NovaRoma talk:Style Guide

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What about citations and references? I have not yet looked carefully at the latest from Mediawiki on this. What is possible (intext citations especially)? Agricola 14:33, 30 January 2007 (CET)

I'll make a citation section my next project -- Media wiki uses footnotes in almost every article, but for our academic purposes (and with our academia user base) there may be better options for us. In text citations are generally an MLA thing, the Guide for the Writers of Research Papers and Dissertations uses footnotes and end notes.--Tiberius Octavius Avitus 18:24, 6 February 2007 (CET)

Here is the basic citation courtesy of wikipedia:

  • Author, A. (2005b). Book or Article Name, City: Publisher. ISBN ##########

I like this format since it includes the ISBN by default which can help generate revenue for NR through our amazon affiliate account. --Tiberius Octavius Avitus 00:11, 7 February 2007 (CET)

Right, the ISBN is important not only because of the revenue via Amazon but also because Booksources links to so many libraries. In-text is both MLA and APA, actually. In-text plus references list versus numbered footnotes all depends on what Mediawiki makes easy. I agree that it seems Mediawiki makes numbered footnotes easy, I just have not had time to take a careful look. Agricola 00:56, 7 February 2007 (CET)
If we have all the same patches as wikipedia, then you insert a reference code with your reference in the text. Then you add another code at the bottom. When done correctly, all the intext references show as footnotes with links, which take you directly to the references of the page, which auto displays all the references inserted... I'll experiment with that and see if it works in our version. --Tiberius Octavius Avitus 01:33, 7 February 2007 (CET)
The form "(2005b)" is only used, and only necessary, when the citation is given in abbreviated form in the text as "Author (date)", with this being expanded in a bibliography which tells you the title and publication details of "Author (date)". The use of "(2005a)", "(2005b)", "(2005c)", and so on is necessary because otherwise the abbreviated in-text citation would be identical for two or more works published by the same author in the same year. Since the format you're suggesting includes all this information anyway, there is no need to use this, and it is sufficient to use the date alone with "a", "b", or "c".
Also I wonder whether there is really any point in including the city of publication in the standard citation. Its inclusion makes a lot more work for the person giving the citation and gives no benefit to the reader. It used to be included as standard because before computer databases the only way to find a book was to look in a paper bibliography, and these were organized according to city of publication rather than publisher. This is no longer necessary, especially when the ISBN is included.
Finally I point out that in academic texts there is usually a difference in the format of the citation between a book and an article. In the Oxford system, for example, a book is cited as "Gruen, E., The Last Generation Of The Roman Republic (1974, University of California Press)", whereas an article is cited as "Ramsey, J. T., 'Mark Antony's Judiciary Reform And Its Revival Under The Triumvirs', in J.R.S. 95 (2005)". This is perhaps not very important but it does help when one is citing an article which forms a chapter in a book of collected articles, because it allows the title of the article to be distinguished easily from the title of the book.
-- Cordus 18:43, 10 February 2007 (CET)
The city of publication is not a mandatory item in citations as per most citation systems. I included it in this example to show placement if desired. IF we use this format, I'll make a note that city is not mandatory. However, I've never beens stickler for citation styles, I simply gave that example in response to referencing mediawiki standard style. --Tiberius Octavius Avitus 19:37, 10 February 2007 (CET)
The distinction between book and article applies to major works and minor ones generally. A 'major work' would be something like a film, a magazine, or a music album, and the title would be in italics. Titles of 'minor' works, such as short stories in a collection, articles in a magazine, or tracks on an album, would be inside quotation-marks.
I am not sure, though, which category a Web site falls into. Any insights?
-- Marius Peregrinus 20:38, 21 February 2007 (CET)
I looked up websites with a few of the more well known systems (MLA/APA) and these were my results:
MLA Style:
        Lynch, Tim. "DSN Trials and Tribble-ations Review." Psi Phi: Bradley's
        Science Fiction Club. 1996. Bradley University. 8 Oct. 1997 <http://>. 
APA Style:
        Lynch, T. (1996). DS9 trials and tribble-ations review. Retrieved
        October 8, 1997, from Psi Phi: Bradley's Science Fiction Club
        Web site:
I personally find both of these overly complicated for our usage. I'd recommend something more straightforward like the book notation used by mediawiki:
        Author, A. (Date). "Article Title". URL 
That is my opinion, based on the mediawiki style for other books/articles. I'm still looking into this before putting anything on the official guide though, so any feedback/suggestions would be very helpful. --Tiberius Octavius Avitus 23:31, 21 February 2007 (CET)


"Do not use a comma before the conjunction of a simple list: The senator, the consuls and the praetor"

Why? -- Cordus 18:18, 10 February 2007 (CET)

Excellent question! This is one of the most highly debated punctuation usages in English. The stated purpose of using a comma in a list of items (as per my elementary school grammar books that taught it) was "To replace the word 'and' to make the sentence more readable" if the purpose of the comma is to replace 'and' then if you include 'and' with the last item the comma is unnecessary. Both the media standard for the US (AP Stylebook) as well as the leading UK Style guide (Economist) say to omit the comma before the last item in a series. The one exception to that guideline is if one of the items included an 'and' such as --
I set the table with food, drinks, salt and pepper, and silver.
The comma is necessary in that case to avoid confusion. --Tiberius Octavius Avitus 19:37, 10 February 2007 (CET)
Gowers' excellent little book 'Plain Words' says this on the subject:
"In such a sentence as 'The company included Ambassadors, Ministers, Bishops and Judges' commas are always put after each item in the series up to the last but one, but practice varies about putting a commas between the last but one and the 'and' introducing the last. Neither practice is wrong. Those who favour a comma (a minority, but gaining ground) argue that, since a comma may sometimes be necessary to prevent ambiguity, there has better be one there always. Supposing the sentence were 'The company included the Bishops of Winchester, Salisbury, Bristol, and Bath and Wells'. The reader unversed in the English ecclesiastical hierarchy needs the comma after 'Bristol' in order to sort out the last two bishops. Without it they might be, grammatically and geographically, either (a) Bristol and Bath and (b) Wells, or (a) Bristol and (b) Bath and Wells. Ambiguity cannot be justified by saying that those who are interested will know what is meant and those who are not will not care."
I would add the two following additional arguments in favour of the comma before the 'and'. First, the comma is an instruction to the reader to make a mental pause. If I were to say aloud the sentence 'The company included Ambassadors, Ministers, Bishops and Judges' I would, of course, insert exactly the same pause after 'Bishops' as I would insert after 'Ambassadors'. Why, then, should one pause be marked by a comma and the other not? Secondly, where we see a list which includes two items joined by 'and' with no comma before it, we tend to see those two items as constituting a set, or a single collective item. This is shown in your example of the salt and pepper: the fact that there is no comma before the 'and' tells the reader that the salt and pepper go together as a single unit. The same process means that, if a comma is not used before the 'and' at the end of a list, the last two items on the list tend to look like a single item. When I read the sentence 'The company included Ambassadors, Minister, Bishops and Judges', I have a mental image of three groups: one contains ambassadors, one contains ministers, and the third is a mixture of bishops and judges together. With the comma, there is no danger of this.
-- Cordus 02:28, 18 February 2007 (CET)
The comma is used to insert a pause in a sentence to avoid misreading. The purpose of a comma in an unordered list is to replace the word 'and.' It is also based primarily on American usage of English. The Economist and The Guardian, both UK publications, reject the usage of the serial comma except to avoid cases of ambiguity. The AP stylebook and New York times have also adopted this viewpoint. There is a summary of this entire argument at
--Tiberius Octavius Avitus 03:11, 18 February 2007 (CET)


"After abbreviations: Mr. Mrs. C. Cn. Ti. M."

Traditional usage in British English is that a full stop is used after an abbreviation only if the final letter of the abbreviation is not the final letter of the unabbreviated word. Thus we would write "Rev. Green" and "Prof. Plum" but "Mr Brown" and "Mrs White".

Also I'm not sure that it's useful to lump together the rules for abbreviating English words with those for abbreviating Latin words. Roman abbreviations do not work in the same way as English abbreviations, and readers should not be led to assume that the same rules of punctuation apply to both. I suggest therefore that the examples "C. Cn. Ti. M." should be excluded from the list. If necessary a separate section dealing with Latin abbreviations should be added. -- Cordus 18:18, 10 February 2007 (CET)

Excellent point on lumping together Latin/English abbreviations. I'll remove the latin examples from that list.
Can you cite your source on the standard UK usage in abbreviations? The AP Stylebook stated to use the full stop after all abbreviations. The Economist (UK) styleguide stated to never use a full stop in an abbreviation. The guidance I was given was to prioritize UK style as we are an international organization, but my past editing experience is all American English -- The Economist did not seem in touch with standard English usage (at all) in this case, so I went with the AP style preference.--Tiberius Octavius Avitus 19:39, 10 February 2007 (CET)
I can't cite any source on standard usage in the U.K.: all I can say is that I've lived in the U.K. all my life and this is what I have been told and what I have observed as traditional usage in the most reputable sources. Not very scientific, I know. I don't know the Economist guide and I don't know by whom it is recognized as the authoritative text. I read the Economist magazine from time to time and its English is pretty good, but I have occasional quibbles with it. I can say with absolute certainty that never using a full stop after an abbreviation is something which has only come in during the last five years or so. Of course that doesn't necessarily mean that it's incorrect, but it means that many readers may find it unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Certainly if we are going to choose between 'always full stops' and 'never full stops' I would prefer the former.
The logic of what I think of as the traditional usage is this: the full stop indicates that the end of the word has been omitted (in the same way that an apostrophe indicates that the middle of a word has been omitted). Thus where the final letter of the abbreviation is the same letter as the final letter of the word itself, it is not the case that the end of the word has been omitted, and therefore the full stop is not appropriate. Of course by that logic there ought to be an apostrophe indicating the absence of the middle of the word, but that's a different matter.
-- Cordus 01:38, 18 February 2007 (CET)
If I learned one thing from a degree and career involving Linguistics, it is that you can't depend on pure logic. Most things have to be looked at individually based on the intent of the usage. To compare apostrophes and periods in abbreviations will simply lead you to a logical trap as you pointed out in your last sentence.
--Tiberius Octavius Avitus 03:11, 18 February 2007 (CET)


"Use semicolons to join two phrases if excessive commas are already used: He had plans to run, swim, jump and play; but did not have time for any of it."

This seems to regard the semicolon as merely a stronger form of comma. This is not how it is, or should be, used, at least in British English. A semicolon is used to join together two passages which are logically linked but which could grammatically stand as independent sentences. The example given above is not a proper deployment of a semicolon because "but did not have time for any of it" is not a complete sentence. An example of a properly used semicolon is: "Early in April Decimus Brutus set out for Cisalpine Gaul; about the same time, it may be presumed, Trebonius went to Asia, Cimber to Bithynia" (plucked at random from Ronald Syme, The Roman Revolution, p. 103 in the Oxford paperback edition). -- Cordus 18:18, 10 February 2007 (CET)

Good catch, that example was meant to go in a different usage regarding use of semicolon before a coordinating conjunction if there have already been excessive comma/punctuation usage. That's what I get for talking about semicolons late at night. I'll rearrange accordingly. --Tiberius Octavius Avitus 19:37, 10 February 2007 (CET)
I see you've added the bit about using semicolons to join two grammatically independent passages, but you've also allowed the original to stand, with the example "He had plans to run, swim, jump and play; but did not have time for any of it." I still have to say that I think this example is wrong. A semicolon should only be used where a full stop would be grammatically sound, i.e. between two clauses which could stand on their own as complete sentences. I can't at the moment lay my hands on a book which actually says this. My favourite book on written English, Gowers' 'Plain Words', takes it for granted and does not bother to say it explicitly. But I suggest that in no well-written work of English prose will you find a semicolon used except in the way I've mentioned.
-- Cordus 01:51, 18 February 2007 (CET)
Technically the Semicolon "means a shorter pause than the period and a longer pause than the comma"
There are three acceptable uses for a semicolon in English grammar: To link several independent clauses sharing the same general idea, to keep a sentence with too many commas legible, and is obligatory with certain transitional words. And I have books that support this, which is why I wrote it the way I did. If you are looking for a book that supports your argument, I suggest you consult Strunk and White's The Elements of Style (ISBN at bottom of the style guide page). It lists only two standard usages for the semicolon: yours and the obligatory conjunctions. However, while this is a great source of grammar (one of my favorites) it is considerably older than AP Stylebook, Economist Styleguide, The Guardian, etc. Thus I sided with the modern publishing standards.
--Tiberius Octavius Avitus 03:11, 18 February 2007 (CET)

"The Semicolon is obligatory in front of certain conjunctions such as: however, moreover, therefore, etc."

Two points about this. First, here seems to be endorsed the view that a sentence can never begin with conjunctions of this kind. This view is commonly taught in schools, with particularly stern prohibitions on the use of the words "and" and "but" to begin sentences, but there are in fact many extremely elegant prose stylists who begin not only sentences but even paragraphs with such conjunctions.

Secondly, the statement could be rather misleading. What is the reader to do with a sentence such as "The particularly enlightened portions of Cicero's law, however, lay elsewhere"? In this case "however" is not being deployed as a conjunction, but a reader not well versed in syntax (i.e. exactly the sort of reader at whom this guide is aimed) might understand that he was obliged to write "The particularly enlightened portions of Cicero's law; however, lay elsewhere", which would of course be quite wrong.

It seems to me that the statement above is really trying to say two different things:

1. That a conjunction of this kind should not be used at the beginning of a sentence, but may be used to begin a new clause following a semicolon. Thus it is better to write "The three ways of acquiring manus were probably all known before the Twelve Tables, and it is likely that all three were specified in the code; however, it is also clear that the Twelve Tables recognised the desire, and made available the means, to avoid manus" than to write (as in fact Cornell does in The Beginnings Of Rome at p. 285 of the Routledge paperback) "The three ways of acquiring manus were probably all known before the Twelve Tables, and it is likely that all three were specified in the code. However, it is also clear that the Twelve Tables recognised the desire, and made available the means, to avoid manus."

2. That a clause beginning with a conjunction of this kind should not be separated from the main clause merely be a comma. Thus it is better to write "The three ways of acquiring manus were probably all known before the Twelve Tables, and it is likely that all three were specified in the code; however, it is also clear that the Twelve Tables recognised the desire, and made available the means, to avoid manus" than to write "The three ways of acquiring manus were probably all known before the Twelve Tables, and it is likely that all three were specified in the code, however, it is also clear that the Twelve Tables recognised the desire, and made available the means, to avoid manus".

These two points should be made separately, because one relates to the difference between a semicolon and a comma, and the other relates to the difference between a semicolon and a full stop. I also repeat that in my view the first of these two points is not correct. -- Cordus 18:18, 10 February 2007 (CET)

Your perception here is in error, the statement above is not meant to say two different things. It is simply meant to say that when used as a coordinating conjunction, the use of the semicolon is mandatory. However, (^_^) you make a good point that not everyone interprets conjunction quite so literally as I do. I'll think of an appropriate rewording to avoid such confusion. --Tiberius Octavius Avitus 19:37, 10 February 2007 (CET)
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