How to avoid “citation stress”

With many organizations generating substantial thought leadership pieces these days, including industry research reports, we’re all having to dust off our knowledge of citation styles and standards to ensure proper referencing of third-party sources. Here are some tips from our editing team on how to make citing sources simple and hassle-free:

Think of the reader when choosing a citation style.
Inline citations, footnotes and endnotes are the three main reference types. The first are used mainly in research publications. They can make text hard to read, so we prefer footnotes or endnotes for marketing materials. If you have a small number of references, footnotes are easy for readers to check without leaving the page. If your list of references is long, endnotes are your best bet for keeping your copy clean.

Put footnote and endnote numbers at the end of the sentence.
This keeps them out of the reader’s way and makes your document more scannable. Most English style guides call for these markers to come right after any punctuation.

Mind your “ibids”.
The Latin abbreviation “ibid.” basically means “same as before” and is useful shorthand when you cite the same source two or more times in a row. But until you’ve finalized your document, it’s better to give the full reference in each note, because if the order changes, your “ibids” will be wrong.

Feel free to mix it up.
Beyond citations, you can also use footnotes and endnotes for “overflow” content — tangential ideas or lengthy parenthetical remarks to support your main content. If you’re going to blend notes and citations extensively, consider using endnotes for the citations and footnotes for any other notes.

Most word processing programs today handle reference formatting for you. In Microsoft Word, if you’re using tracked changes and make edits to citations, the numbering can sometimes get out of whack. Don’t worry: once you’ve accepted all changes, they’ll renumber correctly. Of course, it never hurts to confirm!