Citing Grammars with the SBL Handbook and Zotero

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

AltPage 1 of Herbert Smyth’s “Greek Grammar,” scan courtesy of Textkit

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). For other works cited by abbreviation, also be sure to check IATG3.

For instance, Gesenius-Kautzch-Cowley is cited simply by the abbreviation “GKC”. Blass-Debrunner-Funk is cited simply as “BDF”.1

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. Edit your reference manager’s SBL style in CSL.

Other ways of getting this output automatically from Zotero are on the horizon. But, for the present, a bit of manual editing is required. Thankfully though, it mostly just requires some copying and pasting.2

If you’d rather not go through this process, you can download a version of this style, unzip it, and skip to step 4 below. Just bear in mind that this version might not be based on the most current the SBL style version in the Zotero repository. If you want to be sure you’re using the most updated version of the SBL style with this adjustment, you’ll want to go through the process below.

  1. Download a new copy of the SBL Handbook of Style citation style from the Zotero style repository. If you’re asked to add the citation style to Zotero, click “Cancel.”
  2. Open the folder where you downloaded this file, and rename it. For instance, I added “-with-abbr” to the end of the file name before the extension.
  3. Open the file in WordPad or a similar application.

a. Find and replace the text <title>Society of Biblical Literature 2nd edition (full note)</title> with <title>Society of Biblical Literature 2nd edition (full note with abbreviations)</title> or something similar.
b. Find and replace the text <id>http://www.zotero.org/styles/society-of-biblical-literature-fullnote-bibliography</id> with <id>http://www.zotero.org/styles/society-of-biblical-literature-fullnote-bibliography-with-abbreviations</id> or something similar. You won’t actually upload the style to the Zotero repository. I assume this change simply keeps the style from getting overwritten if the main SBL style is updated automatically.
c. Find <!-- Lexicon/Dictionary/Encyclopedia -->. The immediately following line should read <if type="entry-dictionary entry-encyclopedia" match="any">. Replace this following line with

<if variable="annote">
  <group delimiter=" ">
    <text variable="annote"/>
    <text macro="point-locators-subsequent"/>
  </group>
</if>
<else-if type="entry-dictionary entry-encyclopedia" match="any">

d. Find <!-- Not Lexicon/Dictionary/Encyclopedia -->. The line immediately preceding should read </if>. Replace this preceding line with </else-if>.
e. Save the file as you’ve edited it with a “.csl” extension, and close WordPad.

  1. Double-click your custom CSL file. When prompted, choose to install the style in Zotero.
  2. To use this style, be sure to select the “Society of Biblical Literature 2nd edition (full note with abbreviations)” style in your document rather than the “Society of Biblical Literature 2nd edition (full note)” style from the repository.
  3. For any source you need to cite by abbreviation, add “Annote: [abbreviation]” at the top of 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 it will allow you to cite grammars by abbreviation while also using the Zotero add citation dialog. The downside is that you might still need to edit your bibliography manually to remove these sources and move them to an abbreviation list (per SBL Press’s requirement). But, you will probably know pretty well which few sources are cited by abbreviations and can edit the bibliography as needed to relocate these sources largely just by scanning through it.

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.

What tips do you have for handling grammars or other specialized types of citations in your reference manager?


  1. Also important is SBL Press’s discussion of citing Herbert Smyth’s Greek Grammar
  2. For providing the base instructions for this portion of the post, I’m grateful to Brenton Wiernik via the Zotero forums

4 Steps to Using IATG with the SBL Handbook of Style

In the second edition of the SBL Handbook of Style (SBLHS2), chapter 8 is entirely dedicated to abbreviations. According to the Handbook, “abbreviations for works not listed below should follow Siegfried M. Schwertner, Internationales Abkürzungsverzeichnis für Theologie und Grenzgebiete, 3rd ed. (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2014 [=IATG3]).” Here are four steps to make this process as seamless as possible.

AltBook, sheet, leaf and turn by Anastasia Zhenina

1. Get IATG3 in Paperback

As of this writing, the hardcover printing of IATG3 currently sells for just over $280 on Amazon, although you can find it a bit cheaper by shopping around.

But, thankfully, de Gruyter has also released IATG3 in paperback. As of this writing, you can find this paperback printing on Amazon for under $60 and just over $50 elsewhere.

IATG3 isn’t an inexpensive text in either case. But, there is definitely enough in it that’s not also in SBLHS2 to make it something useful to have on hand. And the pricing for the paperback copy makes it much more feasible to have your own copy on hand if your library doesn’t have it, or if you just want to keep from having to jockey with others over who’s using the library copy.

2. Consult SBLHS2

Next, check SBLHS2 §8.4 for a corresponding abbreviation. This section has two abbreviation lists. The first is sorted by the name of the source (§8.4.1). According to this list, “Journal of Biblical Literature” becomes simply “JBL” (194).

The second abbreviation list sorts the same works and periodicals as in the first, except that the sort is done by alphabetical order of the abbreviation (§8.4.2). Generally, the order of this section follows closely the order of the first. But, there are exceptions.

So, for instance, in the first list “Journal of Biblical Literature” appears between “Journal of Bible and Religion” and “Journal of Christian Theological Research” (194). But, in the second list “Journal of Biblical Literature” appears between “Jerome Bible Commentary” and “Jewish Biblical Quarterly” since all three abbreviations begin with “JB” (238).

You will probably find the first list more useful when composing a citation or a bibliography entry and the second more useful if you come across a citation with an abbreviation and need to try to expand that abbreviation into the source it represents. But, the second list is also incredibly helpful in connection with step 4 below, and it’s practically necessary if you’re working with a print version of SBLHS2.

In any case, the main point to remember in this step is not to confuse the two lists. You don’t want to accidentally look at the second list (sorted by abbreviation) and miss something because that list isn’t alphabetized by source.

3. Consult IATG3

Like SBLHS2, IATG3 has two main abbreviation lists. The first is sorted alphabetically by abbreviation (3–191). The second is sorted alphabetically by the name of the source (195–726).

So, for instance, if you needed to cite an article from Scriptura, you would find that SBLHS2 doesn’t have a corresponding abbreviation (step 2).

On finding this, you’d then consult the second list in IATG3 (sorted by source name) and find four different sources with this name (632). If you were looking for the Scriptura produced in South Africa, you’d then find the corresponding abbreviation to be Scr.(S).

4. Double check SBLHS2 doesn’t already assign the abbreviation you found in IATG3 to some different source

For example, if you’re citing something from the “Herders biblische Studien” series, you’ll see that SBLHS2 doesn’t include an abbreviation for this source (step 2). You’d then consult IATG3 and find the abbreviation “HBS” (step 3; 424).

If you go back to SBLHS2 and look up this abbreviation, however, you find that it’s assigned to “History of Biblical Studies” (235).

What do you do in this case? If you’re writing strictly according to SBLHS2, then its abbreviations take precedence over those in IATG3 (SBLHS2 §8.4). So, “HBS” would mean “History of Biblical Studies” and not “Herders biblische Studien.”

In this case, you have basically two options. First, if you’re writing a longer-format piece (e.g., a thesis or dissertation) and can create your own abbreviation list, you can adopt your own custom abbreviations for each of these two sources. Or, if you only use one of the sources, you could define “HBS” explicitly as the source you use.

Failing this, second, your best option is not to abbreviate “Herders biblische Studien” and simply write it out in full in order to avoid ambiguity and confusion.

Conclusion

At first blush, the hundreds of pages of abbreviations in IATG3 can be a bit intimidating. But, by following these steps, it doesn’t take much to become accustomed to using IATG3 alongside SBLHS2 as you’re doing research and composing citations.

What other tips do you have for using IATG3 with SBLHS2?