How do I deal with translation of names of foreign organisations or company names and their abbreviations? I have an example where I want to refer to the Swedish television company SVT, which is an abbreviation for Sveriges Television. I will need to refer to this a lot in the text, so I'm thinking I will define SVT the first time it's used and then just refer to it as SVT later in the text.

So my problem is how do I define it the first time it is used. Surely, English readers will need both the Swedish abbreviation "SVT", the Swedish full name "Sveriges Television", and the English translation "Swedish Television". But how do I write all these three together. There are many combinations. For example:

In Sweden, the Swedish Television company (Sveriges Television, SVT) is a public service broadcaster.


In Sweden, the Swedish Television company (SVT)[1] is a public service broadcaster.

Where [1] is a footnote where I write "Sveriges Television".


In Sweden, Sveriges Television (SVT) (Swedish Television) is a public service broadcaster.

There are other combinations too. How would you suggest that I write it?

Also, I'm getting a headache over whether to italicize or not.

closed as off-topic by MetaEd, Rory Alsop, Kris, RyeɃreḁd, Kristina Lopez Oct 14 '13 at 17:25

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  • Do you want some paracetamol? – Noah Oct 12 '13 at 9:43
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    If I were to write about KLM, it would suffice to say "Royal Dutch Airlines"; I doubt that anyone would be interested in Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij N.V. And Sveriges Television is so similar to "Swedish Television" as not to warrant explaining at all. – Andrew Leach Oct 12 '13 at 10:20
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    In your particular example, I would forego any English name at all and simply use their abbreviation with an explicative appellation: “In Sweden, the national television corporation SVT (Sveriges Television) is a public service broadcaster”. There is no need to translate the name when you can just as well describe what the company is. Especially when the translated name isn’t likely to give people the needed information (i.e., that SVT is a national, not a privately owned, corporation). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 12 '13 at 11:56
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    Off topic request for writing advice. Check out the help center. – MetaEd Oct 12 '13 at 13:07
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    This question appears to be off-topic: it belongs on writersSE and may already have an answer there. – Kris Oct 14 '13 at 12:30

Of these three alternatives, I prefer the first.

But like some of the other commentators, I think the English translation is redundant, since you are about to explain what SVT is.

SVT itself on its English web page says "Sveriges Television (SVT) is the Swedish public service television company..." without a direct translation.

Anyway, strictly speaking, the name means Sweden's Television, which doesn't sound right in English. Similarly, we would not expect to find National Society... in the name of a railway company. Names like these don't translate well, and are better left in the original language, or just as abbreviations.


The three formulations are perfectly clear.

However, I prefer the third one, with the national denomination first. Why favouring (US : favoring) English ?

I would mention "SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français)(French national railways company)". Note that in French , "français" is usually not capitalized, except for a person. But "de France" would have been too heavy.

First the acronym, then the meaning in vernacular, eventually the translation, that seems logical.

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    That looks extremely clunky to me. Two sets of parentheses right after each other is something I always do my utmost to avoid—if nothing else, I would simply coalesce them into one, separated by a comma (or semicolon) as in the asker’s first example: “SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français, French National Railway Company)”. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 12 '13 at 11:53
  • @Janus Bahs Jacquet You are right, comma and hyphen are better choices.However railways seems more appropriate than Railway. – ex-user2728 Oct 12 '13 at 15:16
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    Googling the English name gives 403,000 hits with ‘railway’, and only 8 hits with ‘railways’, which corroborates my initial feeling that the plural sounds unnatural and unidiomatic here. If you leave out ‘company/corporation’, the plural is more natural: “French National Railways”. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 12 '13 at 15:56
  • In "railway company", "railway" is effectively serving as an adjective: we do not pluralise adjectives in English! – TrevorD Oct 12 '13 at 19:05

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