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I'm translating a prose work about an epic poem. Instead of quoting dialogues in the original verse form, the author sometimes paraphrases them. What is the standard punctuation for such paraphrased dialogues?

e.g.,

We know him as a fighter, but when he says I am not ready for combat at this hour, he shows a more nuanced character.

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  • If it's not a direct quote, perhaps you could use italics? Dec 23, 2023 at 10:23
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    ...when he says he is not ready... OR if it's "direct speech", enclose his exact words in quote marks. Dec 23, 2023 at 12:18
  • It's probably best to render this << We know him as a fighter, but when he says [(to paraphrase) "I am not ready for combat at this hour," he shows a more nuanced character. // You're never going to give an exact quote anyway if the original is not in English and you translate it. Dec 23, 2023 at 13:58
  • Thank you. There are so many such examples throughout the book that I'm afraid using the bracket will over-clutter the text. What about: We know him as a fighter, but when he says, 'I'm not ready for combat at this hour,' he shows a more nuanced character. I could explain the punctuation in the Translator's Note.
    – Maya
    Dec 23, 2023 at 16:36
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    Once you use quotes, you indicate you are not paraphrasing. Dec 24, 2023 at 0:04

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Paraphrase is usually not marked with distinct punctuation or typography in English formatting styles. In academic styles like MLA, APA, or Chicago, one can include a citation after the paraphrased bit to mark the source (see, e.g., APA Style on "Paraphrasing"), but in actual publishing such citations are often omitted.

Chicago provides a couple of examples of indirect discourse (17th edition, 13.45: Indirect discourse), or speech that is paraphrased from another text. These examples have no quotation marks. Instead, the syntax of the sentence should make clear what was said:

Tom told Huck they had to do it that way because the books said so.

Very well, you say, but is there no choice?

One note with the first example: a speaker-referential subject in indirect discourse is usually changed to third person. It is not "Tom told Huck we had to do it" (as if Tom was speaking directly to Huck) but "Tom told Huck they had to do it." That would change your example to

We know him as a fighter, but when he says he is not ready for combat at this hour, he shows a more nuanced character.

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    Very helpful, thank you. I'll see if changing the original direct quote to third person will work.
    – Maya
    Dec 23, 2023 at 16:30

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