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The Elegant Citation

There are many ways to format a reference. Few are good.

Most formatting conventions - APA, MLA, GSA, Chicago - are overrun with punctuation, rife with strange ordering, or otherwise loaded up other unnecessary garbage. Cumbersome formatting leads to mistakes and is largely unnecessary - a holdover from times gone by. In this post I redesign the humble journal article reference for the modern age.

New Rules

1.) Remove all unnecessary punctuation. Save everyone time. Punctuation provides clarity & uniformity.

2.) The comma is easiest. References lists are usually typed by a human. Simpler = fewer mistakes.

3.) Surname followed by initials.

4.) No abbreviations for journal names ("Norsk Geografisk Tidsskrift" not "Geogr. Fisk.").

A Proper Format Example

Cooley SW, Buford JW, 2015, An article on elegance, Reference Science Journal, 73 (1) 101-102


The 5 separate parts each do a different job: Author, Year, Source, Volume, Page.

1.) Author

Good: Cooley SW, Buford JW

Bad: Cooley, S.W.; Buford, J.W.

Bad: Cooley, S.W. and JW Buford


2.) Year

Good: 2015

Bad: (2015)

Bad: (2015).

3.) Source

Good: Reference Science Journal

Bad: Reference Science Journal

Bad: Ref. Sci. J.

4.) Volume

Good: 73 (1)

Bad: vol. 73, no. 1

Bad: 73,1

5.) Pages

Good: 101-102

Bad: p. 101-102

Bad: pg. 101-102

Bad: pp. 101-102

Bad: 101:102


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