Why is specific cross-referencing so important?

When writing an academic or non-fiction text, it is easy to assume that all your readers are going to read your text linearly – from beginning to end. But what if they don’t? What if they started reading in the middle because they liked something in the title of Chapter 12? Or what if it has been a few days, weeks or even years since they began the text and now they come to Chapter 24 they cannot remember what you said at the beginning of the book? Is it enough to have a good table of contents? Do your chapter and subheading titles cover everything in your book? This is where good cross-referencing within your text is really helpful, making it easy for your reader to navigate around the document.

Cross-referencing is also helpful to you as an author. It is not always possible to write everything in a linear order. Technical documents just don’t work in a nice orderly fashion. You don’t want to have to explain everything several times to remind your reader, so it is easier to tell them that you have already discussed something or that you will go into more detail later on. If you are including figures and tables, then you may want to point the reader to them or refer back to them later in your document.

Unhelpful cross-referencing is a common problem I find when editing documents. The best way to make sure that your cross-referencing is actually useful to your reader is to be specific.

 

Frequently used and unhelpful cross-referencing phrases

  • Earlier…
  • As mentioned earlier…
  • As discussed earlier…
  • As defined earlier…
  • …this will be discussed in more detail later on in the book…
  • …as can be seen in the figure below.
  • See the figure below.
  • In the graph above.

 

If you are halfway through a fifty chapter book and the author says ‘as discussed earlier’, how does the reader easily find that discussion in the preceding 250+ pages? If they are lucky they will find it in the contents page, or maybe you will have an index to help them. However, I firmly believe that if it is important enough for you to mention that something can be found elsewhere in your text, then you should be specific and state exactly where the information is located.

 

Helpful and specific cross-referencing phrases

  • In Chapter 2…
  • In Section 1.2.1…
  • As discussed in Section 2.4…
  • In Figure 6.5…
  • …this will be discussed in more detail in Chapter 32.
  • As defined on Page 3…

 

Being specific makes it easier for your reader to find their way around your document, improves readability and comprehension and makes for a much more enjoyable and informative read. Isn’t that exactly what you want for your reader after all your hard work?

 


Looking for a proofreader or editor?

I am Dr Angela Stokes, an experienced academic, proofreader and editor. If you would like more information about how I can help you with your project or more about the editing services that I provide, then please get in touch by emailing: info@acedemy.co.uk.

 


 

Cross-referencing – why specifics matter

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