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Will Your Citations Pass or Fail?

Photo by Manuel Bahamondez H

When an academic book manuscript is under contract and comes to my department for copy-editing, it undergoes an initial review by the assistant managing editor (yours truly) before assignment. If I find any major problems, I send the manuscript back to the acquiring editor, who returns it to the author for what is probably not the first round of revision but is hopefully* the last.

Things have to be pretty awful for that to happen. After all, copy editors expect to do a lot of cleaning up; it’s our job to sort out problems, both written (renumbering figures, correcting totals in table columns, realphabetizing bibliographies, editing notes to a consistent style, conforming tables of contents to the actual contents) and electronic (removing formats, combining or separating files, adding paragraph indents, removing hot links, taking out extra spaces and tabs).

I’ve written before about standard citation styles and the reasons for observing them. Today I’ll give examples of some notes and bibliographies that have passed muster and some that haven’t.

Not House Style but Accepted

Although our submission guidelines request that notes be prepared in Chicago style, if a manuscript with substantial notes and bibliography follows another standard style consistently, we will consider accepting it. The manuscript editor will either leave it as is, if it seems safer not to mess with it, or make some global replacements (such as changing underlining to italics) to render it closer to Chicago style. Here are examples of bibliography entries from two manuscripts. Chicago style prefers not to underline, put parentheses around dates, abbreviate “University Press,” or use sentence casing for titles or subtitles, but we can work with notes like these:

MLA style (an older version)
Lipson, Charles. Reliable Partners: How Democracies Have Made a Separate Peace. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2003.

APA style
Lipson, C. (2003). Reliable partners: How democracies have made a separate peace. Princeton: Princeton UP.

Nonstandard but Accepted

Recently an author wrote to ask whether it would be acceptable to omit the names of publishers from her citations.

32. Michael Denning, The Cultural Front: The Laboring of American Culture in the Twentieth Century (London, 1996).

This is common in citations of 19th-century works, which don’t always name the publisher on the title page, but it’s not so common for current scholarship. I wrote back with questions: Is the information not considered useful in her discipline? Do bibliographies in the books she consults routinely omit the names of publishers? It wasn’t so much a matter of whether we would accept such a bibliography as whether the book would meet expected standards and be useful to readers if it lacked the full citations. I thought it would be OK to omit the publisher names—but the author decided to supply them.

Nonstandard and Disputed

Here’s a clipping from a messy reference list:

Acheson, James. (1981). Anthropology of Fishing. Annual Review of Anthropology 10 pp. 275-316.

Adger, W. Neil , Hughes, Terry P., Folke, Carl, Carpenter, Stephen R., and Rockström, Johan. (2005.) Social-Ecological Resilience to Coastal Disasters. Science Vol. 309 pp. 1036-39.

Adger, W. Neil. (2003.) Social Capital, Collective Action, and Adaptation to Climate Change. Economic Geography Vol. 79 No. 4 pp. 387-404.

Agrawal, Arun. (2005.) Environmentality: Community, Intimate Government, and the Making of Environmental Subjects in Kumaon, India. Current Anthropology Volume 46, Number 2 pp. 161-190.

Ahlers, Douglas, Plyer, Allison, and Weil, Frederick. (2008). Where is the Money? Presentation downloaded from http://gnocdc.s3.amazonaws.com/reports/HurricaneFundingGap.pdf.

Ahn, T.K. and Ostrom, Elinor. (2008). Social Capital and Collective Action. In Dario Castiglione, Jan W. van Deth, and Guglielmo Wolleb, eds .The Handbook of Social Capital. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 70-100.

We could take in stride the many departures from Chicago style (parentheses around the dates, use of “pp.”), the inconsistencies (Volume vs. Vol., Number vs. No., various stylings of page ranges), the omissions (mainly of commas), and the sloppiness (spacing before commas, periods before/after parentheses), but I balked for two reasons. First, there are unreadable jumbles of names and surnames: Adger, W. Neil, Hughes, Terry P., Folke, Carl, Carpenter, Stephen R., and Rockström, Johan. Second, there aren’t any quotation marks or italics to set off titles of books, articles, journals, or Web sites.

In the end, I accepted this odd duck, recommending that the copy editor insert semicolons in the name strings but leave the titles as they were. However, the assigned copy editor felt strongly that the titles should be distinguished and set about fixing them. In my view, this was a poor outcome. When a copy editor spends much of the allotted time making arbitrary style changes, the rest of the book gets less attention.

Beyond the Pale: Rejected

Instead of a recognized notes style, this author used reference-list style (author’s surname first, periods between elements of the citation, a comma between citations, etc.). It’s hard to read and hard to distinguish one citation from the next.

32. Foucault, Michel. 1977. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Vintage, Monahan, Torin. 2010. Surveillance in the Time of Insecurity. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, Haggerty, Kevin D., and Richard V. Ericson. 2000. The Surveillant Assemblage. British Journal of Sociology 51 (4):605-622.

The very same format is perfect when the citations appear in an actual reference list:

Foucault, Michel. 1977. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Vintage.

Haggerty, Kevin D., and Richard V. Ericson. 2000. The Surveillant Assemblage. British Journal of Sociology 51 (4):605-622.

Monahan, Torin. 2010. Surveillance in the Time of Insecurity. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

But notes are read like sentences, not lists, and the author ended up having to rewrite into notes style:

32. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York: Vintage, 1977); Torin Monahan, Surveillance in the Time of Insecurity (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2010); Kevin D. Haggerty and Richard V. Ericson, “The Surveillant Assemblage,” British Journal of Sociology 51, no. 4 (2000): 605–22.

Beyond the Pale: Rejected (2)

Another MS we recently rejected featured the opposite quirk: the bibliography used notes style. As a result, in a list alphabetized by surname, the alphabetizing was obscured:

Rufus Anderson, History of the Missions of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to the Oriental Churches (Boston, 1872).

Farah Antun, Ibn Rushd wa falsafatahu (Alexandria, 1903).

Ya’qub Artin, Considérations sur l’instruction publique en Egypte (Cairo, 1894).

Henry Bastian, “Facts and Reasonings concerning the Heterogeneous Evolution of Living Things,” Nature, 30 June 1870;

Beyond the Pale: Rescued

Sometimes it’s obvious from the consistency of the styling that citations were generated from software. If so, the author might be prevailed upon to press a different button and submit a new version without anyone having to slave through the editing. That’s what happened in this case:

ZEITLIN, MAURICE. 1974. “CORPORATE OWNERSHIP AND CONTROL: THE LARGE CORPORATION AND THE CAPITALIST CLASS.” AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY 70:1073-1119.

—. 1980 “ON CLASSES, CLASS CONFLICT, AND THE STATE: AN INTRODUCTORY NOTE.” IN CLASSES, CLASS CONFLICT AND THE STATE: EMPIRICAL STUDIES IN CLASS ANALYSIS, EDITED BY MAURICE ZEITLIN. CAMBRIDGE, MA: WINTHROP.

ZIMMERMANN, ANN, AND ADRIAN FAVELL. 2011. “GOVERNMENTALITY, POLITICAL FIELD OR PUBLIC SPHERE? THEORETICAL ALTERNATIVES IN THE POLITICAL SOCIOLOGY OF THE EU.” EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF SOCIAL THEORY 14(4):489-515.

We sent the MS back, and the author quickly sent us a revised version—still in need of editing, but acceptable:

Zeitlin, Maurice. 1974. “Corporate Ownership and Control: The Large Corporation and the Capitalist Class.” American Journal of Sociology 70:1073-1119.

—. 1980 “On Classes, Class Conflict, and the State: An Introductory Note.” In Classes, Class Conflict and the State: Empirical Studies in Class Analysis, edited by Maurice Zeitlin. Cambridge, MA: Winthrop.

Zimmermann, Ann, and Adrian Favell. 2011. “Governmentality, political field or public sphere? Theoretical alternatives in the political sociology of the EU.” European Journal of Social Theory 14(4):489-515.

Some writers will never know that their work was judged to be deficient and sent back to Acquisitions for revision, because sometimes, rather than raise the author’s ire, the acquiring editor’s assistant simply takes the material home and spends a weekend reworking the bad material. There’s something wrong in that. Assistants aren’t paid enough to sacrifice whole weekends bailing out writers who submit material they wouldn’t accept from their students.

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*If you are tempted to comment on “hopefully,” please do so only after you have read at least three recent articles by language writers on the subject and can cite them in your comment.

 

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