Years ago I had to fight to preserve citation styles - especially fighting inline citation. Because I honestly believe Inline citation is ugly and throws off my reading experience.

Now, Citations in the style I used then were generated by Text<sup>Source p.##</sup> for
TextSource p.##

That could result in problematic rendering on screen readers. For example, some just strip supertext formatting and render it
TextSource p.##.

At times I fixed that by adding a space before the supertext. Better... but not nice sill: I was told other users have problems reading more than a few characters of supertext.

As a result, I have asked on Meta if the stack could offer us a method that makes formatting references easier.

In the meantime, I am working on manually formatting my citations using Supertext for just numerals and a list of sources in the end - which technically is where I had adapted my citation style from. The example would look like this:

Text 1

  1. Source p.##

Are there problems with the new and improved citation style that botch accessibility?

After a test, using Wikipedia style [1] for the supertext can turn the source-number into a link, like seen with this: 1

(1) doesn't do this so might be the better adjustment if needed, unless a link is wanted

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Having a standard citation style is good enough that we should encourage it, but enough that it should be enforced. Fixing citation styles that are inaccessible however is a good idea. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 23, 2021 at 12:05
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Since we don't enforce a citation style, I am looking to make it accessible (possibly also closer to the actual style I want) \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 12:09
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ By “inline” to you mean “on the same baseline,” that is, as opposed to super- or sub- scripts? \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented May 25, 2021 at 2:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan yes, Inline citation is (Smith, 2010). It's an Eyesore and either a long, long block that stops reading, or says nothing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Commented May 25, 2021 at 9:12
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Is this a question or a rant? We have long established that there is no style guide for this Stack. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 25, 2021 at 21:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast it is a problem I am facing. I had been given a hard lecture in chat that my citation style would be inaccessible. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Commented May 25, 2021 at 21:38
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ especially fighting inline citation. Because I honestly believe Inline citation is ugly and throws off my reading experience That's a matter of taste, and I've seen part of the extended conversation in chat. Think of your reader, not yourself. (Advice I got from a college professor ...) \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 25, 2021 at 23:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ FWIW I'll echo @KorvinStarmast. Anyone in any writing-heavy field -- heck, anyone who can read -- is bound to have a personal preference in citations. I'm certainly in a writing field, and I heavily prefer inline citations. Except insofar as it's an accessibility problem, it's all a matter of taste. \$\endgroup\$
    – screamline
    Commented May 26, 2021 at 1:50

1 Answer 1


The most accessible way to format citations that is, well, accessible to us, is probably to include them parenthetically (or with brackets or what have you). As you have found, whether you make them superscript or not makes no difference.

As for footnotes, there is no way to make superscript numbers jump to the appropriate footnote and back as you would have on Wikipedia. We cannot create anchors in our text, which is what you would use to enable that kind of jumping—in short, the browser doesn’t recognize the footnote as a “thing” that you can jump to, and no URL will do so.

Ultimately, parentheses or brackets or whatever don’t do a whole lot of good. Purely-visual formatting, like super- or sub- scripts, does less, as you have found. Manual footnotes done by including a superscript number in the text and including an ordered list at the end is even worse, because in the text it’s just going to read the number and then later on—potentially much later on—it’s going to introduce a list and the numbered items will be read. And there is zero we can do about that.

Frankly, even if we had complete control of the page’s markup, we still probably couldn’t do a great job—the state of the art in this respect is fairly poor. HTML provides a <cite> tag which can be used to indicate that something is a citation, but doesn’t really provide anything to apply to the superscript number to say that it is an indicator that a given citation is relevant. But we would have that, and we could have links back and forth. So it would be better. But not great.

The only realistic solution here is for Stack Exchange to install some extension to their Markdown processor to handle footnotes and/or citations. My guess is that this request would not receive high priority—most Stack Exchange sites aren’t especially concerned with citation. But if you are interested in pursuing this, MSE would be the place to do it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ your first paragraph is an inline citation style, which I find is an eyesore., It is also disallowed in many scientific fields due to convention. Jumping back and forth is not a goal. And I did open a Meta SE question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Commented May 25, 2021 at 9:09
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ @Trish Jumping back and forth is, as far as I can tell, the only accessible solution there is (and no, it’s not great). As for an inline style being an eyesore, that’s a valid opinion, but you now have to consider whether that opinion is more important to you than accessibility, because it’s the best we’ve got. There certainly is no convention preventing us from using them. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented May 25, 2021 at 12:23

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .