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I want to insert a quote from an Indian book in Sanskrit and I currently have it formatted like this:

In this book, one verse goes "Vadhikaraste ma phaleshu" or "It is your duty to help others."

Is this the correct way of introducing the non-English text? Do I need to italicize anything?

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    It depends on who you're writing for, and what kind of publication (if any) is involved. There may be standards if there's an editor. If not, use your own judgement -- what looks right to you? Personally, I would italicize the Sanskrit to emphasize that it's not English spelling; if you italicize, quotes are not necessary. Oct 23 at 22:54
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    Don't use "or" to indicate "which can be translated as". Generally, be explicit.
    – Fattie
    Oct 24 at 15:46
  • There's nothing wrong with or, at least in British English.
    – Andrew Leach
    Oct 24 at 21:02
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No italics are necessary in your example. You're making a direct quote of the verse and its translation.

It would be right to italicise a foreign word when it's used as though it were an English word, say in something like

In this book, one pāda goes "Vadhikaraste ma phaleshu" or "It is your duty to help others."

...and in that case, where you are italicising Sanskrit, you could italicise the Sanskrit phrase.


[I'm not sure that pāda is the right word, but it serves the purpose for this answer. The phrase "Karmanye vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana" consisting of two pādas appears in the Bhagavad Gita. If there's a better word please feel free to edit it in.]

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    I'd still rather see "In this book, one verse reads "Vadhikaraste ma phaleshu," meaning it is your duty to help others. The connector or tells me that the book might have English in it, which you quote. Or you don't know which quote was in the book. Oct 24 at 0:16
  • It may simply be a dialectal difference. Perhaps a comma before or would help. Using or to indicate a translation is hardly new: OED has or in this "same thing" or "that is" sense as early as 1357.
    – Andrew Leach
    Oct 24 at 10:19
  • AL's answer is perfect, but I do perfectly agree with the comment by Yosef. Many things are somewhat common in writing, but a very bad idea.
    – Fattie
    Oct 24 at 15:49

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