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I've run into an issue using Microsoft Word 2013. In the following example, there is no way to know whether or not there exists one reference to footnote 12, or two references to footnotes 1 and 2:

This line of text is a footnote reference example.12

It's an issue because I'm adding multiple footnotes to the same section of document body text in a "wiki" style document with multiple URL examples used as reference, for example:

The television character's name was Guy Characterburg.1 2

¹ He was named Guy after Guy Fawkes. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Fawkes

² And Characterburg because I am not very creative. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laziness

In that example, I've placed a space in-between the 1 and the 2 to make it easier to see. And at the end of an isolated sentence, a few extra spaces are certainly not the end of the world. But it adds a lot of awkward white space when done in the middle of a paragraph, for example:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec aliquam lectus eget rhoncus aliquet. Duis mollis, ligula quis dapibus mollis, magna velit aliquet mi, nec lacinia erat nulla nec dui. Nunc nec imperdiet1 2 3 quam.4 Aliquam iaculis5 6 7 non tortor nec vestibulum. Curabitur accumsan bibendum tristique. Morbi ac felis massa. Donec eget mauris enim. Phasellus tristique8 9 mauris ipsum, ac euismod felis sollicitudin vitae.

If I put a superscript comma in-between them, for example:

This is the last example, I promise1,2.

¹ This was a lie. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lie

² brutereason.net/2011/09/23/on-people-who-think-theyre-so-damn-funny

This confuses Microsoft Word, because its proofreading function ignores the footnote references and only sees:

This is the last example, I promise,.

..and puts squiggly red lines everywhere (well, in the dozen or so places it's an issue). If I try to add hard brackets, à la Wikipedia:

This[1][2] is another example.

This also confuses Word. It thinks I'm bunching up parentheticals and uses squiggly blue lines to suggest spacing them out:

This [1] [2] is what Word would prefer.

That would be annoying to have to type in a bunch of superscript brackets and extra spaces, and it's not exactly aesthetically pleasing:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec aliquam lectus eget rhoncus aliquet. Duis mollis, ligula quis dapibus mollis, magna velit aliquet mi, nec lacinia erat nulla nec dui. Nunc nec imperdiet [1] [2] [3] quam. [4] Aliquam iaculis [5] [6] [7] non tortor nec vestibulum. Curabitur accumsan bibendum tristique. Morbi ac felis massa. Donec eget mauris enim. Phasellus tristique [8] [9] mauris ipsum, ac euismod felis sollicitudin vitae.

But I guess I'd take it if that was the official, last word on how to do it. So my question is, after all that, is this a situation that has a best practice? Is there a good way to get Microsoft Word to display adjacent footnote references?

  • 1
    Is this really on-topic? It seems more like a technical question about MS Word, not about the English language. Use whichever format looks best to the reader, and put up with the squigglies. – Barmar May 30 '14 at 15:29
  • Though I am using Word, I'm asking it as a formatting question: is there a proper way to format footnote references in this example. If this is not the proper forum for that question, I apologize. I thought having rules about formatting meant we almost never just "use whichever format looks best to the reader". How could I even know that? – Michael Davis May 30 '14 at 15:31
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    I think I've almost always seen them separated with commas. – Barmar May 30 '14 at 15:33
  • Why would you not submit that as an answer, then? I have never seen an example, which is why I'm asking this question on the internet. – Michael Davis May 30 '14 at 15:35
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    The solution to the technical problem is to stop using Word and use LaTeX instead. – Azor Ahai Sep 29 '16 at 22:03
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Whenever I've seen footnotes expressed using superscripts (i.e. most printed books and articles), I think I've always seen adjacent footnotes separated with commas, with no spaces after the commas. E.g.

This line of text is a footnote reference example.1,2

If it confuses Microsoft Word, too bad.

  • Despite any snark from our above comment discussion, I genuinely appreciate the answer. I have never seen an example in print before. – Michael Davis May 30 '14 at 15:42
  • Also, I think my original question may have made it sound as if I thought Word was the final authority on formatting; it was more that I assumed I must have been doing something wrong with the commas because Word was giving me a red flag and I figured Word would know better than I would. I apologize if I was vague. – Michael Davis May 30 '14 at 15:44
  • I would just add that from what I've seen, the commas are not followed by spaces. – Shovalt Sep 6 '18 at 14:38
  • @Shovalt Thanks, I've updated the answer with an example. – Barmar Sep 6 '18 at 15:15
  • Of course, footnote references go after the period and with a comma when referencing two separate footnotes. – Lambie Sep 6 '18 at 15:21
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If you want to footnote two or more separate things at one location, combine the footnotes into one, with two or more separate pieces of documentation or other information in it. The only times I have ever seen two distinct superscript numbers at the end of a sentence, for the purpose of documentation, have been in the context of a numbers system of documentation as used in the physical sciences—where various documentary sources are numbered in the order they are cited, and then listed in a bibliography in numerical order. Such numbers are comma-separated, but they are not footnote or endnote numbers or calls.

  • Right. You either do two paragraphs or two footnotes. There is also the section issue. – Lambie Sep 6 '18 at 15:17

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