Personally, I prefer numbering references and citing them in the text by something like

see A. Miller and P. Smith [13] for further details


see Miller–Smith [13] for further details

However, some publishers, and some coauthors, insist on using letters like

see [MS] for further details

which is short and maybe more intuitive than

see [13] for details

but quickly prone to becoming ambiguous.

The longer the article, the more likely it is that you need to cite different authors with the same initial, at which point the obvious rule of using just the first letter of the surname breaks down. At this point many authors just seem to add further letters from the surname quite randomly.

Is there a sensible set of rules for determining acronyms for publications?

  • 1
    I myself would push for non-abbreviation of author names, whenever possible, but I do realize that there is editorial pressure (though I think it is dubious...), as well as problems with multi-author papers. I like explanatory reference notation!!! May 6 at 21:59
  • 1
    I would not use Miller-Smith to avoid confusion wrt possible double names.
    – sleepy
    May 6 at 22:37
  • 1
    As you said, it depends on the publisher. So follow the rules of a publisher. May 6 at 23:10
  • Why would it be ambiguous if you use a hyperlink to go to the citation? Some journals have requirements for how citations and references are formatted also. But as general practice, I would recommend you do whatever is common practice in the area of literature you're publishing.
    – WnGatRC456
    May 6 at 23:19
  • The publisher does not have any rules for forming the acronyms, just that one should use some form of acronyms. There seems to be no common practice for deciding how to form these acronyms beyond using the initials of the last names, a rule which is quickly insufficient. That's exactly why I'm asking here.
    – Earthliŋ
    May 7 at 6:15

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