A Quick Guide to Shortened Footnotes in Chicago Referencing
  • 5-minute read
  • 24th February 2021

A Quick Guide to Shortened Footnotes in Chicago Referencing

In Chicago footnote referencing, you may be able to shorten citations to prevent repetition in some cases. But how does this work? Check out our guide to shortened footnotes in Chicago referencing to find out.

Shortened Footnotes for Repeat Citations in Chicago Referencing

The notes and bibliography version of Chicago referencing cites sources in footnotes. Typically, this means giving the full source information the first time you cite it, then shortening subsequent citations of the source to prevent repetition.

The basic format for a shortened citation in Chicago referencing is:

n. Author’s Surname, Shortened Title, page number (if available).

For instance, we would shorten a repeat citation for a book as follows:

1. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations: The German Text, with a Revised English Translation (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2001), 86.

8. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 92.

In the first citation above, we give the author’s full name, the full title, publication information, and a page reference. But when we cite the source later in the same paper, we just give the author’s surname, a shortened title, and a page number.

Shortening Author Names

For sources with a single author, you will typically just give their surname in shortened citations. However, there are a few variations to be aware of:

  • If you have cited sources by two or more authors with the same surname, make sure to include their initials or first names in shortened citations.
  • For works with two or three authors, give just their surnames in repeat citations, using ‘and’ before the final name (not an ‘&’ symbol).
  • For sources with more than three authors, only give the first listed author’s surname followed by the abbreviation ‘et al.’ in repeat citations.

In addition, if you reference an editor or translator as the main creator for a source (e.g. if you are citing an edited volume in full), you can omit abbreviations such as ‘ed.’ or ‘trans.’ after their name(s) in shortened citations.

Shortening Source Titles

The biggest change when shortening a citation is usually the source title. You should do this for any source title more than four words long, and the key rules are:

  • Omit initial articles (e.g. ‘the’ or ‘a’) unless strictly necessary.
  • Do not change the order of words in the title when shortening it.
  • Format shortened titles in the same way as the full version (e.g. italics for books and quote marks for article titles).

Often, this simply involves dropping a subtitle or another minor change, such as with the Wittgenstein example above. But if you need to make a change to the main title, make sure to keep the most important words. For instance:

3. Craig MacAndrew and Harold Garfinkel, ‘A Consideration of Changes Attributed to Intoxication as Common-Sense Reasons for Getting Drunk’, Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 23 (1962), 256.

19. MacAndrew and Garfinkel, ‘Common-Sense Reasons for Getting Drunk’, 260.

Here, we’ve selected an easily identifiable part of the full title for the shortened citation. This will ensure readers can find the specific source cited.

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Cross Referencing Sources

In longer works, where citations may be far apart from one another, the Chicago style suggests cross-referencing footnote citations. For instance:

1. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations: The German Text, with a Revised English Translation (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2001), 86.

64. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 92 (see chap 1., n. 1).

Here, we cite the same source in the first and sixty-fourth footnotes of a paper. And since they are far apart, we include a note in the second citation indicating where the first footnote – and thus the full source information – can be found.

Ibid. and Successive Citations

Older versions of Chicago referencing used the abbreviation ‘ibid.’ when citing the same source multiple times in succession. However, the most recent (17th) edition recommends using shortened citations instead.

To prevent repetition of the title when doing this, you can omit this detail:

1. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations: The German Text, with a Revised English Translation (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2001), 86.
2. Wittgenstein, 92.
3. Wittgenstein, 154.

Here, for instance, all three citations reference the Philosophical Investigations. However, this only works for successive citations. If you cite another source at any point between citations, make sure to include a shortened title as well for clarity.

Using Shortened Footnotes with a Bibliography

Chicago style also permits using only shortened citations in some cases.

In this situation, you only give the full publication information for sources in a bibliography, then use the shortened footnote format above from the first citation.

This can be useful for shorter papers where the reader can easily check the bibliography whenever they see a new source cited. However, you should always check with your professor (or editor) before using this style.

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