Not in a Note

Just because you can (place something in a note) doesn’t mean you should. Elements that should not appear within a footnote (even when one’s word-processing software allows it) include but are not limited to the following.

  1. Block quotations. Contra CMS §14.33, SBL Press prefers not to set a long quotation within a note as a block quote. In addition to using a line space before and after a block quotation and indenting the block left and right, SBL Press formats a block quote in a font size smaller than the surrounding text. Applying all these stylistic characteristics to a block quote within a note would result in wasted space and a small font size for the block text—all for no particular reason. SBL Press prefers to run all quotations of any length into the surrounding text, setting the quotation off with quotations marks.
  1. Tables. Thanks to the capabilities of the most widely used word-processing program, tables have become a staple of academic publishing even in the humanities. Nevertheless, a footnote is not an appropriate place for a table. We discourage placing a table within a note primarily for aesthetic reasons: a table within a note will detract from the main text visually, shifting the focus to what should be secondary; even worse, a table of more than a few rows will probably run onto the following page, thus minimizing whatever benefits an author hopes to gain by presenting information in a tabular format.
  1. Figures. If a photograph, diagram, line drawing, or other type of figure is important enough to include at all, it should be incorporated into the main text, not placed within a footnote. Why? Many notes will not have adequate space to display a figure at a size large enough for readers to see the figure well; unlike a table, a figure cannot run across consecutive pages, so a figure within a footnote will disrupt page flow; and the most widely used page-layout software is not designed to handle figures within footnotes, so your publisher will probably have no choice but to decline a request to include any sort of figure within a note.

Of course, none of these issues is a matter of right or wrong; they are simply SBL Press preferences—which many other publishers are likely to share. As always, an author should check with her publisher about such matters before finishing and submitting a manuscript. The mere fact that a word processor enables an author to put material into a footnote does not mean that the author should do so—at least not without first checking with the publisher.

Repeating Information: Text versus Footnote

Traditional bibliographic style uses footnotes to cite sources. At times a writer may also wish to mention the author and/or the title of the source in the main text. In such cases, some writers choose to abbreviate the footnote, excluding information that has already been mentioned in the main text. For example:

De Wette’s devastating critique of the Chronicler precisely as historian arose out of his case against the Mosaic authorship of pentateuchal legislation and was a necessary corollary of it.1

1. Beiträge zur Einleitung in das Alte Testament, 2 vols. (Halle: Schimmelpfennig, 1806–1807).

The Chronicler’s History followed some years later, and this translation included the appendix on the implications for the Pentateuch of Noth’s Deuteronomistic hypothesis.2

2. Trans. H. G. M. Williamson, JSOTSup 50 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1987).

In the first example, the writer has omitted the author’s last name from the footnote because it is mentioned in the main text. In the second example, both the author’s last name and the title have been omitted.

SBL Press discourages the abbreviation of footnotes in this manner. Rather, we recommend that writers include the full bibliographic citation in the footnote or its shortened form as appropriate (see our post here for the formatting of subsequent references to the same source).

De Wette’s devastating critique of the Chronicler precisely as historian arose out of his case against the Mosaic authorship of pentateuchal legislation and was a necessary corollary of it.1

1. Wilhelm M. L. de Wette, Beiträge zur Einleitung in das Alte Testament, 2 vols. (Halle: Schimmelpfennig, 1806–1807).

The Chronicler’s History followed some years later, and this translation included the appendix on the implications for the Pentateuch of Noth’s Deuteronomistic hypothesis.2

2. Martin Noth, The Chronicler’s History, trans. H. G. M. Williamson, JSOTSup 50 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1987).

With such repetition, the reader is able to locate key bibliographic data quickly without needing to search for it in the main text.

Works Cited

Examples in this post have been modified from Auld (forthcoming) to illustrate the concepts discussed here. They do not reflect the author’s preference or personal style.

Auld, A. Graeme. Forthcoming. Life in Kings: Reshaping the Royal Story in the Hebrew Bible. AIL 30. Atlanta: SBL Press.

Cf., See, and See Also

It is common for authors to refer readers to additional resources in footnotes. Following CMS §14.37, we encourage authors doing so to distinguish between the terms see or see also and the abbreviation cf. (Latin confer). To refer authors to similar resources, use see or see also.

2. For a more recent study of trauma in the Bible, see Elizabeth Boase and Christopher G. Frechette, Bible through the Lens of Trauma, SemeiaSt 86 (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2016).

Cf. should be used only to mean “compare,” generally with the implication of a different view. The abbreviation is often used when providing resources that contradict the main argument.

7. This is the position taken here. However, cf. Israel Finkelstein and Amihai Mazar, The Quest for the Historical Israel: Debating Archaeology and the History of Early Israel, ed. Brian B. Schmidt, ABS 17 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2007).

Even here, however, cf. could easily be replaced with see.

7. This is the position taken here. For an alternative position, see Israel Finkelstein and Amihai Mazar, The Quest for the Historical Israel: Debating Archaeology and the History of Early Israel, ed. Brian B. Schmidt, ABS 17 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2007).

SBL Press therefore recommends that cf. be used sparingly in order to reduce potential reader confusion.

Idem

As CMS §14.30 notes, the word idem (“the same”) has sometimes been used to replace an author’s name when it occurs multiple times in a footnote.

8. Stephen D. Moore, The Bible in Theory: Critical and Postcritical Essays, RBS 57 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2010); idem, Untold Tales from the Book of Revelation: Sex and Gender, Empire and Ecology, RBS 79 (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2014).

As noted in this post, however, SBL Press discourages the use of idem. Instead, repeat the author’s last name.

8. Stephen D. Moore, The Bible in Theory: Critical and Postcritical Essays, RBS 57 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2010); Moore, Untold Tales from the Book of Revelation: Sex and Gender, Empire and Ecology, RBS 79 (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2014).

When the author of an essay is also an editor of the volume in which it appears, repeat the full name, not just the last name, in the “edited by” statement.

9. Alan H. Cadwallader, “One Grave, Two Women, One Man: Complicating Family Life at Colossae,” in Stones, Bones, and the Sacred: Essays on Material Culture and Ancient Religion in Honor of Dennis E. Smith, ed. Alan H. Cadwallader, ECL 21 (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2016), 159.

or

9. James R. Harrison, “Introduction: Excavating the Urban Life of Roman Corinth,” in The First Urban Churches 2: Roman Corinth, ed. James R. Harrison and L. L. Welborn, WGRWSup 8 (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2016), 44.

Subsequent Bibliographic References

The SBLHS 2 provides brief instructions about how to format bibliographic references when they appear more than once in a book or article (see p. 70). This post supplements those instructions with additional details.

In traditional bibliographic format, complete publication data should be supplied in the first note referring to a given source:

4. Alexandra Gruca-Macaulay, Lydia as a Rhetorical Construct in Acts, ESEC 18 (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2016).

6. Stephen J. Patterson, “The Baptists of Corinth: Paul, the Partisans of Apollos, and the History of Baptism in Nascent Christianity,” in Stones, Bones, and the Sacred: Essays on Material Culture and Ancient Religion in Honor of Dennis E. Smith, ed. Alan H. Cadwallader, ECL 21 (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2016), 315–27.

Subsequent references to the source should use a shortened bibliographic form: the author’s last name, a short title, and the page number(s) (see CMS §§14.24–25).

8. Gruca-Macaulay, Lydia as a Rhetorical Construct, 5.

9. Patterson, “Baptists of Corinth,” 320.

Note that the shortened title should include key words occurring as close to the beginning of the title as possible and with the word order unchanged. A, An, or The at the beginning of a title can generally be omitted, as can the subtitle. Titles of four words or less should not be shortened (CMS §14.28; for additional examples, see also SBLHS 2, ch. 6).

If a single source occurs in two contiguous notes, one may replace the shortened form of author’s name and the title of the work in the second reference with the abbreviation ibid. (from ibidem, “in the same place”).

4. Alexandra Gruca-Macaulay, Lydia as a Rhetorical Construct in Acts, ESEC 18 (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2016).

5. Ibid., 5.

6. Patterson, “Baptists of Corinth,” 320.

7. Ibid., 321.

If the page number(s) are identical, omit the page number(s) in the second reference and use only the word ibid.

6. Patterson, “Baptists of Corinth,” 320.

7. Ibid.

Note that “ibid.” should never be used if the preceding note contains more than one reference. Use the short form instead.

9. Gruca-Macaulay, Lydia as a Rhetorical Construct, 5; Patterson, “Baptists of Corinth,” 320.

10. Patterson, “Baptists of Corinth,” 322.

Comprise

Believing that proper word usage is a significant part of good style, we wander slightly from our usual fare to discuss a construction frequently encountered in academic writing, the statement that “X is comprised of Y.”

The meaning of the phrase is generally evident: X is made up of Y. Unfortunately, this is not the principal (or preferred) meaning of the term comprise. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.) offers the following primary definition of comprise: “to include esp. within a particular scope.” On the basis of this definition, many argue that, just as one would never write that “X is included of Y,” one should likewise avoid the expression that “X is comprised of Y.”

Of course, few things in life and language are that clear-cut, and some writers (and even dictionaries) argue back that, given the frequent usage of comprise to mean “to consist of, be composed of” both recently and in times past, the construction “X is comprised of Y” should be regarded as an acceptable secondary use of the term.

The editors of the Chicago Manual of Style disagree, characterizing the construction “X is comprised of Y” as “poor usage” (§5.220). We concur. The English language possesses enough terms that actually mean what the construction intends to convey that we see no reason to stretch a term that means the opposite to communicate a given point. Remember: the whole comprises the parts, and the parts constitute or compose the whole.

Instead of reflexively writing that “X is comprised of Y,” authors should consider stating that “X consists of Y,” “X is composed of Y,” “X is constituted of Y,” or even “X is made up of Y.” Such careful usage of the English language will be no less clear to readers and will have the added virtue of signaling an informed understanding of the meaning of the term comprise.

Research Methods

SBL Press recommends that scholarly research methods be lowercased unless they are part of an academic department, bibliographic reference, or program unit name.

archaeology

canonical criticism

feminist criticism

form criticism

ideological criticism

rhetorical criticism

reception history

social-scientific criticism

sociorhetorical interpretation

source criticism

womanist interpretation

but

Asian and Asian American Hermeneutics (program unit)

Department of Reception History (academic department)

Womanist Interpretations of the Bible: Expanding the Discourse (book title)

Acronyms based on these methods should be in all caps. For example:

SRI sociorhetorical interpretation

For guidelines on how to format program units, meetings, and fields of study, see our post here.