OSCOLA is a footnote-based style. In previous blogs, I’ve discussed how one of the most important things to get to grips with is inserting the markers and the notes. I’ve always assumed that most law students had a reasonable grasp Microsoft Word and knew how to use the footnotes function, so my advice was geared towards locating the markers in the correct place and footnote content. However, I recently came across a proofreading assignment where the footnotes had been created using the superscript function in normal running test. Thus, there was no automatic link between the number and the text at the bottom of the page. This blog gives a quick resume of how to practically use the insert footnotes function.
If you are writing your law essay using Word then footnotes can easily be entered using the Footnotes option on the References tab, and in this blog I’ll assume that you are using this programme. The screenshots are based on Word 2013. One of the main advantages of creating footnotes automatically is that if you add or delete any of them then Word will re-number the remainder for you, and similarly if you change the number of pages or the position of the footnote markers Word takes care of this, too. The footnotes will always appear on the correct page.
How to insert footnotes
First, find the References Tab, on my version of Word this is the sixth tab from the left in the ribbon at the top of a page:
The simplest method to insert a footnote is to click the large icon ‘Insert footnote’. Word will pop a footnote number in your running text, where there cursor was placed and then drop down to the bottom of the page so that you can type in the footnote wording. You can move between the footnotes by clicking on next or previous footnote on the adjacent icon. If you prefer keyboard shortcuts then type Ctrl+ Alt + F.
Perhaps you want to have a little more control over your footnotes. If you click on the arrow in the right-hand corner of the footnotes tab a menu will drop down giving you a few options for extra formatting of the footnotes. You can decide on the numbering format, in fact, you don’t have to use numbers at all, you can select alphabetical letters, roman numerals or characters (not usually used for law essays). Also important if you are writing a long thesis, you can decide whether to start the numbering from 1 with each new chapter or continue numbering throughout the whole document. Your law school may have some requirements about this, but if not, bear in mind that if you keep the numbering continuous throughout the work it will enable you to use more shortcuts if a work is cited several times. If you decided to restart every chapter afresh, then you will need to cite each entry in full the first time you use it in that chapter, rather than continuing shortened citations.
I’ve covered the positioning of the footnote markers before, but as a quick recap. Each footnote is indicated with a numbered superscript marker in the text. Either place the marker at the end of the sentence or after the phrase to which it relates. If the phrase is within a bracket put the marker before the closing bracket; if the marker is at the end of the sentence put the punctuation before the marker. Placing the full stop after the footnote marker creates an unsightly gap in the text.
Always use the automatic footnote option when formatting a law essay. It will save you time and hassle, and your proofreader can concentrate on checking the OSCOLA format of the footnote wording.