Abbreviating References: Correct Forms of Academic Texts
When constructing complete references for the list of sources cited at the end of a scholarly book or article the aim is usually to be as concise as possible while providing all the information that readers might need to find each source online or in a library catalogue. The use of standard abbreviations is therefore desirable, but only if such abbreviations are accurate and consistent so that there is no confusion about their meanings. The notes below provide examples of correct formats for the abbreviations used in English writing to refer to specific parts of books and other texts. Whenever two or more forms are given for abbreviating a particular term, one form should be chosen and used consistently throughout a document. If you are following author guidelines, do check for indications of which forms might be preferred before finalising your reference list.
• ‘App.’ or ‘app.’ is used to refer to an appendix, with an ‘s’ added to the end of the abbreviation to form the plural (‘Apps.’ or ‘apps.’).
• When citing a book that is part of a larger publication, ‘Bk’ or ‘bk’ is most correct, but a full stop is often added to the end: ‘Bk.’ or ‘bk.’ To make the abbreviation plural, add an ‘s’ to the end (‘Bks,’ ‘bks,’ ‘Bks.’ or ‘bks.’).
• A chapter is referred to with the abbreviation ‘Ch.,’ ‘ch.,’ ‘Chap.’ or ‘chap.,’ and an ‘s’ is added to the end to form the plural (‘Chs.,’ ‘chs.,’ ‘Chaps.’ or ‘chaps.’). Alternatively, ‘c.’ or ‘cap.’ to abbreviate ‘capitulum,’ the Latin word for chapter, can be used.
• The abbreviation ‘Col.’ or ‘col.’ refers to a specific column of text, with an ‘s’ added to the end of the abbreviation to form the plural (‘Cols.’ or ‘cols.’).
• A particular figure is abbreviated as ‘Fig.’ or ‘fig.,’ and an ‘s’ should be added to the end for the plural (‘Figs.’ or ‘figs.’).
• When referring to a specific line of text, as is often done when discussing poetry, the letter ‘l.’ can be used before the line number. When referring to more than one line, the letter is doubled (ll.). However, this abbreviation can easily become confused with both Arabic and Roman numerals (‘1,’ ‘11,’ ‘I’ and ‘II’), so it must be used with great care and is usually best avoided if possible.
• When referring to a note, whether footnote or endnote, the letter ‘n’ can be used as an abbreviation. As with the abbreviation for line, the plural form doubles the consonant (nn.).
• A particular paragraph within a document can be referred to with the abbreviation ‘Para.’ or ‘para.,’ to which an ‘s’ should be added for the plural form (‘Paras.’ or ‘paras.’). Alternatively, the paragraph symbol (¶), also known as a paraph symbol or pilcrow, can be used, in which case the plural is formed by doubling the symbol (¶¶).
• The abbreviation ‘Pt’ or ‘pt’ is technically the correct form when referring to a specific part of a text, but a full stop is often added to the end of the abbreviation, with ‘Pt.’ or ‘pt.’ tending to be more common. An ‘s’ should be added to the end to form the plural (‘Pts,’ ‘pts,’ ‘Pts.’ or ‘pts.’).