July 3, 2008
Weekly Language Usage Tips: Placing citations, Use/Usage/Utilize
Tip 1: Using Citations
I had an email dialogue this week about the use of citations, which inspired this week’s WLUT:
A reader writes:
I am generally confused about whether it is appropriate to use ‘in text’ citations (especially superscripted numbers) WITHIN a sentence or at the end of the sentence. I always prefer at the end of the sentence, because it looks “nicer” but it can be complicated, especially when there is a series of citations/facts to reference.
The University of Pittsburgh is a great institution (1), well liked by researchers (2), and growing (3).
The University of Pittsburgh is a great institution, well liked by researchers, and growing. (1-3)
Any initial thoughts?
DLS: I put the citation at the end of the sentence (after the period) if the reference refers to the whole sentence and after a clause if the reference just refers to that clause. In the case of multiple references, I’d follow the appropriate clauses.
Reader: Hmmm. I differ from you. I’d prefer it all to be at the end of the sentence. It get’s really messy when you have a long sentence, with multiple clauses…
DLS: Okay, but I’m right about this. I’ll get into it next week. You could put it at the end of the sentence if you separated the references (e.g., 6, 8, 9-12) but that’s not the preferred use. I haven’t looked this up so if you’re right, I’ll definitely do a mea culpa.
Reader: Great. I am torn because editors/publishers differ in this – frustrating….!
End of Dialogue.
I really was planning to do a mea culpa if I was wrong (although, to be honest, I was pretty sure of myself). By the way, “mea culpa” is a Latin phrase that means “my blame” or “my fault”. Its use originated in the Catholic Mass. It is now generally used to indicate, “I am mistaken though my own fault.” But, no mea culpa for me today.
Endnotes are indicated by consecutively-numbered superscript arabic numbers in the main text after the punctuation of the phrase or clause the note refers to:
Some have argued that such an investigation would be fruitless.6
Scholars have argued for years that this claim has no basis,7 so we would do well to ignore it.
However, note references appear before dashes:
For years, scholars have failed to address this point8—a fact that suggests their cowardice more than their carelessness.
Do not use asterisks, daggers, or other symbols for note references. 1
1 Adapted from: <http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/557/05/>
Tip 2: Use, Usage, and Utilize
“Use” is both a noun and a verb
Use and Usage
As a noun, “use” means utilization, function, custom, or the act or state of employing, putting into service. Usage refers to the way in which something is used or the rules surrounding something’s proper use.
The true value of a dictionary is in its frequent use.
English language usage is not entirely arbitrary although it seems so at times.
The two are not interchangeable. While “usage” is often used as synonymous with “use,” it is probably because the writer believes that the larger the word used, the more impressed the reader. (See “utilize” below.)
Use and Utilize
As a verb, “use” means employ, put into service, avail oneself of, take, or consume. “Utilize” means use.
I’m going to use Markov Modeling to find the solution to my research question.
I’m going to utilize Markov Modeling to find the solution to my research question.
CAVEAT: By the way, “caveat” comes from the Latin “cavere” which means “let him beware.” In the sense used here “caveat” means a cautionary or modifying detail. So, CAVEAT: there is one way in which “utilize” has a different usage than “use.”
He can’t use the new cell phone.
He can’t utilize the new cell phone.
The former sentence means he doesn’t know how to use the phone; the latter sentence means he has no use for the phone.