This short paragraph of German dialogue needs to be translated into English within a larger work:

“Zurück bleiben! Fenster schliessen!” Stay back! Close the window! shouted the man on the roof.

Two questions:

1) I've formatted with italics to indicate the English translation. Is this the correct?

2) Should the second sentence use an exclamation point after "Close the window" or a comma? Should it read

Stay back! Close the window! shouted the man on the train


Stay back! Close the window, shouted the man on the roof.

  • 2
    See (for 1) writing.stackexchange.com/a/1743, perhaps suggesting: “Zurück bleiben! Fenster schliessen!” shouted the man on the roof. Stay back! Close the window! Or as is.
    – Řídící
    Feb 5, 2019 at 16:31
  • 3
    A second exclamation point is certainly grammatical, and in my opinion is much better. Feb 5, 2019 at 16:33
  • My link above also suggests that the last exclamation point is fine.
    – Řídící
    Feb 5, 2019 at 16:37
  • Where does "shouted the man on the roof" come from? Is that clause in the original, or has it been added as a translator's note? Also, thought you haven't given much context to know what kind of text this is, normally the translation for a bit of foreign text would be given in a footnote, or the translation would be given in line with the original in a footnote. Not sure why you've chosen to "inline" the translation.
    – TimR
    Feb 5, 2019 at 16:40
  • @TRomano Well, if it is a novel (for example), then I generally wouldn't expect footnotes.
    – Řídící
    Feb 5, 2019 at 16:50

2 Answers 2


If this is a novel directed to an English-speaking audience, you'd expect to see the German in italics, not the English translation, and you might see it like this:

Zurück bleiben! Fenster schliessen! shouted the man on the roof. "Stay back! Close the window!"

And if it is a novel, you have latitude to do pretty much as you like.

The man on the roof was shouting "Zurück bleiben! Fenster schliessen!" Stay back. Close the window.

You could include the exclamation marks or not; it would depend on what your narrator was thinking, and you're in control of that.

  • My problem with this is that quotation marks imply, well, a quotation. That what was actually said. The German here is what is actually shouted. So, the quotation marks should be around that.
    – Řídící
    Feb 5, 2019 at 17:24
  • 1
    The use of italics is different from when the shouter uses a foreign language to him/her. For example: ""I shouldn't use an argumentum ad hominem," he said." I see no reason to italicise the German if it shouted by a German speaker who is speaking plain German at the time.
    – Řídící
    Feb 5, 2019 at 17:32
  • @Keep these mind: That's the way it is often done, whether you see no reason to do it or not. For example, the Spanish words in Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea are in italics. They're also inside double-quotation marks. But in a novel where speech isn't quoted, for example Joyce's Ulysses, you'd find just the italics.
    – TimR
    Feb 5, 2019 at 19:32
  • I think those are bad examples. Unless I am mistaken, The Old Man and the Sea is about Cubans. It is written as if they speak English. Otherwise every dialogue would have to be translated. ("[T]he novel is an English version of the Spanish that Santiago and Mandolin would speak in real life[.]") Ulysses is weird. As you say, it doesn't even use quote marks for any quote (foreign or not); and it, obviously, has other issues.
    – Řídící
    Feb 5, 2019 at 20:02
  • 1
    @Keepthesemind Take a more popular example, then – when we see Beauxbatons students speaking French in Harry Potter, their lines are in quotes and italicised as well. Similarly when we see Italian/French/Latin in Dan Brown books, it’s italicised. I think it’s perfectly common to italicise direct speech in a foreign language in novels, even if it’s not strictly necessary. The only context I can think of where it wouldn’t be common is in more bilingual books: if half the lines are in L2, you’re not going to italicise half the book, that would just be silly. Feb 6, 2019 at 0:31

I usually italicize foreign words, insert a comma, and immediately write the English translation. I follow no authority except for what I have noticed when reading some established authors' books. However, my copy editor puts parenthesis around the English translation, but I have the final say.

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