Help:Formatting Citations and Footnotes

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For our citation policy, see Fanlore:Citation. For help with various guidelines for how and when to cite your sources, see Help:Citing sources.

These formatting and technical guidelines are for citing printed, electronic, and online public content. We have also provided some suggestions for citing private and semi-private material.

If you are citing a source that has a Fanlore page (such as a fan or a book about fandom or a fanzine), please link to the Fanlore page about that source.

Online Sources

When you cite online sources either in the text of your Fanlore article (inline citations) or in its references, you should include some or all of the following information:

  • Name or title of the content you are citing (strongly recommended)
  • Name or title of the venue where the content is hosted (recommended for communities, mailing lists, and forums)
  • Author/s of the content (strongly recommended)
  • Date the content was published [Day/Month/Year] (if available)
  • Date that you last successfully accessed the content [Day/Month/Year] (strongly recommended)
  • The format of the content, e.g. PDF, Word, Flash (recommended if the content is not in a commonly web accessible form, or is in a form that requires a browser plug-in that may not be widely available)
  • Access restrictions, e.g. password required, moderator permission required, membership required (recommended where applicable)

Generally, Fanlore editors use references for anything complicated and have the option of just providing an inline link like this if the citation info can be easily worked into the main text. Example:

On November 10, 2003, Jane Q. Fan posted a story called Mary Sue Rides Again! on her website, Jane Q's Fanfiction Cave.

See below for examples of referenced citations.

Citing web pages, journals, and blogs

Online article, New York Times:

[1] Doe, J. Fan fiction: What happens when fans get into the act, New York Times, 14 January 2004 (requires registration). (Accessed 04 August 2008.)

PDF on personal website, originally published in a zine:

[3] Fan, Jane Q. Mary Sue Redux (PDF), published in March 2005 in Merry Mary Sue-age, by Fanfic Readers Anonymous Press. (Accessed 25 August 2008.)

Post in a personal livejournal:

[2] username. title of the post, posted to LiveJournal on 1 January 2012. (Accessed 1 January 2012.)

Citing mailing list, forum, journal communities, and message board posts

Forums, message boards, and journal communities follow the same formatting rules shown in the mailing list examples below.

Public lists:

[1] Fan, Jane Q. Parody or its own category? The great Mary Sue debate, posted on 12 June 2004 at Fanfic Archivists. (Accessed 15 July 2008.)

Membership lists:

[1] Fanfic Archivists (requires membership). (Accessed 15 July 2008.)

Limited membership lists:

[1] Fanfic Archivists-L (requires moderator approval). (Accessed 15 July 2008.)

Locked LiveJournal community:

[4] Mary Sue 4 Evah (requires membership). (Accessed 25 August 2008.)

Citing tweets and tumblrs


Tweet by bjkwright, March 19, 2021. (Accessed April 5, 2021).


bjkwright. March 19, 2021 tweet. (Accessed April 5, 2021.)

See also MLA's style guide.


AO3 and Feedback: general overview by longlivefeedback, Tumblr. Posted December 29, 2017 (Accessed January 1, 2018).
Tumblr post by glumshoe, posted September 16, 2019 (Accessed March 4, 2021).

Citing email and transcripts of chat rooms and instant messages

If all parties have agreed to disclose the contents of an email message or a transcript, you may cite and/or link to it.

In some cases, an original poster (OP) or content creator may agree to let you quote and cite them in a wiki article. In these cases, the OP must grant approval prior to your quoting of the content on the wiki. When in doubt, ask the OP how they want you to cite this content. For example, they may want you to link to the home page of the forum or journal, or of the OP's website; or they may prefer that you simply cite it as "personal correspondence" with the OP. Include a date where possible.

See Fanlore: Citation for our official policy on quoting limited-access or private content.


[1] Jane Q. Fan, personal communication, 9 August 2006. (Accessed 21 August 2008.)

Chat and instant message transcripts:

[1] Transcript of chat from June 2, 2007. (Accessed 21 June 2008.)

[2] Jane Q. Fan, instant message transcript, 9 August 2006. (Accessed 21 June 2008.)

Other Sources

For print sources (e.g., zines and books) and electronic sources that are not online (e.g., television episodes and films, not that we cite those much), you can use a standard citation format, such as those defined by the American Psychological Association and the Modern Language Association.

You can use any of the above, but you should probably stick to one citation style within the same article. However, Fanlore has no APA or MLA citation police, so don't worry too much about format.

How to create a basic reference

When citing a source, you will probably want to create a reference.

  1. Add <ref> immediately after the text you need to cite.
  2. Write some text. See Help:Citing_sources for what to put in a citation.
  3. Add a closing </ref> tag. (Otherwise, the rest of the article will be included in the reference!)
  4. Copy and paste the following to bottom of the page:

<ref> tags can also be used to add footnotes to an article, when you want to add an aside that gives more context or information that wouldn't fit in the body of the page. For more on how to format these and distinguishing them from references, refer to Displaying grouped references and footnotes.


According to scientists, the Sun is pretty big.<ref>E. Miller, The Sun, (New York: Academic Press, 2005), 23-5.</ref>
The Moon, however, is not so big.<ref>R. Smith, "Size of the Moon", Scientific American, 46 (April 1978): 44-6.</ref>


Multiple uses of the same citation

To give a citation a unique identifier, use <ref name="name">. You can then refer to the same citation again by using a terminated empty ref tag with the same name, like this: <ref name="name" />.

In the following example, the same source is cited three times.

This is an example of multiple references to the same citation.<ref name="multiple">I love this citation so much I used it three times.</ref>

Such references are particularly useful when citing sources, if different statements come from the same source.<ref name="multiple">This text is superfluous, and won't show up anywhere. We may as well just use an empty tag.</ref>

A concise way to make multiple references is to use empty ref tags, which have a slash at the end. Although this may reduce redundant work, please be aware that if a future editor removes the first reference, this will result in the loss of all references using the empty ref tags.<ref name="multiple" />


The text above gives the following result in the article (see also section below):

This is an example of multiple references to the same citation.[1]

Such references are particularly useful when citing sources, when different statements come from the same source.[1]

A concise way to make multiple references is to use empty ref tags, which have a slash at the end. Although this may reduce redundant work, please be aware that if a future editor removes the first reference, this will result in the loss of all references using the empty ref tags.[1]

Displaying references

You can choose to use single column or double columns to display your references and footnotes. Depending on how many references and footnotes are required, you may prefer to have the information sorted in one way or another for clarity or to help save space on the page.

Single column

Placing <references /> inserts the full text of all pending inline citations defined by <ref>, anywhere on the page. For example, based on the citations above, the code:

<references />

will yield:

  1. ^ a b c I love this citation so much I used it three times. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "multiple" defined multiple times with different content

Double column

For pages with many citations, you may want two columns of references. Using {{reflist|30em}} instead of <references /> will produce a two-column display of your references; see below for an example.

Using groups

Sometimes you have informative asides that you want footnotes for, but if they get all mixed up in your other citations it will be harder for people to know they're there and then find them. A good solution is to use groups in your references: adding group=note to your <ref> tag will display the footnote with "note" in front of the number.

<ref group=note>Because this reference had "note" in front of the number, you knew it was additional information instead of a citation!</ref>

will yield:

[note 1]

You can name the group anything but the group name is case sensitive and will show up in the footnote link.[example 1][example 2][example 3]

Displaying grouped references and footnotes

You will need as many reference sections as you have groups. This article has three: the unnamed group used in the first three sections that just uses <ref>, <ref group=note>, and <ref group=example>. The <ref> tag has its reference display above, but the other two will need their own separate display sections.

It is useful to have a dedicated section header for each type of group, e.g. ==References==, ==Notes==. An example of this is the reference section on Something in Common. The dedicated sections help make a clear separation between notes that contain additional information and references that just direct to the source material.

Single column

To produce a single-column reference list for a group called "note" use {{reflist|group=note}}[note 2] to produce the following:

  1. ^ Because this reference had "note" in front of the number, you knew it was additional information instead of a citation!
  2. ^ You can also produce a single column reference section like this one using <references group=note />

Double column

To produce a double-column reference list for a group called "example" use {{reflist|30em|group=example}} to produce the following:

  1. ^ Here you could briefly summarize an example and provide a link or reference.
  2. ^ You can read more on Wikipedia.
  3. ^ Your list of explanatory footnotes could be as long as you'd like! They're probably easier to read in single-column form, but double column works too.

For any other questions, you can use the Talk page or contact the Fanlore Committee.

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