How to Cite Individually Paginated Journal Articles with Zotero

Several good online journals that publish articles electronically only.1 And sometimes such journals paginate their articles separately from each other (i.e., each numbering their first page as “1”), rather than running the pagination continuously through a given issue (or volume).

What SBL Style Requires

A couple examples are HTS Teologiese Studies and Scriptura (at least in recent volumes). And SBL Press has clarified that their preferred way to have these kinds of articles cited is as follows

[Author name], “[Title],” [Journal] [Journal volume] ([Journal volume year]): art. [Article number in the journal volume], [“p.” or “pp.” according to whether one or multiple pages is cited] [Page number], [Full DOI URL as a live link].2

The bibliography format then makes the usual changes for a journal article and includes “pp.” with the total page range for the article. Thus, one example of an initial footnote would be

1. Ntozakhe Simon Cezula, “Waiting for the Lord: The Fulfilment of the Promise of Land in the Old Testament as a Source of Hope,” Scr.(S) 116 (2017): art. 3, p. 13, http://dx.doi.org/10.7833/116-1-1304.

Subsequent references are constructed in the same way as they would be for any other journal article. Thus, you would have

3. Cezula, “Waiting for the Lord,” 10–11.

And the corresponding bibliography entry would be

Cezula, Ntozakhe Simon. “Waiting for the Lord: The Fulfilment of the Promise of Land in the Old Testament as a Source of Hope.” Scr.(S) 116 (2017): art. 3, pp. 1–15. http://dx.doi.org/10.7833/116-1-1304.

An Open Question about What SBL Style Requires

In the process of reviewing how best to accommodate this citation pattern with software like Zotero, Denis Maier noted some inconsistency between SBL Press’s two posts on the topic.3

In particular, SBL Press’s discussion of HTS

  • gives “doi: ” rather than “https://doi.org/” and
  • omits the full page range from its sample bibliography entry for Christo Lombaard’s essay on theological education.4

I’ve posted a comment to SBL Press on their HTS post to ask for clarification about the page range omission in the bibliography. But in the meantime, there are three reasons it seems best to with the citation pattern described in the more general “Electronic Journals” post—namely, that this post

  1. Is more general than the HTS-specific post and describes a pattern of citation for sources that would include HTS and others.
  2. Appeared after the HTS-specific post (3 May 2018 versus 9 August 2016). It, therefore, represents more current guidance about the press’s style. This situation then becomes similar to the relationship that the SBL Handbook of Style blog overall has toward the SBL Handbook of Style itself.
  3. Explicitly says that “to bring SBLHS into greater conformity with CMS in the formatting of DOIs, SBL Press now prefers including the full URL (i.e., with https://), not just the DOI proper.”5

This last comment explicitly settles the DOI format issue question over against the recommendation of the HTS-specific post. This explicit relationship between the two posts on this issue suggests that it’s most likely they have the same relationship, albeit implicitly, on the issue of whether or not to include a full article page range in the bibliography entry. But that question does remain somewhat open pending the press’s further confirmation.

How to Get What SBL Style Requires

Assuming that this is a proper reading of what SBL style requires for individually paginated electronic journal articles, this citation format has some notable oddities and departures from what’s otherwise typical for journal articles.

Even so, Zotero can still produce the correct citation format if you have the current version of the SBL style (2nd ed.) installed from the repository. And once you have the style installed from there, you’ll automatically get future updates as they become available.

(If you haven’t already installed the style from the repository, click here to drop in your email. And I’ll send you the direct link to the repository’s entry for this style, along with several others you might find useful.)

When you come to correcting the Zotero record for this kind of article, the key point is to drop the number variable in the Extra field along with the article’s placement in the sequence of its issue or volume. Everything else, you’d enter as you usually would, being careful to include the DOI (or, if that’s not available, a URL) since you’re dealing with a specifically electronic source.6

So, for instance, if the article you’re citing is the third in its sequence, you’d enter into the Extra field number: 3. That variable will allow the SBL style for Zotero to trigger the proper citation format for your article.

You can also use the same process to set Zotero up to cite articles that aren’t segmented by pages. For example, articles from early issues of TC were released and are still only available as webpages.

With these articles, however, you’d obviously need to leave blank the “Pages” field in your Zotero record. But you can choose the paragraph locator type in the citation dialog to get ¶ or ¶¶ as appropriate. Thus, you might have

1. Richard D. Weis, “Biblia Hebraica Quinta and the Making of Critical Editions of the Hebrew Bible,” TC 7 (2002): art. 6, ¶45, http://jbtc.org/v07/Weis2002.html.

3. Weis, “Critical Editions,” ¶¶37–40.

And in your bibliography, you would have

Weis, Richard D. “Biblia Hebraica Quinta and the Making of Critical Editions of the Hebrew Bible.” TC 7 (2002): art. 6, n.p. http://jbtc.org/v07/Weis2002.html.

Conclusion

SBL style is reasonably complex anyway. And it involves still more variation if you’re using individually paginated articles from electronic journals. But even in this case, Zotero can handle the citation work and, by taking that of your plate, free you up to focus on writing new material.


  1. Header image provided by Pereanu Sebastian

  2. SBL Press, “Electronic Journals with Individually Paginated Articles,” weblog, SBL Handbook of Style, 3 May 2018. 

  3. “Update Society-of-Biblical-Literature-Fullnote-Bibliography.Csl by Dstark · Pull Request #6157 · Citation-Style-Language/Styles,” GitHub, n.d. 

  4. SBL Press, “HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies,” weblog, SBL Handbook of Style, 9 August 2016. 

  5. SBL Press, “Electronic Journals.” 

  6. Thanks are due to Brenton Wiernik for this idea. 

How to Easily Cite ANF and NPNF with Zotero

The Ante-Nicene Fathers (ANF) and Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (NPNF) series are now well over a century old.1 But they continue to prove useful resources. And when you need to cite them, Zotero can easily handle SBL style’s special requirements for these works.

Use a Critical Text First

Useful as they are however, the translations in ANF and NPNF aren’t based on critical texts of the fathers. And the manuscripts of the fathers’ works sometimes evidence different readings, just as do manuscripts of biblical literature.

So, before you rely on ANF or NPNF, you should typically ask yourself if there’s a better text available. Often, there will be.

The Fathers of the Church (FC) series published by Catholic University of America Press can often be a good alternative. The introduction to each volume typically tells you what text the translation is based on. So, you can double check before opting to work with that text.

What SBL Style Requires

But let’s say you look around for a better option than ANF or NPNF and, for whatever reason, you don’t find one. In that case, the general citation pattern SBL style requires is as follows

  1. Tertullian, On Baptism 1 (ANF 3:669).

If you’re citing NPNF, however, there’s an additional wrinkle that you need to distinguish between the first or second series. SBL Press’s guidance on this question has changed over the years. But according to the SBL Handbook of Style blog, the example given for citing NPNF in the SBL Handbook of Style’s second edition isn’t the most consistent with what the style does in similar cases elsewhere.2 So,

Contra the example given in SBLHS, the series number is best indicated by a 1 or 2 plus a solidus preceding the volume number (not a superscripted 1 or 2). Thus volume 12 of the second series would be cited as follows:

NPNF 2/12:85–963

Consequently, as SBL Press explains, you’d generally have a fuller have a citation like

44. Augustine, Letters of St. Augustin 28.3.5 (NPNF 1/1:252).4

How to Use Zotero to Cite ANF and NPNF

To cite ANF and NPNF as SBL style requires with Zotero, you’ll first want to have the current style installed.

How to Set up Your Zotero Records

Once you do, you’ll generally want one record for ANF, one for NPNF 1, and one for NPNF 2. You’ll then add to the Extra field for each of these records

  • annote: <i>ANF</i> for ANF and
  • annote: <i>NPNF</i> for both NPNF 1 and NPNF 2.

These entries will tell Zotero to bypass its normal process of composing citations and instead use the abbreviations you’ve specified.5

How to Create a Citation

So, if you wanted to recreate quoted above from the SBL Press blog, you’d

  • create a citation with your NPNF 1 resource,
  • leave the locator field set at “Page,” and if you’re citing NPNF 1 or NPNF 2, enter the corresponding series number and a forward slash (thus: “1/” or “2/”),
  • in the locator field, enter (also) your citation’s volume and page number or range (thus: 1:252 or 1:252–53),6
  • in the prefix field, enter everything you want Zotero to include before the series abbreviation (e.g., “Augustine, <i>Letters of St. Augustin</i> 28.3.5 (“), and
  • in the suffix field, enter the closing parenthesis that should follow the page number (thus: “)”).

Conclusion

If you look carefully enough, you’ll probably often find you’re often able to find better translations of the fathers than what are included in ANF and NPNF. But when you can’t, these series can be incredibly helpful standbys that Zotero can help you manage your citations for, despite SBL style’s special requirements.


  1. Header image provided by Zotero via Twitter

  2. “Citing Text Collections 6: ANF and NPNF,” weblog, SBL Handbook of Style, 13 July 2017; Society of Biblical Literature, The SBL Handbook of Style, 2nd ed. (Atlanta: SBL, 2014), 101. 

  3. “Citing Text Collections 6: ANF and NPNF.” 

  4. “Citing Text Collections 6: ANF and NPNF.” 

  5. Normally, you would want to specify separate abbreviations for separate sources. But in most cases an abbreviation-based citation in SBL style requires a space between the abbreviation and the locator. And there’s not currently a good way to tell Zotero to exclude this space if the citation is for NPNF 1 or NPNF 2. Something like this is what would be required to use an abbreviation like <i>NPNF</i> 1, <i>NPNF</i> 1/, <i>NPNF</i> 2, or <i>NPNF</i> 2/ successfully. So, for the time being the user needs to supply the series information in the abbreviated citation. 

  6. Zotero will only automatically convert hyphens to en dashes and truncate page number ranges if page numbers, commas, and hyphens are the only things in the locator field. Having the colon for the volume number disrupts this flow. So, you’ll need to enter in the locator field exactly what you want Zotero to output. In the future, we may be able to adjust the style to provide the volume number directly. In this scenario, you would want to have one record in Zotero for each volume number in ANF, NPNF 1, or NPNF 2. If your piece has a bibliography, you would then also need to condense the references so that you listed a full reference to ANF, NPNF 1, or NPNF 2 just once in your bibliography or in an abbreviations section at the front of your piece. 

How to Use Zotero to Properly Cite Grammars in SBL Style

You might think that citing a grammar according to the SBL Handbook of Style would be pretty straightforward.1 And you’d be right, but there are several special cases to account for.

1. Cite section numbers wherever possible.

Instead of citing a grammar by page number, you should cite by section number wherever possible to give the most precise reference. You’ll designate a single section with “§” and a section range with “§§”.

2. Cite grammars by abbreviation where applicable.

For many common Hebrew and Greek grammars, the SBL Handbook specifies an abbreviation by which to cite a given grammar (§8.4). You may find others also when you check IATG3.

For instance, Gesenius-Kautzch-Cowley is cited simply by the abbreviation “GKC”. Blass-Debrunner-Funk is cited simply as “BDF”.2

The full bibliographic information for these sources then goes in an abbreviations list and should not appear in the bibliography.

3. Adjust your reference manager’s output accordingly.

If you use reference manager software, you’ll want to consider how best to get that software to produce the abbreviated references you need for cases like this. If you use Zotero, you have two main options.

a. Enter footnotes manually, or use the prefix and suffix fields.

If you need to cite only one or more grammars only by an abbreviation(s), you can simply add a footnote and type the appropriate text without going through Zotero’s “add citation” process.

If you are citing a grammar(s) and another source(s) in a Zotero footnote, you can simply add the appropriate grammar citation text to the prefix or suffix fields of your existing citation, depending on whether you want the grammar citation to come before or after the other source(s) you are citing.

So, for instance, when adding or editing a citation, you could type “BDF §458;” into the prefix field to add a citation to Blass-Debrunner-Funk §458. Zotero would then build this text into the footnote so that the footnote will look as it should.

The upside of this method is that it is quite straightforward. The downside is that any sources you cite in this way won’t appear in any bibliography Zotero generates for your document.

SBL Press doesn’t want sources cited by abbreviation in a bibliography anyhow, but in some cases, you might find that you want this (e.g., requirements from a professor, journal, or volume editor).

In that event, your best option will be to edit the bibliography that Zotero prepares to add any sources you’ve included in your footnotes simply by adding their abbreviations as text. Since you entered those citations simply as text, Zotero won’t “know” to add these sources to your bibliography unless you make those changes directly.

b. Install the current SBL style in your reference manager.

Other ways of getting this output automatically from Zotero may be on the horizon. But things are really quite easy if you have the current version of the SBL style installed.

Not long ago, you would have needed to install a custom variant of the main SBL style or edit the style yourself. That’s no longer necessary, however. The changes necessary to cite grammars and other sources by abbreviation are now part of the main SBL style.

You can get the style from the Zotero repository directly. Or if you drop your name and email in the form below, I’ll drop you an email about that style. I’ll also include the style for the Catholic Biblical Association, which uses many of the same abbreviations as SBL style.

Once you have the style installed, for any source you need to cite by an abbrevation, just add Annote: [abbreviation] in that Zotero resource’s “Extra” field. So, for instance, for Blass-Debrunner-Funk, you would add Annote: BDF.

The upside of this method is that you can cite grammars by abbreviation while using the Zotero add citation dialog.

The downside is that you might need to edit your bibliography, if you have one, to remove these sources and move them to an abbreviation list (per SBL style’s requirement).

But you will probably know pretty well which few sources are cited by abbreviations. So, you should be able to edit your bibliography as needed pretty quickly to relocate these sources.

Conclusion

In the end, citing grammars according to the SBL Handbook of Style is quite straightforward.

If you want to cite them while using a reference manager, the process may be a bit more detailed to set up since the manager may not have a mechanism for handling largely custom citation patterns like the abbreviations SBL Press specifies for common grammars.

But with some careful thought about how you want to approach citing these kinds of resources, you can certainly streamline them into your existing citation process.


  1. Header image provided by SBL Press

  2. Also important is SBL Press’s discussion of citing Herbert Smyth’s Greek Grammar

How to Cite Dictionaries with Zotero

The SBL Handbook of Style prescribes different citation conventions for Bible encyclopedias and dictionaries than it does for theological lexicons and dictionaries.1

Zotero can handle both citation types. To get the proper output, you just need to:

  1. Install an updated version of the SBL citation style and
  2. Input information into your Zotero database properly.

1. Install an Updated Version of Zotero’s SBL Citation Style

From Zotero’s style repository, you can install the “Society of Biblical Literature 2nd edition (full note)” style.

This style, like all others, depends on the quality of the records you have stored in your Zotero database.

But if you make get information into the database correctly, this style will do a wonderful job. Your citations and bibliographies will very closely match the requirements of the SBL Handbook of Style.

Why You Need an Updated Citation Style

There’s one particular area, though, where Zotero’s default SBL style doesn’t get things quite right.

That is, for a number of specific resources, the SBL Handbook of Style specifies completely custom citations.

These formats work well enough for us in biblical studies who know what they represent (e.g., BDAG, HALOT).

But there’s not a good way for Zotero’s default SBL style to handle these custom citation requirements programmatically. After all, Zotero is software—not a biblical scholar. 😉

For this reason, you’ll want to install an updated version of Zotero’s SBL citation style. If you do this especially before citing theological lexicons and dictionaries, you’ll find it easier to get the correct output.

How to Get an Updated Citation Style

You can read more about how to update Zotero’s base SBL style for yourself. Or just drop your name and email in the form below, and I’ll email you a copy of the updated style.

2. Input Information into Your Zotero Database Properly

Encyclopedias and Bible Dictionaries (§6.3.6)

What SBL Style Requires

When you cite Bible encyclopedias and dictionaries, SBL style wants an initial footnote to look like

1. Krister Stendahl, “Biblical Theology, Contemporary,” IDB 1:418.

Subsequent references should use only the author’s surname, a shortened article title, and drop the dictionary title abbreviation. Thus, you’ll have a citation like

3. Stendahl, “Biblical Theology,” 1:419.

Then in the bibliography, you should have an entry for each individual encyclopedia or dictionary article like

Stendahl, Krister. “Biblical Theology, Contemporary.” IDB 1:418–32.

How to Get What SBL Style Requires

To get this output from Zotero, use the “Dictionary Entry” resource type for each entry you want to cite. You can then fill out the resource metadata as usual.

The one exception is that, in the “Dictionary Title” field, you often won’t put the full dictionary title.

Instead, if one exists, you’ll want to use the standard abbreviation for that dictionary’s title.

Some of these abbreviations are available in the SBL Handbook of Style. For others, you may need to consult the third edition of Internationales Abkürzungsverzeichnis für Theologie und Grenzgebiete (IATG).

(For more about using IATG alongside the SBL Handbook of Style, see my e-book on SBL style.)

Lexicons and Theological Dictionaries (§6.3.7)

For lexicons and theological dictionaries, things are a bit trickier. And it’s here that you’ll be thankful you’ve installed an update to Zotero’s default SBL citation style.

First, however, note that the SBL Handbook of Style heads §6.3.7 as discussing citation of “An Article in a Lexicon or a Theological Dictionary.”

But apparently, the section is intended to address only signed articles in lexicons and theological dictionaries. For unsigned articles, you’ll follow a different citation method.2

Some works include only unsigned entries (e.g., BDAG, HALOT).3 Others include both signed and unsigned entries (e.g., EDNT). So, you’ll want to carefully use the citation method appropriate for the specific entry type that you’re citing.

What SBL Style Requires

With that distinction made, note that, for theological lexicons and dictionaries, the SBL Handbook of Style wants initial footnotes like

1. Hermann W. Beyer, “διακονέω, διακονία, κτλ,” TDNT 2:93.

Or if you’re citing only the article on one particular word in a larger group, you’ll have something like

1. Hermann W. Beyer, “διακονέω,” TDNT 2:81.

According to the Handbook, subsequent citations need to have the author’s surname and the lexicon or dictionary title but drop the article title. (This requirement is opposite of that for Bible encyclopedias and dictionaries.)

But SBL Press has now reversed this pattern so that signed lexicon or theological dictionary titles are cited in the same way as are encyclopedia and Bible dictionary articles.4

Thus, you’ll have a subsequent reference like

3. Beyer, “διακονέω,” 2:83.

Then, in the bibliography, you’ll give the individual article entry like

Beyer, Hermann W. “διακονέω, διακονία, κτλ.” TDNT 2:81–93.5

This method of reflecting lexicons and theological dictionaries in the bibliography again represents SBL Press adjusting the presentation of these types of sources to be more similar to encyclopedias and Bible dictionaries.6

Per the Handbook itself, you would only include only one entry in the bibliography for a whole theological lexicon or dictionary, no matter how many articles you cited from it.

By contrast, the full bibliography entry for the whole work (e.g., TDNT) should now only go in an abbreviation list, if you need to have one.7

How to Get What SBL Style Requires

There are a few different options for how to ask Zotero to produce this output. Different methods might work better in different situations, depending on whether the source has only unsigned entries, only signed entries, or some of both.

Only Unsigned Entries

If your source has only unsigned entries, you’ll probably be best off by having just the one Zotero record for the whole source.

Only Signed Entries or Both Signed and Unsigned Entries

If your source has only signed entries, you’ll probably be best off by having

  • One Zotero record for each entry you cite and
  • One Zotero record for the whole work, if you need this for the abbreviation list or for unsigned entries.

Setting up the Zotero records for signed entries is pretty straightforward. But setting up a record to cite unsigned entries requires some special steps.

Setting Up Zotero Records for Unsigned Entries

For unsigned entries, you won’t always need to cite the work with an abbreviation. But that will often be the case.

When it is, you can use the “Extra” field for that Zotero record to enter Annote: followed by how you want to cite the lexicon or dictionary overall.

For example, for the Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, the corresponding abbreviation is EDNT. So in Zotero’s “Extra” field for that resource, can enter Annote: <i>EDNT</i>.

Zotero won’t do anything with what follows Annote: except use it exactly to cite your resource. So you have to include the <i> and </i> tags to tell Zotero you want the title abbreviation italicized, as SBL style requires.

When you initially cite an unsigned article, you can then choose the “sub verbo” locator type in the Zotero add citation dialog box so that you can enter the entry you’re citing from.

Using the Annote: variable to store the custom citation you need should then allow you to configure your footnotes one way while not affecting the formatting of the bibliography entry for that resource, should you need to include one there or in an abbreviation list.

Conclusion

As Zotero and SBL style continue evolving, the process for getting certain types of output will change as well.

But of all the bibliography managers available, Zotero continues to provide one of the easiest out-of-the-box experiences for managing and citing research in biblical studies.


  1. Society of Biblical Literature, The SBL Handbook of Style, 2nd ed. (Atlanta: SBL, 2014), §§6.3.6–6.3.7. Header image provided by Zotero via Twitter

  2. Citing Reference Works 3: Dictionaries (Word),” weblog, SBL Handbook of Style, 4 April 2017. 

  3. See also “Citing Reference Works 2: Lexica,” SBL Handbook of Style, 30 March 2017. 

  4. Citing Reference Works 3: Dictionaries (Word).” 

  5. Citing Reference Works 3: Dictionaries (Word).” 

  6. Citing Reference Works 3: Dictionaries (Word).” 

  7. Citing Reference Works 3: Dictionaries (Word).” 

How Should You Actually Paginate an Essay?

The guidance about page number placement in the Student Supplement for the SBL Handbook of Style is mostly clear. But some of it takes some guesswork.

General Guidance

The Student Supplement gives the following advice for presenting page numbers:1

Overall: Assign each page a number. Arabic numbers are used for the main text of the paper. Roman numerals are used for material prior to the body of the text.

Title page: Do not print the roman numeral “i” on the title page.

Body: On the first page of the main text, place the page number at the bottom center. For subsequent pages, place the page number at the top right corner.

Back matter: On the first page of each appendix and the bibliography, place the page number at the bottom center. For subsequent pages, place the page number at the top right corner.

Then, if you’re writing a “term paper[] of fifteen pages or more,” you’ll also have a “contents page” (Student Supplement §2.7). And for this section, the Student Supplement advises (§2.3),

Contents: The front matter after the title page should be numbered beginning with “ii.” Page numbers should appear without any punctuation marks such as periods or parentheses.2

Placement of Front Matter Page Numbers

Strictly speaking, however, the Student Supplement doesn’t specify a location for Roman numeral page numbers.

Searching for an Answer

This information is also lacking from the SBL Handbook itself and doesn’t appear yet to have been clarified via the SBL Handbook of Style blog.

So for the position of page numbers in Roman numerals, we need to consult Turabian.For a summary of the order in which you should consult authorities for SBL style, see “How to Master SBL Style in 7 Simple Steps.” But when we do so, what we find there is not as direct an answer as we might hope.

Turabian’s Advice

If we line up the Student Supplement’s advice to Turabian, it’s pretty clear that the Student Supplement wants what it calls “term papers” to use a page numbering scheme like Turabian describes as being “traditional[ …] for theses and dissertations.”3

In this scheme, page numbers go “in the footer” on “all front matter pages.”4

But we still don’t have definitive guidance about whether the Roman numeral page numbers go in the bottom center or bottom right, both of which Turabian indicates as options.5 The full Chicago Manual of Style seems likewise silent on this point.

A Guess at an Answer

Pending further clarification about this point from SBL Press, we’re left with some guesswork based on two observations:

  1. Per Turabian’s “traditional[]” scheme, page numbers go “in the footer” on “all front matter pages.”6
  2. The Student Supplement nowhere advises that any page number should go in the bottom right. When the bottom margin has a page number, the number always appears bottom center.

Therefore, the most stylistically consistent placement for page numbers in Roman numerals in front matter is bottom center.

This includes subsequent pages in the same front matter section. Thus, for example, if your table of contents runs into more than one page, its Roman numeral page numbers will always appear bottom center.

Based on what the Student Supplement and Turabian say, this guess seems pretty probable.

But a guess it remains pending further guidance not weighed in here.

Conclusion

Based on these instructions, what you have are either two or three different page numbering statuses (none, Roman, Arabic).

For pages with numbers, you have two different locations (bottom center, top right).

And how you format the page number and where you put it depend on what kind of page it is where that number appears.

How have you normally placed page numbers in your essays?

Header image provided by Patrick Tomasso


  1. I’ve excerpted this material from the Student Supplement §2.3, but I have adapted somewhat for ease of reference and presentation here. 

  2. If your paper has an abbreviations section, it will follow the same pagination rules as the contents section. See the Student Supplement §§2.3, 2.7, for more information. 

  3. Manual for Writers, 9th ed., §A.1.4.2. 

  4. Manual for Writers, 9th ed., §A.1.4.2. 

  5. Manual for Writers, 9th ed., §A.1.4.2. 

  6. Manual for Writers, 9th ed., §A.1.4.2. 

How to Master SBL Style in 7 Simple Steps

Besides what it shares with general Chicago style, many details of SBL style pertain specifically to biblical studies. So learning SBL style can be challenging. But it doesn’t have to be.

Use this checklist to ensure you end up following the right advice about SBL style for your context.

The 7 Steps

  1. If you have to follow a “house style” in addition to the SBL Handbook of Style (e.g., from a professor, school, or publisher), follow any relevant advice your house style has. If not, skip to the next step.
  2. If you’re a student, follow the guidance of the Student Supplement to the SBL Handbook of Style, as far as it goes. If not, skip to the next step.
  3. Check the SBL Handbook of Style blog for any updates, corrections, or additional relevant advice.
  4. Consult the SBL Handbook of Style itself.
  5. If the SBL Handbook of Style asks for an abbreviation of a series or journal title:
    1. Look for the appropriate abbreviation in the SBL Handbook of Style.
    2. If you don’t find it there, look it up in Internationales Abkürzungsverzeichnis für Theologie und Grenzgebiete.
    3. If you find an abbreviation in Internationales Abkürzungsverzeichnis für Theologie und Grenzgebiete, double check it isn’t already assigned to a different source in the SBL Handbook of Style.
    4. If you don’t find an abbreviation in Internationales Abkürzungsverzeichnis für Theologie und Grenzgebiete, you can make one if you have a place to define your own abbreviations (e.g., an abbreviations list in the front matter to a dissertation or monograph). If you don’t have a place to define your own abbreviations, leave the title unabbreviated.
  6. Spell words properly.
    1. For names, use the SBL Handbook of Style’s specified authorities (§§3.4.1–3.4.4, 4.3.3.4).
    2. For words other than proper nouns, follow Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.
  7. If you still aren’t sure how to do something, consult current Chicago style.
    1. If you’re a student, look first at Turabian’s Manual for Writers. If you don’t find what you need there, follow the advice in the full Chicago Manual of Style.
    2. If you’re not a student, follow the advice in the full Chicago Manual of Style.

Conclusion

Understanding what SBL style requires in a given situation takes some practice. But with these 7 steps, you’ll know exactly where to look so you won’t miss anything and can begin mastering SBL style.

What is your biggest struggle with learning and using SBL style?

To help you remember these steps and avoid spending time re-editing your work, get my free SBL style checklist.