4

Is there a word for (1) note marks in the text with missing corresponding description in the margin/foot, and (2) descriptions in the margin/foot with missing note mark in the text?

I know of words "orphan" and "widow" used in type setting context, and feel they are reminiscent. Can they be used for this concept, or not?

1
  • 1
    I have always called them that when marking up page proofs, and my publisher knew quite exactly what I meant.
    – tchrist
    Oct 29, 2014 at 3:11

1 Answer 1

1

In U.S. publishing, the definitions of orphan and widow that appear in the Key Terms glossary in Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition (2001) are widely accepted:

orphan. A short line appearing at the bottom of a page, or a word or part of a word appearing on a line by itself at the end of a paragraph. Orphans can be avoided by changes in wording or spacing that either remove the line or lengthen it.

...

widow. A short paragraph-ending line appearing at the top of a page. Widows should be avoided when possible by changes in wording or spacing that either remove the line or lengthen it.

Using the terms orphan and widow to refer to missing text elements (such as a missing footnote or a missing in-text footnote reference) doesn't make any more or less sense to me than using fine print for the former and callout for the latter—two other terms that (like orphan and widow) have specific meanings in publishing that are unrelated to footnotes and footnote references. It's not that, in either case, a writer or an editor won't be able to figure out what the other person means when that person uses a publishing term in an idiosyncratic way; it's that using such terms in novel ways introduces an otherwise avoidable "figuring out" phase into the process—a phase that each new editorial partner of the person who uses the terms idiosyncratically must pass through.

If by "note marks in the text with missing corresponding description in the margin/foot" you mean a footnote reference (a superscript 8, say) that appears in the main text without there being a corresponding footnote 8 at the bottom of the page or in the margin, I recommend noting the absent footnote with the words "Footnote 8 missing here." The term I have seen used most often in publishing for this phenomenon is missing footnote.

And if by "descriptions in the margin/foot with missing note mark in the text" you mean a present footnote (footnote 8, say) but a missing in=text reference to it (a superscript 8, in this case), I recommend noting this problem with the words "Missing in-text reference to footnote 8" or "missing in-text superscript 8." The term I have seen used most often in publishing for this phenomenon is missing in-text footnote reference.

These phrases can't easily be misunderstood, and the person you're working with won't have to spend even a moment figuring out that you aren't talking about orphans and widows (or fine print and callouts) in the normal publishing sense of those words, but about fugitive text elements.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.