Square bracketing rules
Thread poster: Reed James

Reed James
Local time: 15:16
Spanish to English
+ ...
Sep 29, 2017

I've learned over the years that when you are translating the name of an official body or anything else that should remain in the source language, the practice is to write the original name in the source language followed by its translation into English in square brackets. Many times, this translation is literal. I will give you an example:

Registro Federal de Contribuyentes [Federal Taxpayer Number]

Anyway, what I would like to know is what to do after the first instance of this term. Do you repeat the source plus bracketed translation or do you just state the source, or just the target? It seems redundant and might tax the reader to go through the whole square bracket drill every time the term comes up.


Sergei Leshchinsky  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:16
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
change the order Sep 29, 2017

in Russian, I do vice versa:

Federal Taxpayer Number (Registro Federal de Contribuyentes)

... and then use "Federal Taxpayer Number" ever after.


Natalia Pedrosa  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:16
Member (2012)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Hi Sep 30, 2017

Agree with Sergei, I use the same system too.

Happy Translation Day!



neilmac  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:16
Spanish to English
+ ...
Agree with Sergei Sep 30, 2017

And although I'm using curved, not square brackets, I just did the same 5 minutes ago in an education text with - Schools Language Project (Proyecto Lingüístico de Centro) - ...


Tina Vonhof
Local time: 11:16
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Same Sep 30, 2017

I do it the same way as Sergei but I use square brackets for things that cannot be translated, such as a logo or a signature or for things I put in myself, such as a word that was missing in the source text that was nevertheless important to understand the sentence ('it' or 'is' or 'in' for example).


Jessica Noyes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:16
Spanish to English
+ ...
Brackets Sep 30, 2017

I always thought that the reason translators use square brackets is to distinguish our parenthetical entries and explanations from those that are already between curved brackets in the source document. Often the source text will use curved brackets to expand an acronym; I include that as is and then add my translation of the acronym in square brackets.


Mario Chavez (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:16
English to Spanish
+ ...
A better source Oct 1, 2017

I would consult the rules for using parentheses and square brackets in a reputable style guide for the target language.

Having said that, I find myself sometimes veering from the rule for clarity purposes. When I translate for Spanish-speakers in the United States, the translated phrase goes in regular letter (letra redonda) and the equivalent in English goes in parentheses and often in italics to establish its secondary nature.


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Square bracketing rules

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