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Q&A

Two footnote numbering sequences

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Inspired by this question, a more complex question: how can I have two simultaneous sequences of footnotes?

For example, suppose I am translating a book. The book contains footnotes, numbered in sequence. But, I also feel the need to add the occasional "translator's note". (This is not the place to discuss whether should be adding those.) Those notes would be in footnotes too, and their numbering needs to be separate from the original footnotes. How can this be done?

The platforms that are of interest to me are Microsoft Word and LibreOffice.

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2 answers

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1) This kind of formatting may be something which would have to be done manually by the end typesetter/layout person before publication. You would run everything in numerical sequence regardless of the kind of note. Indicate in the body of the footnote which was which (for example, every footnote would be preceded with [TN] or [FN] for translator's note/footnote) and the layout person would sort it out during the layout process.

2) Don't have both sets of information as "notes at the bottom of the page." Make one set footnotes and the other set endnotes or an appendix. Or better still, have two sets of endnotes. From my reader's perspective, footnotes on the page are becoming an increasing distraction. I'd much rather have everything together at the end – the end of the chapter, the end of the book — and then it's up to me if I choose to refer to the note when I'm reading or when I'm done.

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I'm not sure that it is a given that the numbering needs to be different from the original footnote numbers. Footnotes numbers are not necessarily a canonical part of the text, and since it would be virtually impossible to ensure that the pagination of the translated work would be the same as that of the original work, the numbers of the original footnotes will sometimes vary anyway.

My primary concern here would be with the ergonomics of the thing. Having two independent set of footnote numbers will be difficult for readers to navigate and understand. Lacking some compelling reason to treat the source footnote numbers as canonical (which will require preserving canonical pagination as well) I would use a single set of footnote numbers and mark the translators notes as such.

If you want to distinguish them more clearly, I would suggest some typographic convention that preserves one numbering sequence but perhaps makes the translator's notes and their numbers in the text bold or italic.

It that does not satisfy, I would suggest putting translator's notes in the margin next to line in question, so that there is no confusion with the footnotes. (This would also work in those cases were you might want to place a translator's note on a footnote.

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