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I'm writing a rebuttal to a paper that was recently published. Since I refer to the authors very frequently, I've abbreviated their names to WW for their last names Williams and Wang (I made up these names, they aren't the real names). Is this appropriate for a scientific journal? Should I write W and W or W&W instead of WW?

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    W&W might work if the journal permits it. But Williams & Wang is likely better.
    – Buffy
    Aug 15, 2023 at 10:16

4 Answers 4

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It depends entirely on the journal's style - each journal should have a 'style sheet'/'style guide' that says exactly how they expect everything to be formatted and cited. You should check the journal's website for this.

(IMHO, unless you're really short on space, I always think it's nicer not to abbreviate... but there are different opinions on this both on a personal level and on a field level.)

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I hope they are not Williams and Coleman, or that you are not writting a rebuttal on Holocaust themes on the paper of Schutz and Saponer ...

Jokes apart, I would say that if you have so much to rebutt on one single paper, either you are spreading out the discussion of some sentence/ideas on too many sentences/part of your rebuttal, or that you should investigate previous work of Williams and Wang to understand why they say something.

Be concise, rebuttal works are often desk rejected because too long, then refused by editors, and finally required to be way shorter than you would possibly, so saving some hundred of characters from the names is not what will help you ...

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  • On the other hand, if this is a reply to Cox and Zucker's famous paper, perhaps, CZ would be better? Aug 17, 2023 at 13:07
  • @XanderHenderson I am sure there is a joke, but I am missing it :D
    – EarlGrey
    Aug 17, 2023 at 13:10
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Another way to deal with this is through the use of a) Pronouns (they, them, their) and b) Terms such as "the authors" or "the article" and so on.

But the ultimate answer, of course, is what @PFD said: "It's up to the journal". And if their style sheet doesn't cover this, then I wouldn't worry too much. The journal isn't going to make their decision about publishing your rebuttal based on whether you abbreviate their names. They'll just tell you to revise. This would be a very easy revision.

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At least in economics, it is fairly common that a paper which extensively discusses another paper will abbreviate the authors' names in such a manner. It would not be unusual to see a paper cited formally at the first mention along with an abbreviation for subsequent mentions, for example, "Williams and Wang (2022, henceforth WW) ...".

It would be difficult to say if this style will be accepted in a different field (or even a different publication), but it is evidently accepted in at least some places.

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  • Good to know that this is common. I ended up using WW and waiting for the Journal (which didn't have any published advice on this) to potentially ask us to change it.
    – at.
    Aug 16, 2023 at 23:51

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