Tips on Using Latin Abbreviations for Citations & Cross References
Although many of the Latin abbreviations once frequent in scholarly writing for referring to sources and other information are, in the twenty-first century, used with increasing rarity, some presses and journals still request or allow their use, and Latin still remains, among certain intellectual groups, something of a universal language. However, rarity of use in English scholarship has shrouded the meanings of many Latin abbreviations with more obscurity and mystery than ever, and readers are confused by such terms more often than anyone would wish to admit. Labelling them outdated and eliminating their use altogether can hardly be the answer given that they appear in older texts in several fields of study. Students and researchers will encounter them, so the solution, as is so often the case, lies in understanding, and the following brief notes on what a few of the most confusing of these abbreviations actually mean and how to use them well or, alternatively, avoid their use when writing in the English language may prove helpful to scholarly readers as well as academic and scientific writers.
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• ‘art. cit.’ abbreviates the Latin phrase ‘articulo citato,’ which means ‘in the cited article.’ This abbreviation is used in references after an author’s name to refer to the title of an article that has already been cited in a document. Its use is infrequent now and some guidelines will ask that it be avoided, so a shortened version of the article title is usually preferable. When used, it can appear in either roman or italic font.
• ‘loc. cit.’ abbreviates the Latin phrase ‘loco citato,’ which means ‘in the cited place.’ Used for referencing in either roman or italic font, this abbreviation represents a specific location within a work, so its function is extremely limited. It is also often misunderstood and used in inappropriate ways. Although it can prevent the repetition of long and complex location references, this abbreviation must be used with absolute precision to be effective. Therefore, unless limited space is a serious issue and repeating the full information a lengthy matter, it is best to avoid this abbreviation.
• ‘op. cit.’ abbreviates ‘opere citato,’ which means ‘in the cited work.’ It is used in references after an author’s name to refer to the title of an already cited work, but like ‘art. cit.,’ this abbreviation is now little used, and some guidelines will ask that it be avoided, so a shortened version of the title is a better choice. When used, the abbreviation can appear in either roman or italic font.
• ‘inf.’ abbreviates the Latin word ‘infra,’ which means ‘below.’ This abbreviation appears in either roman or italic font and is used primarily for cross references within a document, usually in parentheses. In some instances the full Latin word is used instead, but a clearer choice in many cases is to use the English word ‘below.’
• ‘sup.’ abbreviates the Latin word ‘supra,’ which means ‘above.’ The abbreviation is used primarily for cross references, as is the full word in some instances, but it is often best to use the English word ‘above’ instead. The abbreviation ‘ut sup.’ is closely related. It abbreviates the Latin phrase ‘ut supra,’ which means ‘as above,’ and that English phrase would be a clearer choice for most readers. Both abbreviations can appear in either roman or italic font, and note that there is no full stop after ‘ut’ in the second because it is not an abbreviation, but the complete Latin word for ‘as.’
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