Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Footnotes and Superscript.

I've always been curious when and where one should use Footnotes and Superscript. When does it become necessary to footnote, and what justifies the use of superscript? I've often read books or essays that contain superscript and I always enjoy how neat and tidy it can make a specific text look.

I've learned (the hard way) that superscript should not be substituted for citation. I'm hoping to learn a little more on this subject since we, as editors, need to know when to make such corrections or suggestions to an author.

-Davis Hoffman


Pat said...

Composing citations or notes is the job of the author. If he is submitting his work to an academic press, it will most likely be sent to readers who are specialists in his field. If he has not done his job as a writer-researcher and has not cited works or prepared notes correctly, this will be spotted by the readers. These readers prepare reports that summarize a manuscript's virtues and flaws, and books are published or not published on the strength of such reports.

If a flawed work should somehow get into a copyeditor's hands, she will have the terrible task of trying to do part of the author's job.

When I first started working for a research center on campus, I was given a manuscript that had numerous errors. I ended up looking up the books the author cited and photocopying the passages he quoted. It turned out that he had had his students help him with this project, and some of them had not quoted extracts in their entirety. What they had copied--and what appeared in the manuscript--were phrases and other bits of text. In other words, some of the extracts were incomplete; other extracts were copied incorrectly.

Related to this subject is lack of attribution: when an author uses another person's words but does not attribute them.

Without having a specific example to look at, it is difficult to offer guidelines about what should be cited and what shouldn't. I'd be happy to meet with anyone who wants to show me a piece of writing he or she has questions about.

Pat said...

Davis, I thought the passage quoted below might address, more directly, your question about where to insert citations in an academic work. The fifteenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style states as follows:

16.1 Two basic systems. Ethics, copyright laws, and courtesy to readers require authors to identify the sources of direct quotations and of any facts or opinions not generally known or easily checked. Conventions for documentation vary according to scholarly discipline, the preferences of publishers and authors, and the needs of a particular work. This chapter describes, compares, and illustrates the two basic systems preferred by Chicago--notes and bibliography on the one hand and the author-date system on the other. Chapter 17 deals with the specific components and style of individual bibliographic entries, notes, and parenthetical citations.

If you still have questions, please bring them up in class so that we can discuss the subject as a group.