[Fwd: style remark]

Drew Danielson andrew.danielson at CMU.EDU
Mon Nov 26 16:31:35 UTC 2001

An Engineering Professor for Whom I Work wrote:
> In reading text from some of you, I've observed that you occasionally use a
> citation as subject in a sentence -- e.g.,
>        "[3] introduces blah blah blah."
> This is definitely not acceptable.  You should always start sentences with
> words. In the case above, you could use the names of the author(s) as the
> subject:
> "Schwartz and Billings introduce blah blah blah [3]."
> One does see citations as objects of prepositions in the literature,
> however, -- e.g.,
>         "This is shown in [3].",
> so it doesn't seem altogether verboten in current practice to use citations
> as nouns. Using this construct, one might rearrange the first example as:
> "Blah blah blah is introduced in [3]," although this is passive.
> It may be that the rigidly correct thing to do is to avoid using citations
> as nouns altogether. I'll ask one of my English experts about this. (Drew?)
> Of course, it is certainly the case that much of what's in the literature
> can be replaced with "blah blah blah" without much loss of meaning.

First, I submit this as an attestation to the use of bibliographic
citations as nouns in technical literature.  Maybe this datum holds some
interest to members of this list.

Second, I am seeking input on the question posed to me (how nice that
someone thinks I am an English expert... I suppose that expertise is
relative in this situation).

>From a prescriptivist perspective, is the use of citations (as in [3],
or as in [Smith 1999a]) as nouns specifically verboten in any style
guides that anyone is aware of (this parenthetical statement precludes
this sentence from otherwise ending in a preposition)?

I didn't find anything in Strunk & White, but that is where my expertise
stops when it comes to style guidance of this sort.


More information about the Ads-l mailing list