List of references and reference citations in text

Why start with reference styling?

Some psychic aspects of the editorial process

In the days of hardcopy editing, people used to join the profession as proofreaders or editorial assistants, and reference styling was often the first thing they were trained on (or perhaps the first area they helped their editors with). Things have changed considerably in the digital age, with automation holding sway wherever possible. References are now considered part of things mechanical—things that should be automated. So much so, many editors do not bother to learn them well at the initial stage. There is also a contrary view—that references are for the seasoned editor.

Overall, it might be worthwhile for a copyeditor to learn reference styling at the very beginning of one’s editorial career. And there is a special reason for this.

Copyediting is a complex task; the more you know what an editor does and how the editor manages to do it, the more you will appreciate and respect an editor. Why? Because copyediting requires an uncanny concentration, far beyond what an average person is capable of. So, is the copyeditor a specially gifted person? Not necessarily. But some are lucky enough to get the right kind of training at the very beginning, and that helps them to progress steadily in their career.

Just think of an infant lying down, doing nothing except looking at the space and things above and waving its arms and legs in sheer excitement. Well, it is not simply lying down, doing nothing: it is exercising its arms and legs incessantly—day in and day out—so that it can one day gain sufficient strength to turn around, then crawl, sit, stand, walk, and even run!

Starting out with reference styling early in one’s career is something like that. If you understand reference styling correctly, you’ll realize that there are a fixed number of variables, each of which can take on a certain format for a particular style. But setting these right will by itself be a daunting task for a copyeditor who is new to the profession. The first shock will be something like: Why did I not remember that? Then something deeper: I do know that; why did I miss it? And then a kind of despair: Why do I keep missing things despite knowing what to do? (All these may be apparent in an office setting, where you may have a mentor. Freelance editors may not even have this blessing!)

Repetitions and variations of this daily challenge slowly make the copyeditor understand that this is a different kind of job altogether, where so many things have to be remembered, connected, applied, and perfected—each one whenever and wherever it is required, and to do it to perfection unfailingly, every time. These early shocks, tests, and trials are powerful learning lessons that almost choke the ego of the copyeditor. Sadly enough, quite some people quit at this point and move on to a different career.

The person who sticks on realizes that there is nothing to be proud of. But the deep anguish gives humility a chance, and something happens within. The person becomes open and receptive—and learning happens. Day after day the learning gets strengthened and the attention span increases; connections are understood, ramifications are unraveled, and the ability to analyze things objectively, keeping in mind the whole and the parts, and still never letting one’s own preconceptions (and misconceptions) to interfere with that analysis, is gradually imbibed.

Language editing is a more complex task where the variables are almost unlimited and any of these may appear anywhere in a piece of writing. Learning reference styling early in one’s career prepares the copyeditor for taking up the task of language editing a little later. Reference styling is not a dry, boring, mechanical task: it is just like that infant exercising its arms and legs in the early months of its life; it’s a preparation for achieving something marvelous and wonderful.

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List of references

Course details

Suggested timeline: 1–2 months into editing

Total time: Approx. 22 hours


Course description

This course on reference styling will present an overview of copyediting and then take up references in detail. The course is based on three cardinal principles:

  • There are basic components of references, which take on specific formats in specific styles
  • The components themselves have a relation to each other, no matter what the style preferences may be
  • An understanding of these will help you to style reference lists effectively within any given style

Over 140 examples will be used to explain the various types of references you may encounter, and logical ways of styling them within a given style will be discussed.

An overview of three possible alphabetical arrangements with an A–Z listing of references will also be presented.

After taking this course, you will be able to handle ANY reference style (no matter what the preference) if you have a sample of just 3 or 4 reference types (often listed within the covers of any journal).

This course focuses on the principles rather than the different styles. Once the principles are understood, it may be easy to attend to any style.

Let me know when the course is launched

Reference citations in text

Course details

Suggested timeline: 1–2 months into editing

Total time: Approx. 7 hours


Course description

The course on references will NOT be complete without this course on reference citations. An understanding of reference citations is also necessary to handle the references that are part and parcel of most scientific documents.

This course will introduce you to the principles behind citing of references within the text, the variations possible, and their stylistic aspects.

Specifically, this course will deal with the following:

  • Systems of reference citation (basic styles, variations, subtypes)
  • The relationship between citations in the text and a listing of references
  • Detailed discussions on the three possible alphabetical arrangements of references
  • Practical tips on citation styling
  • Changing reference citations from one form to another
  • Reference renumbering

After taking the course you will

  • know how to change reference citations from one format to another (depending on the style preference)
  • know why references may sometimes have to be renumbered, and whether your manuscript requires such renumbering
  • learn how to renumber both the list of references and citations in a simple, error-free manner
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