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English Translation Style Guide for EU – Writing English – FOREIGN IMPORTS

English Translation Style Guide for EU


Foreign words and phrases used in an English text should be italicised (no inverted commas) and should have the appropriate accents, e.g. inter alia, raison d’être.

Exceptions: words and phrases now in common use and/or considered part of the English language, e.g. role, ad hoc, per capita, per se, etc.

Personal names should retain their original accents, e.g. Grybauskaitė, Potočnik, Wallström.

Quotations. Place verbatim quotations in foreign languages in quotation marks without italicising the text.

Latin. Avoid obscure Latin phrases if writing for a broad readership. When faced with such phrases as a translator, check whether they have the same currency and meaning when used in English.

The expression ‘per diem’ (‘daily allowance’) and many others have English equivalents, which should be preferred e.g. ‘a year’ or ‘/year’ rather than ‘per annum’.


Greek. Use the ELOT phonetic standard for transliteration, except where a classical rendering is more familiar or appropriate in English. Both the ELOT standard and the classical transliteration conventions, along with further recommendations and notes, are reproduced in Annex 1 — Transliteration Table for Greek.

Cyrillic. When transliterating for EU documents, use the scheme set out in Annex 2 — Transliteration Table for Cyrillic. (Note that the ‘soft sign’ and ‘hard sign’ should be omitted.) Remember that the EU languages have different transliteration systems (DE: Boschurischte, Tschernobyl; FR: Bojourichté, Tchernobyl; EN: Bozhurishte, Chernobyl). An internet search will normally reveal whether there is a more commonly used English transliteration which is acceptable for particular proper names.

Arabic. There are many different transliteration systems, but an internet search will normally reveal the most commonly used English spelling convention. When translating, do not always rely on the form used in the source text. For example, French, German or Dutch writers may use j where y is needed in English or French (e.g. DE: Scheich Jamani = EN: Sheikh Yamani). Note spellings of Maghreb and Mashreq.

The article Al and variants should be capitalised at the beginning of names but not internally: Dhu al Faqar, Abd ar Rahman. Do not use hyphens to connect parts of a name

Chinese. The pinyin romanisation system introduced by the People’s Republic in the 1950s has now become the internationally accepted standard. Important new spellings to note are:

  • Beijing (Peking)
  • Guangzhou (Canton)
  • Nanjing (Nanking)
  • Xinjiang (Sinkiang)

The spelling of Shanghai remains the same.

Add the old form in parentheses if you think it necessary.

© European Union

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