I see questions from time to time about citation styles. For example,

I have never really seen these as on-topic for this site, but I could not find discussion about them on meta, and they don't seem to be closed very quickly.

It seems to me that:

  1. Many of these questions apply equally to writing at all levels, particularly basic questions about particular styles, such as this question about APA style: APA: How to cite chapter and edition in book . These are not really about academia any more than questions on proper grammar would be.

  2. When there is more than one reasonable possibility for how to format something, the answer will almost always be "follow your discipline's style manual" or "follow the instructions of the journal"

2 Answers 2


I, at least, see these as borderline but fairly harmless. There are many questions about citation practice that I feel are clearly on topic (e.g., this recent question that I answered), because they deal with issues that aren't simply and routinely settled by style guides. Even something that may seem cut and dried like the "van Names" question that you reference ended up teaching me something interesting about how customs differ in different countries. I don't see them showing up at high frequency, and they usually seem to get answered pretty quickly and non-contentiously, so I see no harm in letting them stay even if some are a bit borderline.


These are indeed almost always off-topic, as they're simply reference questions; the questioner can (and should) look up the answer and go on. As you suggest, there is nothing about these questions that suggest they're about academia, they're about grammar and/or writing in general.

  • 1
    History suggests otherwise. Traditionally, questions on how to apply a citation style to particular situation have not been closed here.
    – ff524
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 2:32
  • @ff524 - Fair enough, I didn't check history before posting this. However, I still stand by my answer, I don't think they're really adding much to the forum.
    – eykanal
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 13:52

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