The Chicago and SBL Manuals

The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) has been updated to its 17th edition (2017). According to the second edition of the SBL Handbook of Style (SBLHS),

Currently in its 16th edition, The Chicago Manual of Style remains the most comprehensive general authority on editorial style and publishing practices. Answers to questions not addressed in this handbook may be found there. (§3.3)

The reference to CMS’s “current” edition raises the possibility that a new CMS edition may occasion a change in the CMS edition best followed by users of SBLHS2. In addition, on noting the release of CMS17, SBL Press commented that

based on the Chicago Manual of Style, this new edition will no doubt prompt changes to our own style. We will announce relevant changes on this blog in the coming months.

This comment made it sound like changes might be affected in SBL style before the release of SBLHS3 simply based on the release of CMS17. On reaching out to the ever-helpful folks at SBL Press, they’ve confirmed that

Our deference to CMS in matters not explicitly covered in SBLHS2 or on the SBLHS2 blog automatically upgrades to the most current version of CMS. Thus, as of September 1, 2017, we now defer to CMS 17th ed.

For the balance of the SBL Press’s note about CMS17, see the SBL Press blog. For more information about CMS17 or to order a copy, see the University of Chicago Press, Amazon, or other booksellers.

Zotero forum thread on commas, periods, and closing quotation marks

I’ve recently had a discussion over at the Zotero forums that brought to light a couple interesting points that I hadn’t been aware of:

  1. There’s currently in beta a major update to Zotero 5.0, which includes several important feature changes. The beta isn’t quite ready for prime time yet but should be “very soon.” Included in this update is the new Citation Style Language (CSL) processor that should remedy the comma and period placement issue in the forum thread.
  2. Frank Bennett has provided an updated CSL processor that can be installed in a current Zotero 4 version via the Propachi Vanilla plugin.

For additional discussion of Zotero here, see this tag.

SBLHS student supplement and “ibid.”

According to SBL Handbook of Style, 2nd ed., §§1, 3, 4.3.6, supports the use of “ibid.” From those descriptions, conventions look to be the same as for the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed., §14.29.

As an easy (and free) reference for students, SBL also provides a Student Supplement to the SBLHS.  One of the courses I’ve been teaching has a comparatively heavier emphasis on getting to know the nuts-and-bolts of SBL style. And a keen-eyed student, pointed out that page 4 of the Student Supplement has consecutively numbered footnotes 78 and 79. Both notes are for the same source, but the second (note 79) does not use the “ibid.” notation.


The SBLHS blog now conveniently has a contact link for sending questions and comments to the SBL staff.So, I took this opportunity to try out this invitation. In response to my inquiry, the SBL staff kindly clarified and confirmed that the Student Supplement‘s reading is indeed an erratum. It should have “80” or “81” to replace the note number that currently reads “79” on page 4. Kudos to the SBL staff for taking the time to do so!

Citations in footnotes in SBL’s footnote-bibliography style

Last week, the SBL Handbook of Style blog carried a helpful post about the placement of citations in the footnote-bibliography, or traditional, style. Of particular interest is the section related to “Bibliographic Information inside Footnotes.”

According to the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed., §14.33, when presenting a long citation to support material provided in a content or commentary footnote, the citation should typically be presented as its own sentence:


This situation is exemplified in the SBLHS blog post paragraph “When a quotation or a discussion inside a footnote is followed by a full reference….” According to the CMS example above, the same format appears to occur when an element from the citation (e.g., the author’s name, “Sidney Smith,” in the example) is not repeated in the citation.

For SBLHS, however, relocating the author’s name to the body of the sentence within the footnote requires that even an otherwise full footnote be included in parentheses. Consequently, any parentheses in that footnote would need to shift to square brackets. Thus, in the post’s example:

Correct: 97. Cyrus H. Gordon argued that brh in Isa 27:1 should be translated “evil,” based on an Arabic cognate (“Near East Seals in Princeton and Philadelphia,” Or 22 [1953]: 243; see also Gordon, Ugaritic Textbook, AnOr 38 [Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1965], 376).

For SBLHS, when a given source supports an intra-footnote comment and has previously been cited, then the citation for the intra-footnote comment is given in parentheses. Thus, in the post’s examples:

Correct: It is interesting to note that Richards also seems to anticipate Lakoff and Johnson’s basic definition of metaphor when he writes that metaphor includes “those processes in which we perceive or think of or feel about one thing in terms of another” (Richards, Philosophy of Rhetoric, 116–17).


Correct: 55. Entailments are “rich inferences” or knowledge (“sometimes quite detailed”) that we can infer from conceptual metaphors (Evans and Green, Cognitive Linguistics, 298–99).

By comparison, according to CMS §14.34:


These comments could perhaps suggest that (a) notes of this type should have only page numbers included in parentheses and (b) other information necessary to the citation would need to be included in the prose of the footnote sentence itself. Thus, the SBLHS discussion is a helpful clarification for SBLHS users of when this more generally stated CMS principle would apply.

Full-height Footnote Numbers in Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word ties footnote anchors in the main text and footnote numbers at the start of footnotes to the same style. Consequently, it’s difficult to get full-height footnote numbers followed by a period (cf. Chicago Manual of Style, SBL Handbook of style).

That being said, the process discussed at Word MVPs does still seem to work with Word 2016. If it’s desirable to have the note number followed by a period and a space rather a tab character, the following modified Visual Basic macro code should do the trick:

ActiveDocument.Footnotes.Add Range:=Selection.Range
With Selection
.Paragraphs(1).Range.Characters(2) = ""
.InsertAfter "." & Space(1)
.Collapse wdCollapseEnd
End With

Unfortunately, it doesn’t immediately seem feasible to intercept Zotero’s insert citation macro, and that macro doesn’t appear to be tied to this particular function in Word. So, an update to what Word runs for the InsertFootnote command won’t be triggered by Zotero’s InsertCitation macro. If anyone has suggestions about how to do so, however, those are certainly welcome.