This originally was an off-topic comment elsewhere. I think it's important enough to warrant it's own post.

As this is an international site, our language is English. However, many people play games in their native language, using translated books. Posting here means we can translate language from English to our native language and back quite well, but book layout does not translate at all. References to books should ideally mention texts that we can search for to find the mentioned sentences or paragraphs in our native language books. Because layout and maybe even cover pictures may change with editions and translations.

The very first sentence on pg. 73 of the PHB proves you wrong!

This is a reference, non-English players have a lot of problems finding. Page 73 in the English book is somewhere between page 60 and 90 in my book. And a first sentence on a page will probably not be the first sentence on any of my pages. So I'd have to search 30 pages, sentence by sentence to check if one might prove me wrong.

In the players handbook, in the Chapter "Combat" under the heading "Attack Actions", the first sentence of the second paragraph proves you wrong (PHB pg. 73).

Now this is way easier. I have the books name, the chapter and paragraph. I can find all of that by translating words and skimming over the table of contents. Maybe the chapter starts at page 68 and have have to flip over to page 69 to see the heading mentioned. But it is spot on.

So please, if you reference books, think of the non-English speakers. We don't expect a reference into our books, but it's way easier for us to find it, if you provide context from your books instead of page numbers.

Because context translates, page numbers do not.

They even translate well enough the other way. I cannot quote verbatim or cite page numbers in any meaningful way (at least not to a non-German in my case) but I can give a description and Chapter heading. If I guess the chapter is named "Combat" and it happens to be named "Battle", then my guess is still better than nothing.

Please note that this is a suggestion how to improve your posts. I'm not looking to make this mandatory or downvote anybody if he does not. This will take a post from good to great, it's in no way required that you do this.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Even the long form doesn't necessarily help. As an example, German editions of Shadowrun also change the structure of the text.... \$\endgroup\$ – Mala Feb 26 '16 at 17:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mala Yes, but with the Chapter and Heading, at least you know where to look. \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Feb 26 '16 at 18:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ No, that's what I mean. They re-structured it. They didn't just translate, the original chapters and subsections were not mapped 1:1 but rewritten to be easier to understand. \$\endgroup\$ – Mala Feb 26 '16 at 18:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mala hm, I did not notice that, but I don't own the English Shadowrun books to compare. With most Games, the Chapters and heading stay the same, just get a different layout based on picture selection and word count in different languages. \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Feb 26 '16 at 18:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, they even called it 4.01d (to show that the changes, etc). Anyway, it was just an example, there are others... The point is that even the additional information (which is clearly harder to write and makes texts harder to read) does not always solve the problem - so it's not an ideal approach for a convention in my eyes. \$\endgroup\$ – Mala Feb 26 '16 at 18:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mala: it's certainly not worse, though, right? It seems to me that a little reminder to focus on content rather than (or as much as, or in addition to) probably isn't bad advice. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Feb 26 '16 at 19:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 I find the suggestion adds noise to an answer. HeyICanChan's answer demonstrates this nicely, so in my eyes, it might be an improvement as a footnote, but not good inline in the text. \$\endgroup\$ – Mala Feb 26 '16 at 21:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mala I don't know, I find HeyICanChan's answer to be overwrought. I'll likely be adding header to any of my references from now on, and others can do as they wish. (Obviously.) So my version of HeyICanChan's quote would have read "quote quote" (DMG p.136 "Identifying A Magic Item") \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Feb 26 '16 at 21:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 You might want to propose that compromise as an answer. (However, based on nvoigt's sample in this question, I'm not sure how much help that limited amount of context will provide.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 26 '16 at 22:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Any amount of context is better than no context. \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Feb 27 '16 at 11:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is sometimes useful for games that have one (game) edition but many (literary) editions. For example, Stars Without Numbers has a free no-art edition that is the same rules as the full for-pay edition, but with different pagination. Giving chapter/section/subsection information is helpful there too. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 28 '16 at 7:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie There's a difference between a question or answer identifying the text it uses (like here)—which is common courtesy—and asking that a question or answer pinpoint where text is located in that edition without using page numbers—which is a heavy burden on an already conscientious querent or respondent. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 28 '16 at 11:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I agree there's a difference, and it is a burden, yes. It's something that it's good to be aware of, and does come up naturally. I'm not sure how well it can be applied across the entire site and everyone who might answer though, yeah. Especially for popular games like D&D 5e, the expected volume of answers and variety of answerers makes it nearly impossible to mandate. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 28 '16 at 20:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Even on a small scale, what's being asked for here is greater than what's asked for by a college professor or a professional journal. If a prof told me Cite your quotations so a reader of a foreign-language edition of the text you quoted can use context to find the text you quoted in his foreign-language edition, I'd think he was joking. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 29 '16 at 8:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Does this happen frequently? I don't see many people making mention of page numbers being inaccurate because of language differences. Would it help if question askers indicated that they were non-english native for this purpose? Would even a tag be necessary? \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Mar 1 '16 at 16:27

Instead trying to accommodate non-English texts in general, I suggest a user of a non-English edition Comment how the desired information can't be located in that non-English edition and request from the querent or respondent more context.

That's because, while I think it's a great idea to accommodate non-English speakers, asking folks to use a text's headers, subheads, and sentence numbers instead of or in addition to page numbers is, I think, a burden too great and may possibly be even more confusing.

For example, consider this:

"Activating a spell trigger item is a standard action and does not provoke attacks of opportunity." (DMG 213)

And compare it to this:

"Activating a spell trigger item is a standard action and does not provoke attacks of opportunity." (DMG 213 or Chapter 7: Magic Items on Handling Magic Items on Using Items in the paragraph Spell Trigger in the final sentence)

While the second example does locate the text precisely, it assumes that, when translated, all of those terms also match up, and there's no way to be sure that they do. Further, there's not even a standardized international method of indicating page numbers, so using an even more complicated non-standardized long-form of text location will be messy and difficult for English and non-English readers alike.

It does suck when someone else's page numbers don't sync up to one's own, and you have my sympathy, but I think asking for clarification on a case-by-case basis is a better solution.

(Just to be sure, a search for first sentence brings up about 50 results, and many seem to reference a quotation already presented, so rummaging through a text fairly to find that quotation should be fairly quick. And I totally know that's an imperfect measure.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you really think that requesting more context will help after a year or so? After all, we strive to be the resource for people coming from Google, we aren't always onto the hot topics only. \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Feb 26 '16 at 18:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Both your examples are comments. I don't expect that from comments, they aren't meant to be permanent anyway. But I do expect that from a full blown answer. An English book's page number is about as useless to me as if you said "it's about 3mm of pages into the book". \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Feb 26 '16 at 18:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nvoigt A diligent author should be paying attention to comments on questions and answers and update those to reflect greater interest. I mean, yes, it sucks if the author isn't diligent, but you can downvote that answer to express your displeasure if it goes unchanged, and make it clear in a comment that you'll upvote it when it's updated to reflect your needs. That answer is by definition not useful to you until it's updated, after all. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 26 '16 at 18:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nvoigt I'm not sure how my examples are Comments. I was using examples that could have come from any of my own answers or questions as well as comments. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 26 '16 at 18:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ I certainly won't downvote an answer because it's "good" instead of "picture perfect to my personal taste". That would be the sort of dick move I'm arguing against in almost every post here. If some people want to improve their posts in the face of the fact that not everyone is reading the English books, he or she can read my post and act accordingly. It will make me more inclined to upvote it. \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Feb 27 '16 at 11:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nvoigt I suggested commenting first then using the only remaining tool — a downvote — after having been ignored or refused; seriously, I, too, wish there were options more granular than nothing, up, down, and discuss, but that's not the site's format. And, just to be clear, to understand my reluctance to accommodate non-English editions in the manner you suggest, imagine, for example, my answer here but with the addition of contextual textual locators like those you mention. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 27 '16 at 15:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm just saying that this is a means to make answers better, I will comment to ask for improvement, I will not downvote an other wise good answer just because I personally think it could be better. That's not what a downvote is for from my perspective. \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Feb 28 '16 at 10:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ I just edited in the page number in my second example. I'm not sure if that was what put you off, but I never meant for that information to get lost. I just forgot it in my post. I want more information, not less. \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Feb 28 '16 at 11:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nvoigt It's cool. My second example had already followed what I assumed you meant. (Not including page numbers at all makes me cringe; I don't think I'm capable of excluding page numbers completely unless there's a corresponding link I can use instead.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 28 '16 at 11:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nvoigt RE: The uselessness of It's about 3mm of pages into the book. Interestingly, an answer to the question Angelo Fuchs posed on History.SE proposes using % into the chapter, which I think would probably have about the same degree of usefulness as measuring page depth in mm. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Mar 2 '16 at 17:51

I'd consider this to be different by context.

In cases where you cite something easily searchable (a spell, a weapon, a creature) you must cite the book, but usually not the page (or anything else). That is everybody, English speaking or not, can look up 'owl-bear' in the index and translate it to their relevant language easily.

In cases where you cite something that is buried in large text sections it becomes more complicated.

I suggest you keep it as short as possible while still being searchable. It doesn't need to be understood by a machine, but by a human.

Activating a spell trigger item is a standard action and does not provoke attacks of opportunity." (Chapter 7: Using Items, Spell Trigger paragraph)

Note: It might also be that your citation is lost due translation and just not there in another language (e.G. the Cyberpunk 2020 basic rules differ in the area of martial arts between the German and the English version).

On a personal note: I usually own German books and I pirated the English ones to be able to look up page numbers, so I can translate them and then look it up on the dead-tree. So, I totally agree that this is an issue.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Because there's no standardized method of presenting the context clues, how much good will this actually do? I mean, in your example, you've quotation marks around Spell Trigger which aren't present in the English original and the quotation marks are used in a nonstandard way (in English anyway). Searching an English DMG for "Spell Trigger", for instance, yields 0 results. I can get behind a meta-movement to develop a standard, but telling everyone Fake it for the greater good! will just make a mess. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 29 '16 at 9:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan The " aren't there in the German book either, I just used them to mark the name. Lets work on a meta-movement to develop a standard. I'll remove the " from my quote as they are misleading. \$\endgroup\$ – Angelo Fuchs Feb 29 '16 at 9:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Also, they still will do a lot of good. "DMG p. 213" is 100% useless to someone who does not happen to own the same copy as you do. "Chatper 7: Using Items" is much more helpful. "Spell Trigger paragraph" makes it more clear. As I mentioned: They don't need to be machine readable (e.G. Full text search compatible) they need to be human readable (e.G. opening the book at Chapter 7, look for Using Items). If my copy now happens to have Chapter 7 being about creation of monsters because the translators thought it would be better, I still know what to look for in the index. \$\endgroup\$ – Angelo Fuchs Feb 29 '16 at 9:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan compare this answer of mine I can't quote the English page number (because I don't have the English book), but I could quote the chapter and section. And if you look into the edit history, you note that even the words I used most likely never were full text searchable anyway because I needed to translate them from German (and did so poorly). \$\endgroup\$ – Angelo Fuchs Feb 29 '16 at 9:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan If this meta were successful I will look up Chapter and Section and edit my answer accordingly. \$\endgroup\$ – Angelo Fuchs Feb 29 '16 at 9:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fair enough. I look forward to participating in the development of an international textual citation standard. (That sounds sarcastic, but it's really not. As a conscientious contributor, I want my questions and answers to be applicable internationally.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 29 '16 at 9:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I asked a question on History.SE: history.stackexchange.com/questions/27752/… to figure out how the "pros" do it. Seems overly complicated for our hobby, but sure a good starting point for a standard. \$\endgroup\$ – Angelo Fuchs Feb 29 '16 at 17:12

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