definitely the most informative, but they're most likely to be overlooked. It's a lot like the second option with less work (no need to be so diligent about context clues) but none of the benefits because the info readers need may very easily go overlooked and they may be confused anyway.

- Footnotes are also technically an option, although they're usually not recommended for fiction. Even in nonfiction they do the most to break immersion.

I'll also add that single quotes aren't particularly well established as a way of highlighting foreign terms, so you're probably better off not using them. Anyway, other than that, I would feel free to peruse these options and make a decision based on what you feel is best for your story.

Last bumped by Anonymous on Sun Sep 04, 2022 5:26 pm.
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