When citing a journal article using footnotes in the humanities (where of course particular journal styles will vary but in general Chicago Manual of Style is used), the proper format is to give the full citation the first time it is cited. However, after the article is cited for the first time, a shorter version is used for all subsequent times (involving only the author's last name, the omission of the journal, etc.). One of the ways these subsequent citations are shortened is by not including the full title of the article. I have seen many variations on how this should be done (where some seem intuitive, others less so).

Is there an actual acceptable standard for choosing the short title? If not, how should one go about choosing an appropriate short title?

An example: This article by Ole Benedictow, "What Disease was Plague? On the Controversy over the Microbiological Identity of Plague Epidemics of the Past" would be reasonably shortened to simply "What Disease was Plague?"

Another note: This convention of shortening citations is also used for books and other materials, but I ask about articles because choosing a short title is more often less intuitive.

  • 2
    Have ibid and op cit been deprecated in some way? It is the traditional way to do this sort of thing.
    – Buffy
    Nov 26, 2019 at 11:35
  • @Buffy They are still used in the humanities (again, depends on the journal/publisher), but citing the same work non-consecutively even while using these still requires a short title. Nov 26, 2019 at 17:05
  • Usually the first listed author is enough if it is unambiguous.
    – Buffy
    Nov 26, 2019 at 17:15
  • @Buffy This is sometimes okay, but there are two problems with this. The first is that the usual style guides require a short title (though as you point out, not always). The second issue is citing multiple articles by the same (single) author, which is very common in the humanities. In that case, you would require a short title to differentiate the articles. Nov 26, 2019 at 19:13
  • 1
    @Buffy I looked up some style guides and I find that multiple style guides (e.g. MHRA, CMOS 17th edition, New Hart's Rule) now discourage the use of ibid and the like and prefer using short titles for subsequent references (in author-title system).
    – jnanin
    Dec 2, 2019 at 16:05

2 Answers 2


When citing a source for the first time in your work, make sure the accompanying note has all the pertinent details. You only need to use a condensed version of that citation when using that source again in order to lessen the overall number of publications that use footnotes or endnotes. The author's last name, the title, if longer than four words, and any additional directing information, like page numbers, should all be included in the short form information. The 17th edition of the Chicago Style Guide now asks for the use of only condensed citations, whereas earlier editions used "Ibid" to refer to the same source repeatedly in succession.


Christian Saucier is correct. In the example you gave, the shortened title would be "What Disease Was Plague?"

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