Category Archives: Grammar and punctuation tips

Simple fact sheets on grammar and punctuation to help improve academic writing

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

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Using Initials in essay writing

  • Change the name of something by using their initials; for example, United Nations becomes U.N.
  • Use full stops to indicate that it is an abbreviation.
  • Use the long form the first time you write (with the short form in brackets), then the short form (initials) can be used thereafter. Example: Peter Jones presented at the United Nations (U.N.) assembly in New York (N.Y.). Peter’s comments to the U.N. were received with enthusiasm.
  • When initials become a new word (or something that is well known), you don’t need to add the full stops; for example: Peter Jones presented at the United Nations (UN) assembly in New York (NY). Peter’s comments to the UN were received with enthusiasm.

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Abbreviations used in academic references

And others (et al.)

  • The latin is et alli, abbreviated to et al.
  • Et al. is used to indicate a list of authors in a reference; for example, Glassop, et al. 
  • Generally, always list all authors the first time, after that you can use the first author and et al.
  • Always consult your official reference style guide to check the requirements
The same place (ibid.)
  • The latin is ibidem, abbreviated to ibid.
  • When repeating a citation consecutively, you can put ibid. to indicate that the reference is exactly same as the previous one
  • For example, (ibid.)
  • If ibid. is used in a footnote, use a capital I: Ibid.
In the place cited (loc. cit.)
  • The latin is loco citato, abbreviated to loc. cit.
  • An alternative meaning is: in the same location
  • When repeating a citation, you can put loc. cit. to indicate that the reference is the same resource (author/s and date) and the same citation location (i.e., page number or paragraph) as the previous one
  • For example, “Smith (loc. cit.), also claims that…”
In the work cited (op. cit.)
  • The latin is opere citato, abbreviated to op. cit.
  • When repeating a citation, you can  put op. cit. to indicate that the reference is the same resource (author/s and date) as the previous one (but the citation location, i.e., page or paragraph number, is different)
  • For example (op. cit., p.3)
Tip:

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Common abbreviations (e.g., i.e., etc.)

For example (e.g.)

  • The latin term is exempli gratia
  • Write the long form, for example, in a sentence and the abbreviated form (e.g.,) when in brackets.
  • Note that there are full stops to indicate the abbreviation
  • Note that there is a comma after the phrase in both the sentence and the brackets to indicate a pause
That is (i.e.)
  • The latin term is id est
  • Write the long form, that is, in a sentence and the abbreviated form (i.e.,) when in brackets
  • Note that there are full stops to indicate the abbreviation
  • Note that there is a comma after the phrase in both the sentence and the brackets to indicate a pause
Etcetera (etc.)
  • The latin meaning is and the rest
  • Write the long form, etcetera, in a sentence and the abbreviated form (etc.) when in brackets
  • Note that there is a full stop to indicate the abbreviation
  • Tip: rarely use etcetera within a paragraph as it indicates that you have provided a sample only; so it probably should be in brackets.

 

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Using a colon, semi-colon or comma in essay writing

 Colon (:)

  • Place a colon (:) before you add a list things: bread, butter, milk

Semi-colon (;)

  • A semi-colon (;) is like a comma, but joins two part sentences together or appends a phrase to a sentence; for example, when you provide examples

Comma (,)

  • Place a comma (,) where you would pause when reading text aloud, or to separate items in a list.
  • If the list is provided in bullet form, then you don’t need to use a comma at the end

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Emphasizing words or phrases

Em dash (–), or elongated hyphen
  • An em dash (–), or double hyphen, is used to highlight a phase; for example, “I went to the market–in Petersburg–to see what the fuss was about.” In this case, you are wanting the reader to clearly understand that Petersburg is important.
  • If read aloud, the reader would read the phrase ‘in Petersburg’ with a highlighted tone from the rest of the sentence, to draw attention to the phrase.
  • A double em dash (or four single hyphens) can be used to obscure an obscene word; for example, “It was a d___ shame.”
  • An alternative, is to use brackets (); “I went to the market (in Petersburg) to see what the fuss was about.” In this case, you are not so concerned about the reader understanding where the market was.
  • If read aloud, the reader would read the phrase ‘in Petersburg’ with the same tone as the rest of the sentence.
Italics
  • To place emphasis on a specific word or phrase (e.g., make it emotive) you can italicize it; for example, “Justin went crazy when he heard about the event.”
Underline
  • Underlining a word or phrase also draws the readers attention to the emphasis added. However, today, underlining tends not to be preferred in academic writing.
  • Check your official style guide before using underlining; if in doubt, don’t use it.
Exclamation!
  • Use exclamations (!) sparingly in academic writing to highlight emotion (academic work is meant to be objective, and, therefore, emotion free). For example, “Finally!”

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