Want to volunteer to translate an Encyclopédie article? See our call for participants.

Guidelines for Preparing Translations for the Collaborative Translation Project

Please read these guidelines before you begin your translation. We ask you to keep in mind that this project is collaborative and that every translator is an editor. You should take care to translate as accurately as you can, to retain the original formatting, and to render your translation in clear, correct, and modern English. You may find the Editor's Introduction to the ARTFL Encyclopédie Project helpful in understanding the structure of the articles themselves and, in particular, infelicities introduced in the digitization of the French version by ARTFL.

To help you and to facilitate collaboration among translators, we have created an email list that includes all our volunteer translators: Please feel free to post queries that come up in the course of your labors. That is, if you have difficulty with a specific word, phrase, or sentence, feel free to post to the list and ask for help. This is, after all, a collaborative translation project, and we can and should help each other.

If your translation is improperly formatted, lacks clarity, or is incorrect or incomplete, we reserve the right to return it for further work before publishing it on our site. In some cases, we may even reject it entirely. If we do not receive your translation within a year of the initial assignment, we will contact you to see if you would like an extension or if you would prefer to have the assignment cancelled.


Your translation should begin with the following data, with the blanks filled in:

French Title: _____
Link to original French version in ARTFL: _____
Category of knowledge (if given): _____
Author (if known): _____

English Title: _____
Translator: _____
Translator email: _____
Faculty supervisor and email (if applicable): _____


Generally, we'd prefer Microsoft Word format. If you are working in another word processor or text editor and you save your text in Rich Text Format, that will also work for us, but we strongly encourage you to save and submit your work in Microsoft Word format if possible.

Please submit each translation—even of multiple articles with the same name—in its own document. For example, you were translating multiple articles with the same name, please save each one individually. If, for example, you were translating “Man,” then MAN (Jaucourt, Mythology) would be sent as one file and Man (no author, Geography) would be another. When submitting translations, please put the title of the article in FRENCH for the subject line of your email. That will enable us to ensure that we link your article to the proper article in ARTFL.

Do not attempt to replicate line breaks in the Encyclopédie except where a new paragraph begins in the French original, in which case you should begin a new paragraph in Microsoft Word as well.

Information to be omitted

Please remove author names and codes (for example, “D.J.” or “Jaucourt”) and ARTFL's page abbreviations from the translated text.


Please retain italics as they are used in the article. For cross-references, the word “See” should be in italics; the rest of the text of the cross-reference should not.

Abbreviations and ampersands

Do not abbreviate to match abbreviations in the original unless in English the abbreviation is almost always used. Examples:

  • Translate the French "&" as "and".
  • Translate the French "Ste." or "St." as "Saint".
  • Translate the French "Fig." as "Figure".

but translate the French "&c" as "etc.", not "et cetera".


Write cross-references as "See [article title, plate title, plate caption, or plate number]". That is, only the word "See" should be in italics, and nothing should be in all caps. If the title of the article or plate legends referred to has not yet been translated for the Collaborative Translation Project, translate it yourself. If it has been translated, use the translated title already online and provide a hyperlink (inserted in Microsoft Word) to the article. The hyperlink should include all of the text of the cross-reference following the word "see". (If you are unable to insert the hyperlink yourself, please place the URL in square brackets and we will insert it for you.)

As explained in the Editor's Introduction to the ARTFL Encyclopédie Project, the French text contains many cross-references to articles that had not yet been written or would never be written, leading to links that are nonsensical or "dead". In such a case, insert a note in brackets following the cross-reference.

Translator-supplied notes

Notes can be used for a variety of purposes, including (but not limited to):

  • Clarifying a point in the text
  • Pointing out an error in the text
  • Providing a source for a quotation or reference in the text (see below)
  • Providing a citation for a source referred to in the text
  • Providing a translation of a quotation (not originally in French or English) (see below)
  • Explaining a choice made in translation or in modern terminology (see below)
  • Explaining the conversion of units of measure to contemporary units

Please do not use notes simply to give the original French for a phrase that you have translated except when commenting on a choice in translation.

If you are using Microsoft Word, please use the footnote/endnote feature. Number notes continuously throughout the document; do not restart numbering from 1 on a new page or in a new section. If the article contains original footnotes, make sure to distinguish your notes from the original author's.

If your note contains a link to a source available online, feel free to use Microsoft Word's feature for inserting hyperlinks rather than simply inserting the URL in the text. (If you are unable to insert the hyperlink yourself, please place the URL in square brackets and we will insert it for you.)

Book Titles

Book titles cited in the articles should not be translated. Abbreviated book titles should be expanded. Notes may be used to provide bibliographic information and a hyperlink to the work cited either in the original or in English translation. We prefer links to HathiTrust over Google Books when both are available. (If you are unable to insert the hyperlink yourself, please place the URL in square brackets and we will insert it for you.)


English translations should be provided for all quotations in languages other than French or English. The original (Latin, for example) should be retained in the text, with the translation provided either in square brackets or, if the article is otherwise annotated, in a note. Notes can also be used to provide a full bibliographical reference for a quotation (whether or not the author provides the source) and a hyperlink to it in the original language and/or in English translation. We prefer links to HathiTrust over Google Books when both are available. (If you are unable to insert the hyperlink yourself, please place the URL in square brackets and we will insert it for you.)

Text borrowed in whole or in part from Chambers, Cyclopaedia or other English source

In such cases, please translate the French into modern English, as you would any other text you are translating, rather than substituting the original English. The aim is to present to the modern reader a translation of what the French reader would read. In addition, it is helpful, when you can identify the English source of an article, to provide a reference to it in a note and, if possible, to provide a link to the original English text. Here is a link to Chambers, Cyclopaedia, which has been digitized by the University of Wisconsin Library. If you wish, you can also provide additional notes explaining any divergences (additions or subtractions) between the original English text and the Encycylopédie article.

Foreign or transliterated terms

Please retain foreign or transliterated terms as they are used in the article and supply current English renderings in square brackets after the first instance, e.g. "Alcoran [Qur'an]" or "Figen [Hizen] province". If there is any ambiguity surrounding the modern terminology used, please explain briefly the reasoning behind your choice in a brief note.

Units of currency

Do not attempt to translate the names of pre-Revolutionary units of currency; instead, leave the unit name in French. This includes even "livre", which is not really equivalent to a pound [sterling], then or now. If you feel it is appropriate, add a note on first use to explain that it is a unit of currency.

Units of measure

Measurements found in articles use obsolete pre-Revolutionary units of measurements. If there is an appropriate English equivalent for the unit, use the English name in the translation; otherwise, leave the unit name in French. In either case, add a note on first use to explain the equivalent in contemporary units (both metric and US customary units). You might consult this Wikipedia page for both English names and equivalencies in contemporary units.


If the article has equations in it, please recreate these using the Equation Editor within Word.


If the article has tables in it, please recreate these using the table function within Word.

Small diagrams and images

If the article gives small diagrams or images (such as examples of typeface), create small images in JPEG format from the original scanned pages on the ARTFL site and include these with your translation.

Page breaks

Do not indicate page breaks in the translation even though these are indicated in the French version hosted by ARTFL.

Instructions specific to translations of articles

Headword information: classification, part of speech, etc.

The first word in your document should be the title of the article as you have translated it. Only leave the title in French if it is generally understood by English speakers or if the translation is impossible or entirely infelicitous. Expand abbreviations except in limited cases (see above).

As is typical practice for French, only the first word of a multi-word title should be capitalized, unless it is a proper noun. For example, “Legal medicine” (ordinary multi-word title) but “Academy of Painting” (a proper noun).

Please omit the part of speech and subject classification. For example, “Père, s.m. (Droit naturel)” becomes “Father”; “Gens de Lettres, (Philosophie & Littérat.)” becomes “Men of letters”. Also omit articles in headwords when not used in contemporary English. For example, “Slaves, les” becomes simply “Slavs”, not “The Slavs” or “Slavs, The”.

We have standardized the subject classification translations and will fill any subject in for you, if applicable. However, when the French original has a short explanatory phrase like “abstract term,” please translate it and leave it in.

After removing the part of speech and gender and translating any explanatory text like “abstract term,” there may be one or more categories of knowledge given. Normally these should not be left in the Word document. Occasionally what is given is not one or more categories of knowledge to which the headword applies, or a category and subcategory, but rather a whole hierarchy of knowledge from the very broadest word in the tree to the narrowest category of knowledge to which this headword applies. (Hierarchies usually begin with “Ordre Encycl. Entendement.” with variants on how "Encyclopedie" is abbreviated). If there is a hierarchy in your article, please include it in the article in its entirety. The category hierarchy should be in italics and separated from the headword with a comma, NOT within parentheses.

Instructions specific to translations of plate sets

Titles of sets of plates

The titles of sets of plates and the caption for each plate (found at the bottom of the image) have been translated already, but corrections to these initial translations are welcome.

Plate legends

Please translate the legends (the annotated description of each "figure") in the order they are shown in the French version hosted by ARTFL. To help us overlay your translation into the images and captions already online, please indicate which images go where, either by copying the plate captions already online or otherwise indicating the placement of the images using square brackets.

In the French original, the first legend is labeled "Fig. 1" and subsequent ones omit "Fig." but indent to show this. In the translation, write "Figure 1", "Figure 2", etc. at the beginning of each line.

Translator information

You may note that we are including name, institutional affiliation, and email address so that translators can be contacted. We will use the information that you supplied when you volunteered to sign your translation (name, institutional affiliation, email address). If any of these have changed, or if you do not want your email address published, please let us know when you submit your translation.

Submitting your translation

Please email your finished translations to ctp-submissions AT umich DOT edu. Sean Takats will go over your translation and make any minor changes that are required, do final processing, and send it to Michigan Publishing at the University of Michigan for publication on the site. If there are significant problems with the translation or its preparation either Sean or a member of the Michigan Publishing team will contact you. Translations are generally published to the site in batches once a month.

If any of these instructions are unclear or you would like to volunteer for additional articles, please feel free to contact Dena Goodman at goodmand AT umich DOT edu.

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