To p. or to pp.

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Sunday 6 April, 2014

Blog series: Academic referencing is stuck in a print era

Topic: Page numbering

I have been designing some new software to make writing to academic standards easy: ComWriter. Well, I didn’t know what I was getting into with academic referencing: APA, MLA, Chicago, Harvard, Turabian, AGLC, Bluebook, OSCOLA, Oxford, Vancouver, and the list goes on. Firstly, there is no official Harvard style, everyone seems to have their own flavour.

What I have uncovered is that academic referencing is stuck in a bygone era of print media. Trying to create the automated rules for referencing has been a very big challenge. We are winning the battle, but this blog series is going to highlight some of the, well, to put it bluntly, stupidity surrounding referencing.

Today I am picking on page numbering. That should be easy shouldn’t it? Well no. Let’s see how may ways there are to write pages:

A single page:

  1. p. 2
  2. p.2 [no space]
  3. p 2
  4. p2 [no space]
  5. 2 [the nude version]

A page span:

  1. pp. 235-237
  2. pp. 235-37
  3. pp. 235-7
  4. pp.235-237 [no space]
  5. pp.235-37 [no space]
  6. pp.235-7 [no space]
  7. pp 235-237 [no dot]
  8. pp 235-37 [no dot]
  9. pp 235-7 [no dot]
  10. 235-237
  11. 235-37
  12. 235-7

And, do we include pages in brackets (), [] or not? Which means a page span now has 36 options!

  • 2002 (2-3)
  • 2002 [2-3]
  • 2002 2-3 [no brackets]

Then, do we need to add a comma or a full stop afterwards, which means we now have 108 options for a page span!!!

  • 2002 (2-3)
  • 2002 [2-3]
  • 2002 2-3 [no brackets]
  • 2002. (2-3)
  • 2002. [2-3]
  • 2002. 2-3 [no brackets]
  • 2002, (2-3)
  • 2002, [2-3]
  • 2002, 2-3 [no brackets]

In summary, when writing a reference with page numbers included (I won’t list here the rules for when there are no pages!), a writer needs to ask:

  1. Is there a single page, or a page span (2 options)?
  2. How do I notate the numbers in the span (3 options: all numbers, last number, last two numbers)?
  3. Do I add brackets (3 options: square, round, none)?
  4. Does it need p or pp before the number/s (2 options: yes, no)?
  5. What punctuation do I include (3 options: comma, full stop, none)?
  6. Any spaces to add (2 options: yes or no)?

So, if my maths is correct that is: 2 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 2 x 2 =216 possibilities for writing page numbers! Easy peezie…yes?

But, when I have nailed down the exact configuration I need from the 216 options, I still need to consider:

  1. Is the configuration the same or different for: in-text citation, footnote, reference list?
  2. Where do I locate the pages in terms of the other data I need?

And that’s all a student needs to do to consider page numbering in their referencing! 

by Dr Linda Glassop

1 Comment

Filed under Academic referencing, Grammar and punctuation tips

One Response to To p. or to pp.

  1. Helen Kekwick

    Amazing!

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