Guidelines for English Language Content Editing

unfoldingWord Literal Text (ULT)

Specific Editing Guidelines for the ULT

  • Follow the original language in a literal manner. Remember that the purpose of the ULT is to give the user who does not know the original languages insight into the form of the original. Idioms will be reproduced in a literal manner and explained in a Note. Exceptions:
    1. As a rule, ULT should follow standard English usage. However, it does not necessarily have to be completely grammatical, as long as it is understandable. Translation notes can explain ungrammatical expressions that reflect translation issues in the original language.
    2. Do not follow the original language in a literal manner when this would give a wrong meaning. For example, reproducing a Greek double negative in English would give the opposite meaning. English might also need to use a different word order from Greek in order to convey the same meaning.
  • Where possible, use common vocabulary that is easy to translate into another language.
  • Do not use contractions.
  • Use vocabulary and phrases that differ from the UST. The two translations fail to help the OL translator when terms are the same.
  • Regarding all issues of style, grammar, and punctuation, see Appendix A. unfoldingWord Book Package Style Sheet. . It explains preferred English usage for all unfoldingWord materials. You can use the drop-down menus in the left sidebar to navigate to specific topics. The next several points here address some matters specific to the translation of ULT.
  • Only use quotation marks at the beginning and ending of direct speech. Do not put quotation marks at the beginning of each verse when continuous direct speech spans several verses.
  • Capitalization: In general, follow the practice of the 2011 NIV. (For example, “Scripture” capitalized when it means the entire Bible, but “scripture” not capitalized when it means a specific passage.)
  • Capitalize titles (Son of Man, King David, the Messiah).
  • All pronouns that refer to God should be lowercase (except at the start of sentences and except for the first-singular “I”).
  • Spell out numbers up to and including ten (e.g., one, two, three). For numbers larger than ten, use numerals (e.g., 11, 12, 13).
  • Prefer more formal, longer-established usages and avoid more informal usages that have only recently become acceptable in standard English. See Formal usage in the Style Sheet for more information and for examples.

unfoldingWord Simplified Text (UST)

Specific Editing Guidelines for the UST

  • The purpose of the UST is to express the meaning of the text in a clear and simple way. One can avoid translation difficulties of grammar and figures of speech by rendering those in a plain form and in short sentences.
  • Where possible, use common vocabulary that is easy to translate into another language.
  • Use vocabulary and phrases that differ from the ULT. The two translations fail to help the OL translator when terms are the same.
  • The UST should generally reflect the same interpretation of the meaning of the text as the ULT.
  • When there are textual ambiguities, the ULT will retain them, while the UST will express the most likely interpretation. A translation note should explain the possible interpretations and offer alternative translations for the other one or ones.
  • The UST will often repeat phrases so that it can end a sentence and then start a new one.
  • Metaphors may be transformed into similes, or their meaning may be expressed in a non-figurative way. Similes may be the preferred option when the metaphor is extended over several clauses or verses. Examples of non-figurative equivalents: “live in your heart” = “become a part of you”; “be joined to your spirit” = “be as close to you as your own hearts”; “harden your heart” = “refuse to obey.”
  • A few abstract nouns are allowed in the UST because of the awkwardness or inadequacy of any English circumlocution. These include “authority” (when used of a person), “sin,” “behavior,” “work,” “thing,” “time,” “resource,” “kingdom,” “relationship,” and some nouns referring to speech (”message,” “saying,” etc.), although it is often possible in such cases to use a verb instead.
  • The UST will add implied information that is necessary to understand the text. This is usually a matter of cultural knowledge.
  • The UST will mark this implied information by enclosing it in {curly braces}.
  • The UST will clarify locations and participants. For example, not “Jerusalem” but “the city of Jerusalem”; not “Herod” but “King Herod.” This is not considered implied information, since it only clarifies information that is already in the text.
  • The UST will clarify antecedents. For example, it may repeat “Jesus” from a preceding verse rather than say “he” if the antecedent might not be clear.
  • Regarding all issues of style, grammar, and punctuation, see the Style Sheet. It explains preferred English usage for all unfoldingWord materials. You can use the drop-down menus in the left sidebar to navigate to specific topics. For some matters specific to the translation of UST, see the last five points in the previous section about ULT. Those points also apply to UST.
  • Prefer more formal, longer-established usages and avoid more informal usages that have only recently become acceptable in standard English. See Formal usage in the Style Sheet for more information and for examples.

Combined ULT-UST Translation Glossary

A list of decisions as to how to translate some senses of the OrigL words and phrases into another language is called a Translation Glossary (TG). Such a resource is especially useful when more than one person works on the same project because it helps keep everyone using the same English terms. However, a TG cannot be foolproof because the source will often use some words to signal more than one sense, depending on context. A TG is therefore a glossary of word senses, not a glossary of words. Check back often to this page because this TG is likely to develop for the entire life of the unfoldingWord project.

NOTE: Occasionally, the TG’s specified translation will not be suitable. As always, the text editors must remain in control of the decision-making process. The TG is to guide you as much as is possible. If you must depart from the TG guidelines, do so and insert a translation note to explain the meaning.

  • Sentence-initial or preverbal use of the word “and” of the type “And Joseph said,” “And it came about,” etc. should be rendered in the ULT, usually as the conjunction “and.” However, a different word (“but,” “so,” etc.) may be selected in cases where the discourse function of the conjunction is foregrounded, and the specific conjunctive meaning is so strong as to be contextually undeniable. The UST will not need to render this conjunction.

  • Shall vs. will: in English future expressions in general, use “will” instead of “shall,” e.g., “he is a prophet, and he <del>shall<del> will pray for you” (Gen 20:7). This general preference for “will” probably conforms to the instincts of most English native speakers. However, in genres such as prophecies, blessings, curses, and in other passages focusing on the expression of the speaker’s intentionality, retain the use of “shall” in the ULT. For example: “Yahweh said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?’” (Gen 18:17); “A deliverer shall come to Zion”; “every mountain and hill shall be made low.” The UST will use “will” or a different expression.

  • Metaphors will be turned into either similes or plain, concrete language. Examples:

    – live in your heart: “become a part of you,” “be joined to your spirit,” “be as close to you as your own hearts.”

    – hard heart: “refuse to obey.”

  • A few abstract nouns are allowed because of the awkwardness or inadequacy of any English circumlocution. These include “authority” (when used of a person), “sin,” “behavior,” “work,” “thing,” “time,” “resource,” “kingdom,” “relationship,” and some nouns referring to speech (“message,” “saying,” etc.), although it is often possible to use a verb instead.

Translation Glossary for the Old Testament

adam (ASV: man, men) ULT will regularly say “man” or “men,” and a translation note will indicate when this is a generic usage. When it is generic, UST will use terms such as “anyone,” “people,” etc. For example, Esther 2:15, ULT “every man,” UST “everyone.”

‘af should be rendered in ULT as “nose” when it appears in the singular form, and as “nostrils” when it appears in the dual form. When the usage is figurative, UST will express the meaning. For example, Ezra 8:22, ULT “his might and his nose are against all those who forsake him,” UST “he becomes very angry with those who refuse to obey him”; Nehemiah 8:6, ULT “nostrils to the ground,” UST “with their faces touching the ground.”

ark For the ark of the covenant, ULT will use the word “box” (“Box of the Testimony” in Exodus, “Box of the Covenant of Yahweh” in Joshua, etc.), and UST will use the term “sacred chest.” For Noah’s ark, ULT and UST will both say “ark.”

ben, beney ULT will say “son” or “sons.” When the usage is figurative, UST will express the meaning, and when it is generic and includes women, ULT will indicate that. For example, Nehemiah 3:31, ULT “a son of the goldsmiths,” UST “one of the goldsmiths”; Ezra 10:44, ULT “who had borne sons,” UST “who had borne children.”

covenant The UST will use “agreement” or “promise.”

‘ebed ULT will render this term as “servant” or “slave,” whichever English term best fits the specific context. UST may use other expressions, for example, Ezra 4:11, ULT “your servants,” UST “the officials serving you.” When the usage is figurative, UST will indicate that, for example, Nehemiah 7:57, ULT “the servants of Solomon,” UST “the laborers that King Solomon first conscripted.”

Expressions of the type “he knew his wife” or “he went in to his wife” should be reproduced word for word in ULT. The context will make their meaning clear. UST will express the meaning of the phrase. For example, Genesis 4:1, ULT “The man knew Eve his wife and she conceived,” UST “Adam had sexual relations with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant.”

glory The UST will rework the grammar to use the adjective “glorious” or an equivalent description such as “who is so great.”

herem ULT will translate this concept according to what it appears to mean locally in its immediate context. This might include either the concept of a “ban” or the concept of “complete destruction,” etc. UST will explain the meaning of the phrase. For example, Joshua 22:20, ULT, “Did not Achan son of Zerah act very treacherously in what was set apart for destruction?” UST “Surely you remember what happened when Zerah’s son Achan refused to obey Yahweh’s command to destroy everything in Jericho.”

hesed ULT will translate this as “covenant faithfulness,” except in cases where a different meaning is clearly warranted in the context. UST will use a phrase including an adjective such as “faithful” or “kind.” For example, Nehemiah 13:22, ULT “according to the greatness of your covenant faithfulness,” UST “because you are so abundantly kind.”

hinneh ULT will say “behold,” and a translation note will explain when the usage is figurative and means something like “pay attention” or “this is important.” UST will often not translate the term, or else give some other indication of the emphasis it is conveying. For example, Esther 6:5, ULT “Behold, Haman is standing in the courtyard,” UST “O king, Haman is standing in the courtyard.”

horns The Hebrew terms for the various kinds of horns should be rendered as follows: qeren = “horn” in ULT and UST; shofar = “horn” in ULT and “long horn” or “large horn” in UST; hatzotzerah = “trumpet” in ULT and UST. The term shofar should never be translated as “trumpet.”

kapporeth ULT will say “atonement lid,” and UST will use an expression such as “the lid for the sacred chest”

koh ‘amar YHWH UST will say, “Thus says Yahweh.” UST will say, “This is what Yahweh says.”

Meshiach ULT will say “Messiah,” and almost always “the Messiah,” since “Messiah” is a title. UST will say “the One God Has Anointed/Chosen.” For example, Psalm 2:2, ULT “against his Messiah,” UST “against the One God Has Anointed.”

mishpat ULT should translate this as “judgment(s)” wherever possible, since it is the derivative noun of “to judge.” However, in instances where it clearly does not mean “judgments,” then the English term “ordinance” should be used when referring to a religious rule, and another word such as “regulation” when referring to a more civil or legal rule. UST should use whatever term or expression is appropriate to the context. For example, Nehemiah 9:13, ULT “just judgments,” UST “honest instructions.”

ne’um YHWH ULT will say “the declaration of Yahweh’’ or “This is the declaration of Yahweh.” UST will express the meaning of the phrase, and it may do that before the material that it describes, even though in Hebrew the phrase comes afterwards. For example, Obadiah 1:4, ULT (at the end) “a declaration of Yahweh”; UST (at the beginning) “I, Yahweh, declare this to you.”

nephesh ULT will translate this term as “spirit” or “life” rather than “soul,” except in cases where the specific context demands it. UST will express the meaning. For example, Esther 7:3, ULT “let my life be given to me at my petition,” UST “Please allow me to live.”

Numbers Both ULT and UST will use words for numbers from one through ten, and digits for numbers higher than ten. But when numbers are used as titles, ULT should write them out and capitalize them, for example, “The Thirty” in 2 Samuel 23:23. UST could express the meaning of that title with a phrase such as “the 30 chief warriors.” If a number has a figurative meaning, the ULT editor should write it out, as a signal to the UTN editor to address the figurative usage. For example, ULT would write out “thousand” in Judges 6:15, a note would explain that this is idiomatic for “clan,” and UST could say “clan.”

peace The UST will rework the grammar to use the adjective “peaceful [spirit, etc.]” or an adjectival phrase such as “at peace.”

Sabbath The ULT will use “Sabbath” while the UST will use “day of rest.”

tzara’at ULT and UST should translate this term as “skin disease” (not “leprosy”).

wayehi ULT will translate this as “it came about” or “it happened.” UST will typically not translate the phrase. For example, Esther 5:2, ULT “And it happened that, as soon as the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court,” UST “As soon as the king noticed Queen Esther standing there in the courtyard.”

YHWH ULT and UST will both translate this as the name Yahweh.

Translation Glossary for the New Testament

adelphoi The ULT will use brothers. Since this term usually refers figuratively to Christian believers, the UST will most often use “believers” or “fellow-believers.”

anthropos The ULT will say “man” or “men,” and a translation note will indicate when this is a generic usage. When it is generic, UST will use terms such as “anyone” or “people.”

apostle The ULT will say “apostle,” and UST will use a phrase along the lines of “sent to represent”

apostle of Jesus Christ The ULT will say “apostle of Jesus Christ,” and the UST will use a phrase along the lines of “sent to represent the Messiah Jesus.”

Christos The ULT will say either “Christ” or “the Christ.” The definite article is appropriate if the term is being clearly used as a title, but not if it is being used as a second name for Jesus. The UST will normally use “the Messiah.”

diakonos The ULT will say “deacon” and UST will say “assistant” or “those who assist” for the church office, and “servant” or “agent” in other contexts.

disciple the ULT will say “disciple” regularly. UST will say “disciple” to mean the people who were in this relationship with Jesus, since that is a widely recognized popular sense of the term. In other contexts, however, UST can translate “disciple” with terms such as “learner” or “student,” for example, Luke 6:40, “A student is not greater than his teacher.”

egeneto de, kai egeneto The ULT will say, “And it happened that.” UST will often not translate this phrase at all, in keeping with the advice that is given in translation notes where it appears.

episkopos The ULT will say “overseer” and UST will say “leader of the believers.”

euangelion The ULT will say “gospel” in most cases, and UST will say “good news.” However, in cases where the term could not yet have the sense of the message of the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus, ULT can say “good news,” for example, Luke 3:18 in reference to John the Baptist, “he preached the good news to the people.”

grammateus The ULT will say “scribe,” and UST will say “teacher of the Jewish law,” “those who taught the Jewish law,” etc. If ULT were an end-user translation, there might be a risk of misunderstanding “scribe” to mean someone who made copies of documents. But ULT is designed to be used interactively with UTN and UST. A translation note should explain at the first instance in each book what “scribe” means, and UST will model that.

hagioi The ULT will say “saints.” UST will say “God’s people” or “us who belong to God” or use some similar expression.

idou The ULT will say “behold,” and a translation note will explain when the usage is figurative and means something like “pay attention” or “this is important.” UST will often not translate the term, or else give some indication of the emphasis it is conveying. For example, Luke 2:34, ULT “Behold,” UST “Note well what I say.” However, in cases where it literally means “look” or “see,” UST would use a term like that.

Messiah When the term appears in the New Testament in transliterated Greek, both ULT and UST should translate it as “Messiah.”

nomikos The ULT will say “lawyer,” following its form-based principles. The UST will say “expert in the Jewish law” or something similar. If ULT were an end-user translation, there might be a risk of misunderstanding “lawyer” to mean someone who argued cases in a courtroom. But ULT is designed to be used interactively with UTN and UST. A translation note should explain at the first instance in each book what “lawyer” means, and UST will model that.

Numbers Both ULT and UST will use words for numbers from one through ten, and digits for numbers higher than ten. But when numbers are used as titles, ULT should write them out and capitalize them, for example, “The Twelve” in the gospels. UST could express the meaning of that title with a phrase such as “the 12 disciples whom Jesus chose to be apostles.” If a number has a figurative meaning, the ULT editor should write it out, as a signal to the UTN editor to address the figurative usage. For example, ULT would write out “a double myriad of myriads” in Revelation 9:16, a note would explain that this is figurative for a very large, indefinite number, and UST could show the figurative usage with an expression such as “a couple of hundred million.”

peace The UST will rework the grammar to use the adjective “peaceful [spirit, etc.]” or an adjectival phrase such as “at peace.”

Sabbath The ULT will say “Sabbath,” and UST will say “Jewish day of rest.”

saints The ULT will use “saints” while the UST will use either “God’s people” or a form of “those whom God has set apart for himself.”

scribe The ULT will use “scribe” while the UST will use “teacher of the Jewish laws.”

Sea of Galilee Both ULT and UST will say “Sea of Galilee,” since that is the widely recognized name for this body of water.

synagogue The ULT will say “synagogue,” and UST will say “Jewish meeting place.”

wilderness The ULT will say “wilderness,” and UST will say “desolate place” or “desolate region” or “desolate area.”

unfoldingWord Translation Notes

Guidelines for Writing and Checking UTN

Write Notes to Cover the Following Situations:

  1. Translation notes define obscure terms that are infrequent enough that they are not included in the definitions of Translation Words. Also included here are phrases or actions that might be obscure. These Notes should reference the TA article translate-unknowns. If the action is symbolic, the note should reference translate-symaction. This type of note is also useful for identifying the gender of people named in the text and should reference translate-names. The following example gives the snippet from the SupportReference field in tC Create highlighted in yellow, followed by the text of the Note that comments on it:
herald A herald is someone who is sent out to announce a message. If your language does not have a similar term and your readers would not know what a herald is, you could use a general expression. Alternate translation: “a messenger” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/translate-unknown]])
  1. A UTN can offer synonyms or other translation possibilities. These notes should simply offer the alternatives between quotes with no explanatory text or TA article reference, but the alternative must still replace the snippet seamlessly. For clarity, the alternative(s) should be identified with “Alternate translation:” For example:
the way Alternate translation: “the path” or “the road”
  1. A UTN can suggest alternate translations (ATs) to the text of the ULT in case the target language prefers a different form. This is due to differences of language use, such as figurative language, the need to make implied information explicit, or to change an unnatural grammatical construction. These Notes explain what the translation issue is, then they offer ATs that address that issue and can be used when the ULT form is not meaningful or natural in the target language. These Notes will reference tA articles that further explain the particular issue. For example:
enslaved to much wine People who cannot control themselves and drink too much wine are spoken of as if they were a slave to the wine. Alternate translation: “controlled by their desire for wine” or “addicted to wine” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-metaphor]])
  1. Notes may present various possible meanings when there are textual ambiguities. For various reasons, scholars disagree about the meaning of many passages, and so such notes will present the major alternatives with the recommended alternative listed first. This will be the alternative that the UST will model. Less likely alternatives will follow in descending order of probability. Such notes should be as succinct as possible, with an AT given for each alternative. For example:
Suffer together The term together could mean one of two things. (1) It could mean for Timothy to suffer together with Paul. Alternate translation: “suffer together with me” (2) It could mean for Timothy to suffer together with all Christians who suffer. Alternate translation: “suffer together with all believers” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-explicit]])

Notice that in this example, the note discusses two possible meanings, (1) and (2), and each discussion has its own AT. In the example under point 3 above, two ATs are offered after a discussion of a single meaning. A third possibility is to offer two ATs together in a follow-up note to two possible meanings discussed in an earlier note. In that case, but not in a case like point 3, the ATs would be numbered (1) and (2), corresponding to the possibilities in the earlier note. Example:

in this one truly the love of God has been perfected If it would be clearer in your language, you could use an active verbal form in place of the passive form has been perfected. The person or thing doing the action will depend on how you decide to translate the phrase the love of God (see previous note). Alternate translation: (1) “that person indeed loves God completely” or (2) “God’s love has achieved its purpose in that person’s life” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-activepassive]])
  1. Notes may alert translators to issues of culture or genre that they may need to accommodate. For example, translators may need to give more specific kinship information, or they may have a specific cultural form for a greeting or a blessing that they will need to use. For example:
Grace, mercy, and peace from After stating his name and the name of the person to whom he is writing, Paul adds a blessing to Timothy. Use a form that people would recognize as a blessing in your language. Alternate translation: “may you experience kindness, mercy, and peace within you from” or “I pray that you will have grace, mercy, and peace from” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/translate-blessing]])
  1. Notes may present pertinent information about a section of text in order to aid in the translation of that section. Such notes typically occur at the beginning of books and chapters and they alert the translator to the themes or larger translation issues in those sections. This type of note is also useful for suggesting places to insert section headings. For this type of note, no text is selected to be highlighted for the snippet (the SupportReference field in tC Create). Only the chapter and verse are indicated. For example:
In verses 11b-13, Paul may be quoting a poem or hymn. To show the reader that this may be a quotation, in your translation you may choose to set these verses farther to the right than the other verses in the chapter.

Guidelines For Composing Notes (Content)

  • All Notes should be actionable. In other words, the translator should know what to do as a result of reading the Note. Often this recommended action is in the form of an AT, but it can also be in the form of advice in the text of the note. Delete notes that only give information, or rewrite them so that it is clear what the translator should do as a result of knowing the information.
  • Notes are suggestions. They are not instructions of how to translate. We do not know in advance the clearest or most natural way to translate any given phrase or sentence into a target language. So a note should give options of ways to express the meaning, in case one of them would be helpful. To this end, it is good to remind the translator of this by regularly using phrases such as, “if it would be clearer in your language” or “use the term that would be most natural in your language.”
  • Notes comment on the English text of the ULT, not directly on Hebrew or Greek. If you want to refer to the Hebrew or Greek behind the English, you can say something like, “The phrase translated ____also refers to ___.”
  • The note can refer to any part of what is in the yellow highlight of the ULT. If the note is not about the entire highlighted portion, one way to write the note would be: “The word word indicates that …” That way the translator doesn’t have to guess which word the note is talking about.
  • One reason to highlight more than just the text that the note is discussing is to be able to include parts of speech that are necessary to make a coherent AT, since the AT replaces the entire highlighted portion.
  • Not every note has to have something bolded in it. Bold only if the note is referencing a specific term or terms in the ULT text.
  • A note should not bold a word that is not in the ULT of the verse that it comments on. The proper way to write a note that quotes from another verse is: The word translated now is similar to the expression translated “and now” in [4:10](../04/10.md) and [4:11](../04/11.md).
  • In general, write notes that comment on a larger portion of text first, followed by notes that comment on smaller segments of that same text, as necessary. In that way, the notes can give translation suggestions or explanations for the whole as well as for each part.
  • Our target audience is speakers of English as a second language with a high-school education. Do not use words that only specialists in linguistics and biblical studies would know.
  • To give one specific example, when discussing quotations within quotations, speak of them as first-level, second-level, third-level, fourth-level, or fifth-level quotations, rather than as primary, secondary, tertiary, quaternary, or quinary quotations.
  • Prefer more formal, longer-established usages and avoid more informal usages that have only recently become acceptable in standard English. See Formal usage in the Style Sheet for more information and for examples.

Guidelines For Composing Notes (Tech)

  • When composing UTN using gatewayTranslate, all hyperlinks should be written in “Markdown” mode instead of “Preview” mode. Hyperlinks entered in “Preview” mode will not be saved in their proper format. Important: Editing must be done in “Markdown” mode, or hyperlinks will be disabled.
  • Do not insert a link to a TA article in the body of the note, i.e., “King Darius uses a spatial [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-metaphor]] to indicate this.” Create no links to articles within a note’s sentences. There should only be one link in a Note, and only at the end of the Note.
  • Every link must have a support reference, and every support reference must have a link; they must match.
  • When the original-language quote (OrigQuote) leaves out some words (for example, words that are not relevant to the translation issue under discussion), indicate this with an ellipsis (…). Use the Unicode ellipsis character. Do not use three periods with spaces in between. Within the OrigQuote field, do not put a space before or after an ellipsis. Otherwise, the software will not be able to read the field correctly. Example: οἱ…αὐτόπται καὶ ὑπηρέται γενόμενοι, not οἱ … αὐτόπται καὶ ὑπηρέται γενόμενοι.

Rules for the Support Reference of TA Articles

  • All notes should reference ONLY ONE translationAcademy article. If a second article needs to be referenced, an additional note should be added.
  • All notes that consist of more than just an alternate translation suggestion should reference one of the “Just-in-Time” articles from TranslationAcademy. (See the list in Appendix B.)
  • In any note that uses a support reference, the note should specifically address that topic, and the bolded term should be the subject of the topic.
  • If there is a support reference, there also needs to be a matching link. (In gatewayTranslate, make sure that you are in markdown mode when you add the link.)
  • The file name in the SupportReference field MUST be an exact match for the hyperlink at the close of the note. If they do not match, the link will not work properly.
  • For proofreading: if the note has two links, do not simply delete the one that does match the support reference. Rather, flag it so that a note can be split and a second note can be written to cover the second subject.

For a list of the TA articles that may be referenced in a Note, see Appendix B

Formatting Notes

  • The general form of the note should be: Text explaining the translation issue and optionally containing a bolded word or phrase from the ULT that is being discussed. Alternate translation: “a translation suggestion that exactly fits as a replacement into the grammatical space of the words that are highlighted in yellow in the ULT” (See: hyperlink to the tA article)
  • The ULT term/concept being discussed in each note should be in bold type, NOT in “quotation marks.” For a word to appear in bold in a note, it must be in the ULT of the verse that the note is written for and must appear in the same form or tense. Usually this will be from the yellow highlighting, because that is the part that the note is commenting on. But the note might also reference other wording in the verse, and in the notes, the bolding means, “this is quoted directly from the literal source text of the verse that you are translating.” That includes the word “and.”
  • Do not bold words in explanations. Do not bold words offered in suggestions or ATs.
  • Use quotation marks alone to indicate suggested translations. Do not precede suggestions with the word “that” (which turns them into indirect quotes). Instead, when the note contains explanatory text, end the text with a period and precede the suggestion(s) with, “Alternate translation:” (not within the quotation marks).
  • Quotation marks may also be used to call attention to specific words in the note.
  • Do not enclose “for example” in commas mid-sentence and follow it with an example, i.e., You can say this with an active form, for example, “Mordecai found out what they were planning.” Instead, use “Alternate translation:” as follows: You can say this with an active form. Alternate translation: “Mordecai found out what they were planning” Another example: You can say this with an active form, and you can say who did the action. Alternate translation: “Then the king’s servants investigated Mordecai’s report and found out that it was true”
  • Rather than beginning a note with the bolded ULT quotation, begin with “Here.” When beginning a note with the word “Here,” the term should be followed by a comma if it is immediately followed by the ULT term. For instance: “Here, ULT term means __________.” No comma is needed for “Here we see that …”
  • Scripture references within the same book should be referenced using both chapter and verse, separated by a colon, i.e., 3:16. This should be done as a hyperlink. To use this same example, the proper hyperlink format places the hyperlink text in brackets [3:16] immediately followed by the link itself in parentheses (../03/16.md). There should not be a space between the brackets and the parentheses.

Alternate Translations (ATs)

  • The purpose of the AT is to illustrate how a translator might adjust the form of the text in order to avoid the translation difficulty discussed in the text of the note. Occasionally you may want to offer an alternate translation when there is no specific translation issue involved, but only because it may help the translator to see other possible ways to say something. In that case, simply present the AT within quotation marks with no explanatory text.
  • The AT should fit grammatically into the same slot as the snippet (the highlighted ULT phrase). In other words, the translator should be able to insert the AT seamlessly as a substitute for the highlighted portion and not have to adjust it. At times, however, you may want to suggest that the translator start a new sentence using the AT. In that case, eliminate the conjunction (if appropriate), start the AT with a capital letter, and make sure that it can replace the snippet if the translator ends the previous part with a period.
  • Here are some things to check when writing ATs:
  1. The AT should express the entire meaning of the snippet, not failing to represent any part of it.
  2. If the original text and snippet contain an ellipsis, the AT should show an ellipsis at the corresponding place.
  3. If the snippet begins at the start of a sentence and its first word is therefore capitalized, the first word of the AT should also be capitalized.
  4. The AT should be phrased in such a way as to fit with the ending punctuation of the snippet.
  5. If a comma precedes or follows the snippet, take that into account when creating the AT.
  6. In general, if the snippet begins with a conjunction, the AT should as well. However, a note writer does have the option of omitting an initial conjunction from an AT if that would make the AT clearer and more readable. (Also see the first bullet point after this list for a further exception.)
  7. If the snippet contains a subject but not its verb, the subject in the AT should agree in person and number with the verb that is found in ULT.
  8. If the snippet contains a verb but not its subject, the verb in the AT should agree in person and number with the subject that is found in ULT.
  9. The AT should conform to the active or passive voice of the verb(s) in the sentence from which the snippet comes, unless the AT is modeling how a passive verbal form could be expressed in active form.
  10. If the verb in the snippet is a participle, the verb in the AT should also be a participle, not a verb in the indicative.
  • At times, you may want to suggest that the translator start a new sentence using the AT. In that case, eliminate the conjunction (if appropriate), start the AT with a capital letter, and make sure that it can replace the snippet if the translator ends the previous part with a period.
  • Similarly, an AT does not necessarily have to represent a conjunction that is present at the beginning of a sentence in a snippet. However, so that the replacement is seamless, be sure to include the conjunction in the snippet itself and begin the AT with a capital letter. For example, from Luke 14:5:

Snippet: And they were not able to give an answer to these things.

AT: There was nothing they could say in response.

  • The yellow highlighting (the snippet) in the ULT means, “This is the part that the note is focused on, and it is the part that the AT is made to replace exactly, if you prefer to use the AT.” Every note other than notes about sectional information (see #6 in Write Notes to Cover the Following Situations, above) must contain a snippet.
  • The AT may say more than the highlighted ULT phrase says if the note is explaining why that might be helpful, which is always the case with a figs-explicit note.
  • Do not include an AT that is identical to the rendering in the UST. Use the AT to give another alternative.
  • Although a note might deal only with a conjunction and not with the accompanying verb (which will necessarily also be highlighted because it is attached in the typical Hebrew construction), the AT should still directly replace the entire portion of the ULT that is highlighted.
  • As a rule, only say “Alternate translation:” once per note. However, it is acceptable to have two alternates separated by “or.” Furthermore, if a note is discussing possible alternative meanings, it is proper to say “Alternate translation:” at the end of each of its sections.
  • When offering more than one alternate translation, use this formatting. Alternate translation: “does not belong to God” or “does not have a relationship with God”
  • Do NOT use this formatting, repeating the label “Alternate translation.” Alternate translation: “I, John, am writing this letter” or Alternate translation: “I, John, the elder, am writing this letter”
  • Do NOT include punctuation at the end of the snippet or the AT. The AT should be formatted as a floating sentence fragment immediately followed by the translationAcademy hyperlink (if applicable), i.e., Alternation translation: “in the presence of Yahweh” (See: [[rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-explicit]]) The exception to this rule are snippets and ATs for rhetorical questions (see below).
  • The AT for a rhetorical question can be another rhetorical question or it can be a statement or exclamation point. If it is a statement or exclamation, include the ending period or exclamation point, since you have made a change to the punctuation. Otherwise, translators might think that the punctuation should not change.
  • An AT would also include punctuation at the end if a comma were needed after the AT for it to be a seamless replacement for the snippet. For example, suppose ULT read “But” at the start of a sentence and you wanted to suggest “Nevertheless” as an AT. Since “Nevertheless” would be followed by a comma while “But” would not, you would say, Alternate translation: “Nevertheless,”
  • An AT will not usually be more than a sentence. However, if it does consist of more than one sentence, then final punctuation is permitted within the AT, after all sentences except the last one. What we don’t want is any ending punctuation that might confuse the translator who might not be able to tell if it is to be included in the AT or not. The AT should reflect the same capitalization and punctuation as the ULT snippet (which should not include final punctuation), completely ignoring the needs of the note in which it is found.
  • Do not add a period at the end of the TA hyperlink, either inside or outside the parentheses.
  • Regarding initial capitalization in alternative translations, capitalize the first word in the AT if it would be replacing a ULT reading that begins a sentence and so starts with a capitalized word. If the snippet (the highlighted portion of the ULT) begins with an initial capital, so must the AT. The guideline about “no sentence formatting in ATs” refers specifically to final punctuation, which would only be shown if the AT is recommending a change from period to question mark or exclamation point, or the reverse.
  • An AT can only contain an ellipsis (…) if that matches an ellipsis in the GLQuote, that is, in the quotation from ULT. There will be no ellipsis in ULT itself. But the GLQuote may contain an ellipsis if it is leaving out words from ULT that are not relevant to the translation issue under discussion. For example, a note to Luke 1:2 addresses metonymy in the phrase “who…were eyewitnesses.” The OrigQuote is οἱ…αὐτόπται…γενόμενοι, abridged from οἱ ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς, αὐτόπται καὶ ὑπηρέται γενόμενοι. The GLQuote is accordingly “who … were eyewitnesses,” and the AT, to match, says “who … saw these things personally.” The GLQuote may also contain an ellipsis if the word order in ULT differs from the word order in the original. For example, in a note that addresses the metaphor of “walking” in Luke 1:6, the OrigQuote is πορευόμενοι ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ἐντολαῖς καὶ δικαιώμασιν τοῦ Κυρίου. The GLQuote contains an ellipsis: “walking … in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.” This is because ULT places the word “blamelessly” after “walking,” translating ἄμεμπτοι, which comes after the end of the OrigQuote. The AT accordingly says “obeying … everything that the Lord had commanded.” But in no situation should an AT have an ellipsis at its end. That is never needed. Also, if possible, try to avoid creating ellipses in the GLQuote, as this makes things more complicated for translators. If you can include a single word (such as “blamelessly” in Luke 1:6) or a short phrase in order to avoid an ellipsis, include it, even if it is not directly relevant to the translation issue under discussion.
  • To indicate further discussion, add a note to the end of the AT. For example: Alternate translation: “the people of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin” or see the next note for a further possibility.

Key Terms

  • Do not use a note to define a term that is in the list of Translation Words.
  • Sometimes a note will need to discuss a phrase containing one or more Translation Words. It is proper for the note to discuss their meaning within the phrase, and then to give unified ATs that cover the phrase.

unfoldingWord Translation Words (UTW)

Description

UTW is a list of words with their definitions; it can be thought of as a basic Bible dictionary. Based on the English vocabulary of the ULT, its purpose is to help people understand the ULT, and thus, translate it well. It helps by providing translators with concise definitions of important or difficult biblical concepts along with translation suggestions for those concepts to help them make sound translation decisions.

We also intend that UTW will be translated into other Gateway Languages; each Gateway Language translation of the UTW will be based on the vocabulary of the GLT in that language. Its purpose in that form will be similar—to help people understand the GLT, and thus, use it well as part of a set of translation resources. Although UTW is based on English vocabulary, its definitions will be organized by concept in order to allow GL translators to more easily sort and combine the concepts into the categories and vocabulary of their own Gateway Languages. This means that an English word with multiple senses will yield one UTW article for each sense. GL translators can then take these articles and arrange them under the appropriate head word or words of their own language.

Categories

To avoid burdening the translator unnecessarily with definitions of routine vocabulary, UTW articles will be limited to the following categories of key or difficult concepts:

  • theologically freighted terms—These are also called “key terms.” They carry a lot of theological weight and meaning, so it is important to understand them correctly and be consistent in using them. Even if they aren’t difficult (although they usually are), they are important. Examples: righteousness, forgiveness, sin, grace, love.
  • unusual or obscure words that a speaker of English as a second language might not know, such as abomination, eunuch, iniquity, propitiation, chariot
  • words that have a modern usage but a different ancient/biblical usage, such as altar, priest, bless, curse, clean, unclean, church
  • words that are unique to the Bible, such as Ark, gentile, psalm, tabernacle
  • words that are transliterated rather than translated, such as shekel, ephah, amen, apostle, angel
  • ambiguous terms, that is, concepts that are lumped together into one English or GL word so that it is unclear which concept is being accessed in any certain context of the ULT or GLT. (This is the category in which the GL team may need to do the most work to adjust terms to the GL.) Examples: call, fear, age, great.

UTW differentiated from UTN, UGL, and UHAL

It is important to note that UTW is only one component in a set of translation tools and resources. It is not intended to cover everything, but only the concepts as described above. It is also important to note that UTW is not based on Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek and does not provide definitions of terms from those languages. The unfoldingWord® Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon (UHAL) and the unfoldingWord® Greek Lexicon (UGL) will do that. UTW will only define English terms as used in the context of the English ULT version of the Bible. This will give the maximum help to translators whose immediate need is to understand the unknown terms in the GL text in front of them as they are used in that GL context.

The two “front-line” checking tools based on UTW and UTN are also complementary and are most useful for the translator when they remain distinct. For that reason, both resources are limited to their own domains. UTW is limited to the categories of key and difficult concepts, and UTN is limited to the categories of difficulties specified for it (figures of speech, grammar, etc.).

The value of UTW for translators is to provide definitions for general concepts that they will find difficult to translate. A primary differentiator between UTW and UTN is that UTN addresses individual, verse-specific difficulties. It speaks to exact problems in exact contexts, many of which may only occur once in the Bible. For example, a UTN metaphor check is supported by the general UTA article on metaphor, but the specific note explains the specific metaphor that may be unique to that verse and may occur nowhere else. On the other hand, the UTW tool addresses concepts that recur constantly throughout the Bible, so the help that it gives is much more general, and one UTW article may apply dozens of times even in the same book. The strength of checking with the UTW is that it allows translators to see each instance of a recurring concept in its context but gathered into one place where the translation of each one can be compared side-by-side for appropriateness and consistency.

The next stage of UTW

UTW is in the process of being converted into a spreadsheet database format. Once that is completed, we will begin a process of deleting articles that do not meet the criteria outlined above. We will also begin separating the articles for words with multiple senses into separate articles. This will be in addition to the ongoing process of editing the articles as we produce book packages, ensuring that each article sufficiently discusses the concept as it is used in each context.