Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Textual citations or footnotes?

Thanks to Thomas Cooley Professor Evelyn K. Calogero for tipping me off to this article by her colleague Joe Kimble called "Where Should the Citations Go?" It is published at 89 Michigan Bar Journal 56 (2010). The article reports on the results of a survey asking Michigan lawyers to state their preference between a passage with textual citations and an identical passage with footnote citations. Guess which version won? Based on the survey results, Professor Kimble argues that we should relegate citations to footnotes to aid readability.

You may also want to check out this July 8, 2001 article from the New York Times entitled "Legal Citations on Trial in Innovation v. Tradition" in which legal writing expert Bryan Garner also makes a persuasive case for footnote citations.


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I’ve never bought into the assertion that putting citations in footnotes aids in readability: each footnote requires me to take my eyes off the portion of the page I am reading, locate the actual footnote, and then return to where I was. And when reading documents on the computer I may have to scroll down to reach the footnote (and in Word, the footnotes do not appear in the “draft” view.)

With due respect to Mr. Gardner, as I recall, his advice is that only citations should go in the footnotes, so the reader can skip these. But what if the author does not adhere to Mr. Gardner’s advice?

Posted by: mahtso | Apr 6, 2011 1:04:28 PM

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