A good writer knows the conventions that their reader expects. Then they slavishly follow these conventions 95% of the time so the reader doesn’t get distracted by convention violations and instead keep their attention on what you’re trying to communicate. A good writer also occasionally and very deliberately violates these conventions as a sort of exclamation to highlight and emphasize points.
A lot of conventions in manuscripts are extremely well set. Like AIMRD (Abstract/Introduction/Methods/Results/Discussion). References go after the discussion and before the appendices. Most journals in ecology use Harvard style citations such as “(Jones 1999)” inline while a few journals with very tight word limits use a Vancouver style (numbers linked to endnotes) (and just to emphasize that this all about conventions there are also Oxford, Chicago, and some weirder ones that are used by convention in different fields).
But there are two areas where I feel conventions are changing. At least I ended up finding myself in disagreement with colleagues and giving conflicting advice to lead authors. So I’m curious what you think on these two issues.
Inline reference to multiple authors
What do you do when you want to use the authors as the subject of a sentence and there are multiple authors. If there is one or two it is easy (again only because a convention has evolved, but it is a well established convention). Namely
“Jones (1999) demonstrated that…” or “Jones and Smith (1999) demonstrated that …”.
But if there are 3+ authors do you say
“Jones et al. (1999) demonstrated that…”
“Jones and colleagues (1999) demonstrated that …”.
The last example is not literal – it could be “Jones and co-workers (1999)” or “Jones and her team (1999)” or “Jones and co-authors” but the point is that in the second convention you do not carry the et al. style from end notes into the main narrative text even though it is slightly longer. Or is et al. in the midst of science prose perfectly OK?
Parentheses within parentheses
With the Harvard style, parentheses are important to denote that a citation is happening, but what if you also want to use parentheses to say something that is, well, parenthetical? Do you nest parentheses or writer a longer and possibly more convoluted syntax to avoid nested parentheses? Or use side-by-side parentheses. There are many permutations of this but one example is:
(A) It is well established that XXXX (although see Jones 1999)
(B) It is well established that XXXX (although see (Jones 1999))
To me this is well established that you should always use (A). Although (B) is becoming increasingly more common as people use citation management software and don’t know how to implement (A) in their citation management software. But what if the parenthetical statement is longer and more complex?
(A) It is generally true that XXXX (but it appears not to be true in birds, Jones 1999, or insects, Smith 2008)
(B) It is generally true that XXXX (but it appears not to be true in birds – Jones 1999 – or insects – Smith 2008)
(C) It is generally true that XXXX (but it appears not to be true in birds or insects)(Jones 1999, Smith 2008)
(D) It is generally true that XXXX (but it appears not to be true in birds (Jones 1999) or insects (Smith 2008))
So what do you think is correct?
Why do you think that? Is the world coming to an end due to all norms of decency disappearing? Should we just go with whatever is easiest to implement?