ContentsIntroductionChangesQuick GuideChapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6Chapter 7Chapter 8Index


Chapter 2: Spelling and Punctuation

This chapter covers the most common issues of spelling and punctuation. Since MHRA authors regularly work on the literatures and cultures of Europe and the European diaspora, we offer particular guidance on the use of accents (diacritics) and the spellings of words borrowed or imported from other languages. These words sometimes also need to be italicized or capitalized; that aspect is dealt with in Chapter 3. For the many examples of spellings and hyphenation that are beyond the scope of this short guide, a good dictionary will offer an acceptable solution. The ‘New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors’, for instance, can resolve many common queries. For scholarly work, rules also need to be set for the punctuation used in quotations and for punctuation in relation to footnotes and endnotes. Since we deal with quotations at length in this chapter, we have included related advice on how to lay them out.

§2.1. Preferred Spellings

Where verbs can end in -ize or -ise, use -ize forms (e.g. civilize, civilization), but be aware that some verbs must have the -ise spelling, e.g.:

advertise, advise, apprise, chastise, comprise, compromise, demise, despise, devise, enterprise, excise, exercise, franchise, improvise, incise, revise, supervise, surmise, surprise, televise

The British spelling of analyse and its derivatives has s and not z. Similarly, catalyse and paralyse.

Some book-length projects otherwise following MHRA style prefer -ise to -ize. Check with your editor before making this choice, and ensure that it is followed consistently in every chapter.

The forms disk, program are used even in British spelling in computing contexts; otherwise, use disc, programme.

§2.2. Accents

There is great inconsistency between dictionaries, and sometimes within the same dictionary, as to the use of accents (or other diacritics) in words borrowed from other languages. Two cases, however, are clear:

(a) When a word or, more often, an expression is still felt to be a borrowing from another language (and an objective decision is not always possible), all accents should be retained, e.g.:

aide-mémoire, à la mode, ancien régime, belle époque, bête noire, cause célèbre, déjà vu, doppelgänger, éminence grise, fin de siècle, lycée, maître d’hôtel, papier mâché, pièce de résistance, raison d’être, Señor, succès de scandale, tête-à-tête

Whether a word with accents is capitalized or italicized depends on different sets of conventions: see §3.1 and subsequent sections (capitalization) and §3.7 and subsequent sections (italicization).

(b) Words ending in -é retain their accent:

blasé, café, cliché, communiqué, exposé, fiancé and fiancée

In such words, any other accents are also retained, e.g.:

émigré, pâté, protégé, résumé

(c) We recommend that, except as provided for in (b) above, accents should be dropped in the case of words that have passed into regular English usage, e.g.:

chateau, debacle, debris, decor, denouement, detente, echelon, elite, fete, hotel, matinee, naive, precis, premiere, regime, role, seance

For the use of accents on capitals, see §3.6.

§2.3. Possessives

The possessive of nouns and indefinite pronouns is regularly formed by the addition of -s preceded by the apostrophe:

  • the court’s decision
  • a month’s worth of rain
  • the witness’s testimony
  • Smith’s elixir
  • no one’s fault
  • the children’s day out

The possessive forms of personal pronouns hers, its, theirs, yours do not have an apostrophe.

In plural nouns ending in -s the possessive is represented by the apostrophe alone:

  • the courts’ decisions
  • months’ worth of planning
  • the witnesses’ testimonies
  • MPs’ assistants

For possessives of personal names, see §4.4.

§2.4. Plurals

Some nouns borrowed from foreign languages have only the regular English plural, e.g.:

  • (Greek) metropolis, metropolises
  • (Latin) campus, campuses; census, censuses; album, albums; museum, museums; premium, premiums
  • (Italian) canto, cantos; soprano, sopranos; sonata, sonatas
  • (German) Junker, Junkers

Some nouns, especially ones adopted from Greek and Latin, have only the foreign plural ending, e.g.:

  • (Greek) analysis, analyses; axis, axes; basis, bases; crisis, crises; diagnosis, diagnoses; oasis, oases; thesis, theses (and similarly with hypothesis, parenthesis, synthesis); criterion, criteria; phenomenon, phenomena
  • (Latin) alumnus, alumni; stimulus, stimuli; addendum, addenda; datum, data; desideratum, desiderata; erratum, errata; codex, codices
  • (German) lied, lieder

Other borrowed nouns may have either the English or the foreign plural. In general, the foreign plural is less common and more formal, or it may have a more specialized sense, as in these words of Greek or Latin origin:

  • formula (formulas in everyday usage, formulae in specialized contexts)
  • thesaurus (thesauruses, thesauri)
  • medium (mediums in spiritualism, media for (plural) means of communication)
  • memorandum (memorandums, memoranda)
  • referendum (referendums, referenda)
  • ultimatum (ultimatums, ultimata)
  • corpus (corpuses, corpora)
  • appendix (appendixes for parts of the body, appendixes or appendices for additional parts of a publication)
  • index (indexes for alphabetical lists of references, indices in mathematics)

Some adopted French words may retain the original plural ‑x, but ‑s has become more common. For example, adieu is normally pluralized adieus rather than adieux.

In academic argument, authors should consider their reader’s likely language knowledge before using loan words in the plural form, since not all plural endings are readily recognizable as such. A translation or gloss may be preferable. The following statement, in which the first loan word is plural and the second singular, is acceptable for an article targeted at German specialists:

  • During the 1990s, the Länder clashed repeatedly with the Bund on this issue.

For a wider readership it would be preferable to write:

  • During the 1990s, the German federal states (the Länder) clashed repeatedly with central government on this issue.

See also §5.4 on the plurals of foreign currencies.

No apostrophe should be used before the plural ending of abbreviations, names, numbers, letters, and words not normally used as nouns, e.g.:

  • MPs, POWs, PhDs
  • the Henrys, the two Germanys
  • the 1960s, the twenties, ones and twos
  • as and es, the three Rs
  • haves and have nots

§2.5. Commas

Commas are used singly or in pairs to group or separate words in a sentence. Particular note should be taken of the following usages:

(a) To delimit phrases

Commas should be used in pairs to delimit parenthetical or interpolated phrases, and nouns in apposition:

  • My father, not to mention the rest of my family, felt the loss deeply.
  • This book, written in 1505, would change the world.
  • Dante, the Florentine poet, was born around 1265.

No commas are needed if a defining phrase precedes the noun:

  • The Florentine poet Dante was born around 1265.
  • The film director Maren Ade was nominated for an Oscar in 2016.

In such a case, the person’s name would only be enclosed in commas if they are the sole example of the defining phrase or if they had been mentioned obliquely in a previous sentence and were now being introduced by name. For example:

  • The then Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, faced a series of foreign-policy challenges.
  • The prize jury consists of two screenwriters, a film director, and a cinematographer. The film director, Maren Ade, was nominated for an Oscar in 2016.

(b) To show that a relative clause applies to a category

Commas are used where a relative clause applies to the whole of the category named:

  • Those with a university degree, who have experience of higher education, see qualifications in a different light.
  • The family had two cats, which slept indoors, and a rabbit.

No commas are used where the relative clause applies only to some of the category:

  • Those with a university degree who have studied medicine see research in a different light.
  • The family had two cats which slept indoors and one which went out at night.

(c) To divide items in a list

In an enumeration of three or more items, the practice in MHRA journals is to insert commas after all but the last item, to give equal weight to each enumerated element:

  • The University has departments of French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese within its Faculty of Arts.

The conjunctions and and or without a preceding comma are understood as linking the parts of a single enumerated element:

  • The University has departments of French, German, Spanish and Portuguese, Czech and Polish, and Dutch.
  • The study could include comedians such as Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, or Victoria Wood.

By the same principle a comma should be used before a phrase such as ‘and so on’ or ‘etc.’ at the end of an enumeration.

(d) Omission where unnecessary

Commas should not be used if their omission leaves the meaning of the sentence unaffected. The mere fact that a sentence has a lengthy subject does not justify the use of a comma between the subject and verb. Accordingly a sentence such as the following requires no comma after ‘handbook’:

  • The team of editors which was responsible for the latest edition of the handbook has made a significant number of changes.

§2.6. Hyphens

Hyphens occasionally occur within the body of a word, particularly with re- followed by ­e (e.g. re-echo, re-enter), but they normally indicate that two or more words are to be read as a single word with only one main stress. The examples given on the left below show forms that are attributive and have a single main stress and are therefore hyphenated, while predicative and other forms having two main stresses (shown on the right) are not hyphenated:

attributive predicative
a well-known fact the facts are well known
a tenth-century manuscript in the tenth century

Where there is no possibility of ambiguity, only one hyphen need be used in a multiple-word attributive (but see below on mid-): for example, a late eighteenth-century novelist and post-Second World War difficulties are to be preferred to a late-eighteenth-century novelist and post-Second-World-War difficulties.

In phrases where two or more parallel hyphenated terms are combined, the first hyphen is followed by a space: e.g. pre- and post-war governments, pro- and anti-abortion movements, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature.

Adverbs ending in -ly and other polysyllabic adverbs are not hyphenated to a following adjective or participle:

  • a highly contentious argument
  • a recently published novel
  • a handsomely bound volume
  • a frequently occurring mistake
  • a hitherto unrecognized custom
  • ever increasing quantities

Some monosyllabic adverbs (in particular ill but not well — see above) followed by a participle have only one main stress and are therefore hyphenated even when used predicatively:

  • He is very ill-tempered.
  • Such a course of action would be ill-advised.
  • These prejudices are deep-seated.

The prefix mid- always requires a hyphen (except where it forms part of a single word, as in midnight):

  • The boat sank in mid-Atlantic.
  • a mid-June midnight flight
  • a mid-sixteenth-century chair
  • until the mid-nineteenth century

The presence or absence of a hyphen is often significant:

with without
two-year-old dogs two year-old dogs
a deep-blue lake a deep blue lake
a pro-vice-chancellor a pro-vice chancellor
to re-cover to recover

There is considerable variation in the use of hyphens. Use a dictionary such as the New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors and be consistent. Some words that used to be hyphenated are now single unhyphenated words:

webpage, bestseller, overrun, overleaf, subtitle

Some authors may prefer to use either a hyphenated or unhyphenated version of a core term in their field, such as post-colonial or postcolonial. In such cases, the MHRA will normally accept the author’s preference, but usage should be consistent throughout.

§2.7. Dashes

In addition to hyphens, scholarly writing uses both a short and a long dash or ‘rule’.

The short dash (‘en-rule’) is used to indicate a span or a differentiation and may be considered a substitute for ‘and’ or ‘to’:

  • the England–France match
  • the 1939–45 war
  • 2 January–13 February
  • pp. 81–101

(For further guidance on date ranges, see §5.1.) However, compound adjectives take a hyphen and not a dash; thus ‘Sino-Soviet relations’ but ‘the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact’.

Long dashes (‘em-rules’), with a space on either side, are normally found in pairs to enclose parenthetical statements, or singly to denote a break in the sentence:

  • Some people — an ever increasing number — deplore this.
  • Family and fortune, health and happiness — all were gone.

Long dashes should not be over-used; commas, colons, or parentheses are often more appropriate. When more than one set of long dashes are used in a single sentence, it is unlikely to read clearly. Punctuation marks such as commas should not normally be used before or after a dash.

A very long dash ‘——’, known as a 2-em rule, is used to indicate ‘ditto’ in bibliographies and similar lists:

Marlowe, Christopher, Edward II
—— The Jew of Malta

§2.8. Parentheses and Brackets

The forms of brackets most commonly used in scholarly writing are: square brackets [thus], round brackets or ‘parentheses’ (thus), angle brackets ⟨thus⟩, and braces {thus}.

Parentheses, i.e. round brackets, are used for parenthetical statements and references within a text. When a passage within parentheses falls at the end of a sentence of which it is only a part, the final full stop is placed outside the closing parenthesis:

This was well reviewed at the time (for instance in TLS, 9 July 1971, p. 817).

Since a pair of brackets serves a similar function to a pair of commas in creating a parenthesis, a comma is never placed before an opening bracket.

When a complete sentence is within parentheses, the final full stop should be inside the closing parenthesis. Parentheses may be used within parentheses:

(His presidential address (1967) made this point clearly.)

Do not alternate round and square brackets in such a case. Square brackets should be used only for the enclosure of phrases or words which have been added to the original text or for editorial and similar comments:

  • He adds that ‘the lady [Mrs Jervis] had suffered great misfortunes’.
  • I do not think they should have [two words illegible].
  • He swore to tell the truth, the old [sic] truth, and nothing but the truth.

For translations following quotations in another language use either square brackets or round brackets consistently, in accordance with the style conventions of the journal or book series you are writing for.

For the use of square brackets around ellipses, see §2.12 (d). For the use of square brackets around access dates for websites, and angle brackets around URLs, see §6.3.

§2.9. Abbreviations

Since abbreviations increase the possibility of confusion and misunderstanding, they should be used only where there is no possibility of ambiguity. When writing for a particular publication, use only those abbreviations which are likely to be familiar to its readers. Never begin a sentence with an abbreviation, and avoid abbreviations as far as possible in passages of continuous prose. For example:

The author’s comments on page 47, line 20, of his manuscript seem particularly apt.

Here the words ‘page’ and ‘line’, normally abbreviated in references, are given in full to prevent a disruptive effect in reading.

If your particular topic or argument requires extensive use of abbreviations, other than common ones such as ‘p.’ and ‘l.’, list them at the beginning of your book or in an early note to your article or chapter.

To avoid frequent repetition of a title, especially a long one, abbreviation will from time to time be needed. In the body text, this should normally take the form of a short title, e.g. A la recherche for A la recherche du temps perdu, Two Gentlemen for Two Gentlemen of Verona. In notes, and in parenthetical textual references in the main body of a book or article, abbreviations are more often appropriate, e.g. ALR or TGV. Follow conventional abbreviations where these exist, e.g. OED for Oxford English Dictionary, or PMC for Poema de mio Cid.

§2.10. Use of Full Stop for Abbreviations

A contracted form of a word that ends with the same letter as the full form, including plural -s, is not followed by a full stop:

Dr, Jr, Mme, Mr, Mrs, St, vols

But note the exception ‘no.’ from Italian ‘numero’, plural ‘nos.’. Other abbreviations take a full stop and are followed by a space unless they fall at the end of a sentence:

M. Dupont (Monsieur), Prof. J. Jones, ibid., l. 6, ll. 22–28, p. 6, pp. 106–09, vol. xix

Note in particular abbreviations relating to editing:

ed. by but edn (for edition), eds

In lower-case abbreviations for expressions consisting of more than one word, there is a full stop after each initial:

a.m. (ante meridiem), e.g. (exempli gratia), i.e. (id est), n.p. (no place [of publication]), n.d. (no date [of publication])

Full stops are omitted in capitalized abbreviations or acronyms for:

(a) standard works of reference (italicized), journals (italicized), or series (not italicized):

DNB, OED, ABELL, MLR, PMLA, TLS, BAR, PMHRS, PRF, TBL

(b) countries, institutions, societies, and organizations (none of them italicized):

UK, USA, BL, BM, UNAM, CNRS, ANTS, MHRA, MLA, UNESCO

(c) the standard abbreviations in bibliographical references for ‘manuscript’, ‘manuscripts’:

MS, MSS

(d) the two-letter postal abbreviations for American states, e.g.:

CA (California), IL (Illinois), MA (Massachusetts), NY (New York)

These have largely replaced older abbreviations such as ‘Calif.’. Lists of the abbreviations are widely available online.

Note the correct form of the name of Washington, DC (comma, no stops).

(e) names of academic degrees, e.g.:

MA, MPhil, PhD

§2.11. Punctuation and Italicization

There are italic forms of most marks of punctuation. The type style (roman or italics) of the main part of any sentence will govern the style of the punctuation marks within or concluding it. If the main part of a sentence is in roman but an italic word within it immediately precedes a mark of punctuation, that mark will normally be in roman.

However, if the punctuation mark occurs within a phrase or title which is entirely in italics, or if the punctuation mark belongs to the phrase in italics rather than to the sentence as a whole, the punctuation mark will be in italics:

  • Where is a storm more brilliantly portrayed than in Conrad’s Typhoon?
  • In Edmund Ironside; or, War Hath Made All Friends, a play that survives in manuscript, we see this technique in operation.
  • Kingsley followed this with Westward Ho!, perhaps his best-known novel.
  • Who wrote Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf??

Do not substitute roman for italics in titles within italicized titles; in such cases, single quotation marks should be used even if they do not figure in the original, e.g. The Music and the Myth: Wagner’s ‘Ring’ and its Symbols not The Music and the Myth: Wagner’s Ring and its Symbols.

For more general advice on italicization, see §3.7 and §3.8.

§2.12. Quotations

Quotation marks should normally be reserved for indicating direct quotations, definitions of words, or for otherwise highlighting a word or phrase. Avoid the practice of using quotation marks to indicate a loose, slang, or imprecise word or phrase.

Translations of quoted material should normally follow the original in the main text, rather than being placed in the notes. They should be enclosed in quotation marks and set in either square or round brackets consistently. If round brackets are used, then for example:

  • Curtius’s formulation of the ‘locus amoenus’ (‘pleasant place’) is exemplified by Dante in Purgatorio xxviii: ‘qui primavera sempre e ogne frutto’ (‘here evermore was spring, and every fruit’).

And if the square-brackets convention is followed:

  • Curtius’s formulation of the ‘locus amoenus’ [‘pleasant place’] is exemplified by Dante in Purgatorio xxviii: ‘qui primavera sempre e ogne frutto’ [‘here evermore was spring, and every fruit’].

(a) Short vs long quotations

Prose quotations of no more than forty words in a single paragraph or verse quotations of no more than two lines are considered short quotations, and are to be treated as in §2.13 below. All other quotations should be treated as long quotations, as in §2.14 below. If, however, several short quotations come close together and are compared or contrasted or otherwise set out as examples, it may be appropriate to treat them together as a long quotation.

(b) Spelling in quotations

In quoted passages follow the original for spelling, capitalization, and italics. Note, however, that in quotations from early printed books the forms of the letters i and j, u and v, the long s (ſ or ſ), the ampersand (&), the Tironian sign (⁊), the tilde, superior (superscript) letters in contractions, and other abbreviations may be normalized to modern usage.

(c) Punctuation in quotations

In quoted passages from English, follow the punctuation of the original.

Quotations in languages other than English are treated in the same way, but unless there are special reasons to the contrary, the forms of quotation marks in foreign languages («...», „...“, etc.) should be normalized to English usage. In long quotations, a long dash (em-dash) may be used to introduce dialogue in prose from languages such as French and Russian. Spacing before and after punctuation should respect English-language norms.

(d) Omissions from quotations

Omissions within prose quotations should be marked by an ellipsis (three points within square brackets):

Her enquiries [...] were not very favourably answered.

This makes it possible to distinguish between points indicating an ellipsis and points that occur in the original, as they do in the following quotations:

  • Will you never have done ... revolving it all?
  • Well, he’s completely mad, of course. They all are...

It is not normally necessary to use an ellipsis at the beginning or end of a quotation; almost all quotations will be taken from a larger context and there is usually no need to indicate this obvious fact unless the sense of the passage quoted is manifestly incomplete. Square brackets normally remain in roman type even if the text being quoted is in italics.

Omitted lines of verse should be marked by an ellipsis on a separate line:

I am not covetous for gold,
[...]
But if it be a sin to covet honour
I am the most offending soul alive.

The original punctuation is retained when it is possible to do so:

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another [...], a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Outside the hut I stood bemused. [...] It was still morning and the smoke from the cookhouse rose straight to the leaden sky.

It may be necessary to add punctuation or change from upper case to lower case (or vice versa) to ensure that a sentence with ellipses remains correctly punctuated. When the beginning of a sentence is omitted, the first word following the ellipsis can be capitalized even if it does not have a capital in the original:

For the rest of the evening, von Igelfeld considered his response. [...] He could just ignore the article altogether.

(In the original, the passage abbreviated ends ‘And finally, he could just ignore the article altogether’.)

Except in detailed textual scholarship, there is no need to use square brackets to indicate a change of capitalization. For instance,

The narrator describes ‘fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs’.

is normally preferable to

The narrator describes ‘[f]og creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs’.

§2.13. Short Quotations in Running Text

Short quotations should be enclosed in single quotation marks and run on with the main text. If a verse quotation includes a line division, this should be marked with a spaced upright stroke ‘|’.

  • Balzac’s famous observation ‘Je suis en train de devenir un génie’ has generated much sceptical comment.
  • ‘I had seen birth and death | But had thought they were different’, muses Eliot’s Wise Man.

For a quotation within a quotation, double quotation marks should be used:

  • Mrs Grose replies that ‘Master Miles only said “We must do nothing but what she likes!”’.

If a short quotation is used at the end of a sentence, the final full stop should be outside the closing quotation mark:

  • Do not be afraid of what Stevenson calls ‘a little judicious levity’.

This rule applies even when a quotation ends with a full stop in the original, and when a quotation forms a complete sentence in the original but, as quoted, is integrated within a sentence of introduction or comment without intervening punctuation:

  • We learn at once that ‘Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress’.

For quotations which are either interrogatory or exclamatory, punctuation marks should appear both before and after the closing quotation mark:

  • The pause is followed by Richard’s demanding ‘will no man say “Amen”?’.
  • Why does Shakespeare give Malcolm the banal question ‘Oh, by whom?’?

The final full stop should precede the closing quotation mark only when the quotation forms a complete sentence and is separated from the preceding passage by a punctuation mark. Such a quotation may be interrupted:

  • Wilde said, ‘He found in stones the sermons he had already hidden there.’
  • Soames added: ‘Well, I hope you both enjoy yourselves.’
  • Hardy’s Satires of Circumstance was not well received. ‘The gloom’, wrote Lytton Strachey in his review of it, ‘is not even relieved by a little elegance of diction.’

In this last example, the comma after ‘gloom’ follows the quotation mark as there is no comma in the original. Contrast:

  • ‘It is a far, far better thing that I do,’ Carton asserts, ‘than I have ever done.’

Here the original has a comma after ‘I do’. But when the quotation ends in a question mark or an exclamation mark, it is not followed by a comma:

  • ‘What think you of books?’ said he.

When a short quotation is followed by a reference in parentheses, the final punctuation should follow the closing parenthesis:

  • He assumes the effect to be ‘quite deliberate’ (p. 29).
  • There is no reason to doubt the effect of this ‘secret humiliation’ (Book vi, Chapter 52).

§2.14. Longer Quotations

A long quotation should be presented as a paragraph in its own right, with a blank line before and after, and left-indented. A long quotation should never be used in the middle of a sentence of the main text: it is unreasonable to expect the reader to carry the sense of a sentence across a quotation several lines in length. Long quotations are not normally placed in footnotes or endnotes.

Long quotations should not be enclosed within quotation marks. A quotation occurring within such a long quotation should be in single quotation marks; if a further quotation occurs within that, double quotation marks should be used. Foreign forms of quotation marks (see §2.12 (c)) should not be preserved unless there are special reasons for doing so.

The first line of a long prose quotation should be indented only if the quotation consists of more than one paragraph and the first line starts a paragraph in the original. Verse quotations should follow the layout and indentation of the original.

Long quotations should normally end with a full stop; even though the original may use other punctuation, there is no need (except for a question mark or exclamation mark) to preserve this at the end of a quotation. There is no need to put square brackets around a full stop when it is not in the original.

Avoid interpolations that introduce square brackets into the opening lines of long quotations, e.g.:

This play [writes Samuel Johnson, referring to Cymbeline] has many just sentiments, some natural dialogues, and some pleasing scenes, but they are obtained at the expense of much incongruity.

The need for any such formulation can be eliminated by some such rephrasing as the following:

Referring to Cymbeline, Samuel Johnson writes:

This play has many just sentiments, some natural dialogues, and some pleasing scenes.

A reference in parentheses after a long quotation should always be placed outside the closing full stop, and without a full stop of its own (see examples in §2.15).

When any substantial amount of text is being quoted from a text still in copyright — particularly if whole poems or song lyrics are quoted — authors should be aware that this may not fall under the copyright exceptions which allow reasonable use of quotation for scholarly purposes. Legal permission may need to be sought and this is generally the author’s responsibility. Editors can advise on this.

§2.15. Quotations from Dramatic Works

Where a quotation from a play is longer than about forty words, or two lines of verse, it should be treated as a long quotation (see §2.14). While the spelling and punctuation within the text should be preserved, general rules may be applied to the treatment of speakers’ names and stage directions.

Where a line of text is indented in the original, it should be typed as near as possible to its original position. If a displayed verse quotation opens with a part-line, type it so that it begins at the right place; see below for examples.

For all quotations from plays, speakers’ names are given in small capitals, without final punctuation but followed by a long space (or em-space). For quotations from prose plays, second and subsequent lines of a speech are indented. Stage directions within a line of text are set in italic type within roman parentheses. If a stage direction immediately follows a speaker’s name, the space preceding the text is placed at the end of the stage direction, after the closing parenthesis. Stage directions which occupy a line on their own are indented further than the text, and set in italic type without parentheses. No extra space is inserted between speakers. Thus for example:

brassbound It will teach other scoundrels to respect widows and orphans. Do you forget that there is such a thing as justice?

lady cicely (gaily shaking out the finished coat) Oh, if you are going to dress yourself in ermine and call yourself Justice, I give you up. You are just your uncle over again; only he gets £5000 a year for it, and you do it for nothing.

She holds the coat up to see whether any further repairs are needed.

brassbound (sulkily) You twist my words very cleverly.

(Captain Brassbound’s Conversion, ii)

In verse quotations, the speakers’ names are positioned to the left of the text:

macbeth (aside) Glamis, and Thane of Cawdor:
The greatest is behind. — Thanks for your pains.
(To Banquo) Do you not hope your children shall be kings,
When those that gave the Thane of Cawdor to me,
Promised no less to them?

banquo                                                    That trusted home
Might yet enkindle you unto the crown,
Besides the Thane of Cawdor.

(Macbeth, i. 3. 117–23)

§2.16. Footnote and Endnote Numbers

(a) The reference number

Wherever possible, a note reference number should be placed at the end of a sentence. Notes should be marked in the typescript by superior (superscript) numbers, in sequence throughout an article or chapter. A note reference number should follow any punctuation (including a parenthesis) except a dash, which it should precede. It should appear at the end of a quotation, not following the author’s name if that precedes the quotation.

After a comma,13 not after a dash14 — but after a full stop.15 F. M. L. Thompson describes footnotes as a ‘parade of attribution, exegesis, and qualification’.16

Do not attach a note number to a heading or subheading; an asterisk may, however, be used to indicate a general note to an entire chapter. Nor should a note number (or, indeed, an asterisk) be attached to the title of an article; a note attached to the first or last sentence, or an unnumbered note preceding the numbered ones, is preferable.

(b) The text of the note

All notes, even if they are partial sentences, should be punctuated as complete sentences. For example:

22 As seen also in Canto ii of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.

13 Ibid., p. 28.

If possible, do not begin a note with an abbreviation which is normally printed in lower-case characters (‘e.g.’, ‘i.e.’, ‘pp.’). If this cannot be avoided, note that ‘c.’, ‘e.g.’, ‘i.e.’, ‘l.’, ‘ll.’, ‘p.’, and ‘pp.’ remain entirely in lower case:

21 e.g. in July 1841.

Other abbreviations, such as ‘cf.’ or ‘ibid.’, take an initial capital at the start of a note. See also §7.12 on the use of ‘ibid.’.


ContentsIntroductionChangesQuick GuideChapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6Chapter 7Chapter 8