Before I became a full-time freelancer, I spent most of my career in traditional publishing. One of my first jobs was as an editorial intern at Deseret Book. While there, I noticed that one of the most common struggles for authors was citing sources correctly.

I get it. It's hard to keep track of everything you're supposed to include about your sources--especially if different style manuals or different publishers want different information. So I've compiled this list as a quick guide to citations. As a bonus, following these tips will go a long way toward keeping your editor sane--and they can save you money by making the editing easier and faster. 😁

  1. Accurately copy all quotes, including punctuation. Quoting from memory is extremely unreliable, and in both academic and general writing, every comma has to be correct.

  2. Include quotation marks at the beginning and the end of every quote. I can't tell you how many times I've seen authors leave out ending quotation marks. Because editors often aren't familiar with your sources, it can take them a surprisingly long time to figure out where a quote ends.

  3. Sometimes you'll only want to quote part of a passage, such as if you want to skip material that's irrelevant to your point or if you want to quote nonconsecutive sentences. In these cases, insert ellipsis points (. . .) in place of the excised material. This tells your editor, "I know I didn't include everything here. That was on purpose. You don't have to put it back in."

  4. When citing a source, the more publication information you include, the better. At the very least, include the author, the title, the correct page number(s), the publisher, and the publication date. If you're using an online source, also include its URL and the date you accessed that source. If you have any further information about the source (such as a volume, issue, or edition number), include that too. The editor can always delete anything you don't need.

  5. When all else fails, look it up--don't make it up! I've seen some authors completely invent citations, which I then had to totally rewrite when I realized those sources didn't exist or didn't contain the quoted material. *Facepalm.*

What do you struggle with most when creating citations? Hit reply and let me know! 

Write on,


(Thanks to Becca Tapert for sharing their work on Unsplash.)