Citation, Documentation of Sources

Q. In reference lists, noun forms such as “editor” (ed.) and “translator” (trans.) are always abbreviated. The abbreviation of the plural “editors” is “eds.” But what is the abbreviation of plural “translators”? “Trans.” or “transs.”?

A. The plural of “trans.” would be “trans.” But because authors or editors rather than translators are generally listed first in citations of translated works, it would almost never come up in a source citation. In a numbered note you would use “trans.”—but standing for the verb form “translated by”:

1. Fyodor Dostoevsky, Demons, trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (New York: Vintage Books, 1994).

In bibliography format, these words are normally spelled out:

Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Demons. Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.

But if you do happen to come across that rare bird known as an anonymous work in translation—think Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which is usually translated from Middle English for modern audiences—and (rarer still) it lists more than one translator, then you would follow those names with “trans.” (translators):

Pevear, Richard, and Larissa Volokhonsky, trans. Title of Anonymous Work. . . .