Oscola in-text quirks
Last week I discussed a few tips for formatting Oscola footnotes (link). This week I’m going to look at a few aspects of using the Oscola referencing style in the general text of your law dissertation or thesis. OSCOLA: the Oxford Standard for the Citation of Legal Authorities was developed at Oxford University in 2000. It is now in its fourth edition and a comprehensive pdf guide can be downloaded here, free under a creative commons licence. It’s essential to have a copy at your side when writing your essay, and preparing or checking footnotes and references. Oscola is a footnote style. All citations of legal cases, statutes, books and articles appear in footnotes at the bottom of the page. Longer works such as theses and dissertations should also have a bibliography or reference list.
Oscola’s objective is consistency and clarity, and it keeps punctuation to a minimum. In the previous blog post we looked at the positioning of footnote makers in the text – remember they are placed after the punctuation at the end of a sentence, like this. If you place the full stop after the footnote marker there is an unsightly gap in the text, can you see the difference between numbers one and two ? The question mark appears to be swimming around on its own. Oscola also prefers to keep the use of what it calls ‘Latin gadgets’ to a minimum, including Latin phrases in the text and keeps the use of italics to a minimum. The abbreviations ‘eg’ and ie’ are also used without punctuation, which takes a little getting used to.
In text quotations should be contained within single quotation marks. Punctuation is placed after the quote mark unless actually part of the quote, and quotes within quotes use the sequence: ‘single quote mark “double quote mark” single quote mark’– sometimes called nesting. Also, note that the footnote marker for the reference’s citation is placed after the quote mark.
Quotations of more than three lines should be displayed as a block quote. This is an indented paragraph with no quotation marks, unless they are part of the actual text, in which case they should be produced as in the original. Most law proofreaders and editors will format the text of a block quote with a slightly smaller font and line spacing. It makes the quotation stand out from the main text and is pleasing on the eye. So, if you are using 12-pt font for the general text with 1.5 line spacing, use 11-pt for a block quote with 1.15 line spacing, and 10-pt font with single line spacing for the footnotes. In the example below, the original text of this paragraph was 11-pt font with 1.15 line spacing, the block quote is 10-pt font with single line spacing.
These are just a few hints for using Oscola referencing in your legal writing. I hope that you find them useful, if you have any questions please leave a comment below. I specialise in editing and proofreading law essays, dissertations and theses, including formatting to Oscola requirements. Contact me for a free quotation for editing your next assignment.