Monday, June 23, 2008

An exaltation of ibid

I've made excellent progress on my summer research/writing project until this morning, when I ran head-on into an exaltation of ibid. I loathe ibid. Likewise endnotes. Nevertheless I find myself compelled to embrace them, and it hurts--it really hurts.

Let's backtrack: my summer research/writing project involves pulling together information from several articles and assembling them into a book proposal, the first chapter of which will consist of the new article I'm writing this summer. So far all systems are go, but this morning I decided it was time to take a look at some of the older articles to see just what sort of revision they might require.

One previously published article passed muster pretty easily, but then I looked at an unpublished article and I was surprised by its sheer brilliance. I rarely find my own past writing palatable, so either I'm vastly overrating the value of this article or else it really is something special, something that can be submitted to an academic journal with just a minor bit of editing.

The problem is that I already submitted this article to a journal last summer and it was rejected outright. Okay, so maybe it's not as brilliant as I think it is, but on the off chance that there may be someone else out there who shares my tastes, I took a look at the submission guidelines at an academic journal that would make a logical home for this essay.

It's a British journal, which means it wants me to use British spelling. Fine: British spelling doesn't frighten me. It also wants me to change all my underlining to italics. No problem! But then I notice that it refuses to accept articles using in-text citations and instead insists upon endnotes.

Have I mentioned that I loathe endnotes?

Let me qualify that: I enjoy inserting the occasional explanatory endnote, the type of note that rewards the reader with a chewy nugget of fascinating information, a note that makes the reader look at those rare superscript numbers as unexpected gifts. I am delighted to insert endnotes that promise playful or profound substance.

But what this journal wants is a pile of bibliographic endnotes. Instead of those nice, neat MLA-style in-text citations tucked tidily into the text, this British journal wants every citation to appear in an endnote. Picture a multiplication of little numbers defacing my lovely text, each number sending the reader to the end of the article where he or she will more than likely face that ugly ibid.

Have I mentioned that I loathe ibid?

It's a purely aesthetic loathing: I respond to an exaltation of ibid with the same visceral cringe that strikes me when I see a well-dressed woman whose bra-straps are hanging out. It looks wrong, extra, untidy--and, worse, an exaltation of ibid leads the reader to expect the end-notes to be empty, so that those lovely little explanatory notes will be lost within the welter of ibid.

I don't want to give this journal an easy reason to reject the article, so I'm spending the day uglifying my text. Sometimes students complain about how annoying they find MLA style and how much they prefer APA, but I just smile and tell them that switching to a different style will be a valuable learning experience, requiring them to pay careful attention to small details and develop an ability to locate answers to pesky questions. Next time this happens, I'll have a more vivid awareness of just how painful this process can be.

Yes, it hurts! But despite the pain, I insert ibids one after another all day long. Ibids are what I do. Ibids R Us! Someone stop me before I ibid again.

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