I am looking for stylistic advice regarding the (over) use of cross-references. For instance, using cross-references in Latex through \ref{...} for major structural blocks like chapters and sections certainly is a good idea. But when it comes to subsections or subsubsection that are only one or two pages long, technical cross-references begin to feel a little over the top and I prefer using phrases such like as mentioned earlier or as discussed in the previous section (while possibly actually meaning a latex subsubsection). I also prefer it this way, as I don't like numbered headings for subsections and subsubsections, for the same reason: It looks overkill. But numbered headings are requiered for the cross-references to work.

So, should I rather use technical cross-references with \ref{...} throughout the text? Are the more or less agreed upon stylistic rules for this in scientific writing?

  • "But numbered headings are required for the cross-references to work." I think there should be a way to attach the link to a word other than the section number; not helpful for the printed version, but would to the trick for the pdf. Also it depends a lot on how your manuscript reads. The more your sub(sub(..))sections can be read independently, the more you need detailed cross references IMO because you can less assume that the reader has seen the previous material
    – EigenDavid
    Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 10:22

2 Answers 2


What you prefer is barely relevant; think of the reader. It so happens that earlier today I was consulting a book to find a specific method. I quickly found an example of its use, but the book said '...as explained in detail in Chapter 13...'. Chapter 13 was a long chapter. The explanation when I found it was very short - and it took me a long time to find it.

In general, the more cross-references the better but you have to credit the reader with some short-term memory. A cross-reference to the previous paragraph would be more irritating than helpful.


I like numbered headings. You can refer back to which section you want (if more than previous). I find "as discussed" or "as previously noted" to ring as slightly pompous and long-winded. "As per section 4.5..." has more an air of precision and meaning.

If it's in the immediately before section, I wouldn't even refer to it. Or if the meaning is reasonably clear even if further back, try to avoid either textual or hyperlinks. Just use these when they're really needed. Judgment call. But I get impression, you do too much.

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