When I asked this on English.SE, the question was closed; it was suggested that I ask on Writers.SE instead. To be clear, I mean the section sign § (utf-8: 0xC2 0xA7), which is available via \S in LaTeX, § in HTML, and Compose+s+o in the X Window System.

In the main text of a scientific article, I write out the word "section", e.g., "In Section 3, I review the details of". For references, I like to specify a section to make the reference more specific and use the section sign, e.g., "as in Smith & Bloggs (1994, §8.2.5)".

Is this usage wrong or otherwise discouraged? I prefer using the symbol for brevity; a reference like "Smith & Bloggs (1994, Section 30.1.5)" seems awkward to me. However, one of my co-authors, who is usually right about grammar and style, disagrees.

If using the symbol in this way is wrong, then when should one use the section sign, if ever?

I could probably sidestep the issue by referring instead to pages. Is this preferred under standard citation practices?

  • I couldn't find many appropriate tags...
    – Warrick
    Commented Aug 17, 2011 at 14:31
  • 1
    I would ask this question on Academia.SE for because it's highly related to academic context.
    – Ooker
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 11:01

2 Answers 2


I see the §-sign mainly used in legal texts, maybe your co-author has the same problem.

If you use the section sign, I would put a space (a small non-breaking) between the sign and the numbers (§ 8.5.2).

Using page numbers instead is a nice thing to do, especially if you refer to a single page in a bigger section. If you want to refer to the whole section, I prefer section 3.5.6 or § 3.5.6 instead of p. 254-271.

You may be interested in the Legal Research and Citation Style in USA.


I think your distinction is perfect. That's exactly how I'd do it.


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