Restoring Sanity Into Punctuation of References


What punctuation would you use in mentioning a company and its location (as in Microsoft, Redmond, WA) in running text? Isn’t it most common and natural to use commas? And yet, when it comes to giving the publisher and the place of publication of a book as part of a reference, many journals, including Science Editor, require you to use a colon, as in New York: Harper & Row or London: Penguin Books. The most common function of a colon is “to indicate a step forward from the first to the second—as when the second part explains the first part or provides an example”1 or, to put it more simply, to signal that what follows a colon is an elaboration, a definition, an explanation, or an example(s) of the text that precedes the colon, as in “This brings us to possibly the most significant development of 2020: The prominence of science, and scientific publishing, in the minds of the general public.” In the examples given above, Harper & Row or Penguin Books is none of these things in relation to New York or London. Another use of the colon in references that flies in the face of the recommendations made in usage guides is seen in references to chapters, as seen in the following example from the AMA Manual of Style,2,p83 in which a colon follows the preposition “in”: Boushey CJ. Application of research paradigms to nutrition practice. In: Coulston AM, Boushey CJ, Ferruzzi MG, eds. Nutrition in the Prevention […]

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