Correct citation in English

Correct citation in English

As a professional Translation Agency in UK, there is one question that keeps coming up: How does it work – correct quotation in English? It is often asked of us by pupils and students who want to quote correctly in their written work and translate foreign-language quotations. And so here is a simple guide to citing correctly. Please note that these answers do not constitute legal advice.


According to the National Science Foundation, an adult has between 12,000 and 60,000 thoughts a day. Only two to five percent of these should be new thoughts, the majority of which are repetitions. If we take the 60,000 thoughts that a single person has every day and multiply them by the number of adults worldwide (of the almost 8 billion people around two thirds are over 18 years old), we get around 324 trillion thoughts every day. Of course, there are many similar and even the same thoughts among them. And if you now consider how much thought mankind has already thought and collected since its inception, then the amount becomes unimaginably large. Likewise the overlap.

How do you differentiate between your own thoughts and those of others? How do you protect your thoughts from those who think at the same time and those who think behind?

Thoughts are free. But are they also protected by copyright? This is an important question for everyone who writes papers in school, training, studies and work. The specialist lawyer for copyright and media law, Dr. Sabine Zentek answers the question like this:

“In the case of literary works, which include essays, it is not the thoughts, but only the way in which they are thought and thus the way they are presented that can be protected by copyright. Because it is about protecting language as a means of expressing human thoughts.”

Therefore, according to Zentek, one should not even extract passages from a contribution if the passages express an individual structure or selection and arrangement of content.

But : You can adopt (cite) the thoughts of others in your written work, provided that you mark the takeover of someone else’s intellectual property and state where you got it from. We now explain what is important, especially when it comes to correct citation in English:

What does quote mean? (Definition)

You quote by adopting individual words, sentences or paragraphs as well as trains of thought from a text and marking them as adopted. To do this, indicate the source of the quote.

Anyone who quotes without identifying the quoted as such becomes a thought thief (plagiator) and can be accused as such, because the intellectual property of others is intentionally or unprofessionally passed off as one’s own.

Are you looking for a professional translation agency that will support legal translations Manchester and in writing your thesis and correctly translate foreign-language quotations?

Direct vs. Indirect Quote: What’s the Difference?

Quoting directly means that you take over the original word for word (verbatim quotation). On the other hand, you quote indirectly when you reproduce the original text in your own words (non-literal quotation).
PDF, Goethe University Frankfurt a. Main: Guidelines for correct citation .

Quoting in German vs. quoting in English: How do you mark quotations correctly?

For a direct quote, copy the parts you want verbatim from the original text. Put this in double quotation marks (in German: “Originaltext” and in English: “Originaltext”). Important: Adopt the spelling and punctuation as it was originally written.

Modify quoted

Nevertheless, a direct quote is taken verbatim, you can make certain modifications, for example explanations or changes to the wording – provided you also mark this. To do this, enclose the modification in square brackets [ ]. The whole thing may be necessary if you want to integrate the quotation into your own sentence and adapt its grammatical structure to it.

Quoting with omissions

You can also make omissions, i.e. omit words, phrases or sentences from the original, as long as you do not distort the meaning of the original. Mark the omissions with three dots in square brackets […].

cite errors

If the text you want to quote is incorrect, you can omit the incorrect passage. If this is impossible for understanding, you must copy the quotation faithfully. Be sure to mark the mistake or misused word in the quote with a [sic!] directly after it.

Integrate a quote into your own text

If the quotation is shorter than three lines in your own text, you can incorporate it directly into your own sentence by putting it in quotation marks. If, on the other hand, it is longer, the quotation follows a colon, without quotation marks, indented, in smaller font and with single line spacing.

Quote poems and verses directly

Build two quoted lines of a poem directly into your own text. To do this, mark the message with a slash.

Quote indirectly

An indirect, i.e. non-literal quotation is also called a paraphrase or analogous quotation. To do this, you reproduce the original in your own words without changing its meaning. In principle, you can do without quotation marks. The associated source is given

  • in German with a cf.
  • and in English with a cf.

Correct citation and source

You must always identify a citation as such, both literally and analogously. It is also essential to state the source from which the quote originates. You have two options for this:

  • In the case of US citation , the source is given directly after the citation – in parentheses (). You must enter the following information in this form: (author’s name, year, page).
  • With the German citation method , the source is to be given in a footnote at the bottom of the page. If the source is mentioned for the first time, the following information is required in this form: first name, last name, title in italics (place: publisher, year), page. If the source appears again, just give the last name, short title, page.

Important: For correct citation in German and correct citation in English, a detailed bibliography must be prepared in addition to the source.

Should you translate foreign-language quotations?

If you and the readers of your written work are familiar with the foreign language in which the quotation is written (English, French, Latin), it can be quoted without translation. Otherwise it is advisable that you translate foreign language quotations. For this it is important that you translate the quote correctly.

Our professional translators will be happy to help you with this. Of course they speak all the languages ​​and dialects of the world. In addition, many of our language professionals are specialist translators, i.e. they specialize in certain subject areas.

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