Format, Style and Reference Guidelines

Layout and formatting
Special instructions for language papers; Sections; Tables, figures, and maps; Notes and acknowledgements

Language and style
Spelling; Serial commas; Quotations and punctuation; Italics; Abbreviations and acronyms; Numbers and dates

In-text citations; Archival sources; List of references; Sample references



Prior to publication, NJAS will format your paper according to our in-house stylesheet. Please keep your own formatting as simple as possible. Because we are a multidisciplinary journal, our formatting and reference instructions may be slightly different from common conventions in any particular discipline. Please read and follow the guidelines carefully.

Linguistics papers

We have a short set of special formatting instructions for linguistics papers. Papers that do not follow these guidelines will not be accepted for publication. 

Examples with interlinear glossing should be aligned using tabs, not spaces.

If your paper has complex formatting or extensive use of special characters, please also send us a reference pdf, if your paper is accepted for publication.


Please do NOT use automatic numbering or formatting styles for sections or examples in MS Word.

Numbering of subsections should be used at the discretion of the author in consultation with the responsible subject editor. In general, linguistics papers use section numbers while humanities-themed papers do not, but please consult with your section editor in case of doubt. 

Tables, figures, and maps

Tables, figures, and maps should be numbered (Table 3, Figure 6, etc.) and accompanied by a caption. Table captions should appear above and figure and map captions below the item. Graphics can be included in the manuscript itself, or submitted as separate electronic files with their place clearly indicated in the main text. For final publication, pictures and maps should be submitted as separate, high-quality files (TIFF or vector images if at all possible). Please only include images and maps for which you have unrestricted pubication permissions.

Notes and acknowledgements

Use footnotes rather than endnotes. Footnotes should be numbered consecutively throughout the text. 

Acknowledgements should be presented in a footnote on the first page, preceding any other footnotes. All contributors to the research (research participants, interviewees, funders, etc.) should be acknowledged appropriately. Please discuss this with your subject editor if you are not sure of the best way to do this. Acknowledgements can be omitted from the anonymized review version of the paper, but should be added as appropriate before final publication.

LANGUAGE AND STYLE     Back to top


Use British spelling conventions (e.g. colour, neighbour, programme) and -ize endings (e.g. theorize, recognize, but analyse, paralyse).

Serial commas

Use the serial (Oxford) comma for items in a list (e.g. Mali, Nigeria, and Somalia; feminine, masculine, or neuter).

Quotations and punctuation

Use double quotation marks for quotes, with single for quotes within quotes (e.g. “the ‘new’ regime”). 

Quotations of more than 50 words should be set as block quotations (extracts), indented with no quotation marks. Do not enclose extracts in quotation marks. Where there are quotes within the extracts, use single quotation marks.

Use an ellipsis in brackets (…) to indicate content omitted from a quotation:

e.g. “The first of these is to defuse (…) the potential hostility of silence in situations where speech is conventionally anticipated” (Laver 1992, 301). 

In quotations from interviews, an ellipsis without brackets … may be used to indicate a pause in speech.

Use single quotation marks for glosses and translations (e.g. ruma ‘house’), newly introduced terminology, and scare quotes (e.g. when used ‘ironically’).

For parenthetical dashes use an en dash with spaces before and after: 

e.g. “Observers and activists accuse these governments – often authoritarian – of using these justifications to clamp down on political opposition.”


Use italics for emphasis and for foreign words (with translations in single quotation marks). Italics should also be used for titles of books, journals, films, and TV programmes:

e.g. this issue of the Nordic Journal of African Studies; the film The Gods Must Be Crazy; Berlin and Kay’s book Basic Color Terms 

Article and chapter titles should be referred to in double quotation marks (i.e. works should be referred to using the same style – italics or quotation marks – as used in the references).

e.g. Dell Hymes, in his seminal article “The ethnography of speaking” (1962)

Abbreviations and acronyms

Abbreviations, acronyms and other conventions (e.g. capitalization) should be used consistently throughout the paper. Acronyms should be spelt out at the first occurrence, and typed without full points, e.g. USA (not U.S.A.).

Abbreviations such as e.g. and i.e. may be used to present information in parentheses (with no comma following) but should not be used in running text.

Numbers and dates

Spell out the numbers one to ten; use digits thereafter. Separate thousands with commas, not periods (e.g. 1,256). Use points rather than commas for decimals (e.g. 0.032).

Separate number spans (both dates and page numbers) with en dashes (e.g. 1768–1787). Do not contract number spans (e.g. 130–136, not 130-6).

All dates should be in the format October 4, 2019.

REFERENCES     Back to top

In-text citations

NJAS uses the Chicago referencing style (author-date system). The examples below are provided for guidance. A full guide can be found here:

In-text citations should follow the form (Wolff 1981, 244–246), or “... on the origin of Bantu languages, Guthrie (1971, 13) stated...”.

Multiple citations should be separated by commas for works by the same author and semicolons for works by different authors: (Silverstein 1976, 2003; Blommaert 2007). 

Where possible, list references in chronological order, oldest first.

Use “and” rather than ampersand for two authors: (Matras and Sakel 2007).

Use “et al.” for three or more authors – e.g. Appiah et al. (2000) – but be sure to provide all authors’ names in the reference list. 

Avoid the use of ibid., f., or ff.

Please check that all (and only) the sources cited in the text are included in the references.

Interviews should be referenced in the text as follows: (Name of interviewee, interview, date of interview). For example, (Maria Jonas, interview, March 1, 2016).

Archival sources

Archival sources should to be cited in footnotes. This format should be used:

Title or description of item, date (day, month, year), Reference code, Collection name, Repository name, Location of repository. URL if applicable.

For example:

J. A. H. Wolff, PC RVP, to A. A. A. Ekirapa for DC, Nandi, February 1963, DC/KPT/2/13/4, Kenya National Archives (KNA), Nairobi.

List of references

NJAS uses the Chicago referencing style (author-date system). The examples below are provided for guidance. A full guide can be found here:

The list of references or bibliography should be presented in one list in alphabetical order. Please format your references carefully following Chicago style guidelines, and note in particular the following conventions: 


Amadiume, Ifi. 1997. Reinventing Africa: Matriarchy, Religion and Culture. London: Zed Books.

Poulos, George, and Christian T. Msimang. 1998. A Linguistic Analysis of Zulu. Pretoria: Via Afrika.

Richter, Roxane, Thomas Flowers, and Elias Bongmba. 2017. Witchcraft as a Social Diagnosis: Traditional Ghanaian Beliefs and Global Health. New York: Lexington Books.


Flight, Colin. 1988. “Bantu Trees and Some Wider Ramifications. African Languages and Cultures 1 (1): 25–43.

Chapters in books

Mbembe, Achille. 2006. “Variations on the Beautiful in Congolese Worlds of Sound.” In Beautiful/Ugly: African and Diaspora Aesthetics, edited by Sarah Nuttall, 60–93. Durham: Duke University Press.

Edited volume

Nassenstein, Nico, and Anne Storch, eds. 2020. Swearing and Cursing: Contexts and Practices in a Critical Linguistic Perspective. Vol. 22. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

Online media articles

Burayu, W. 2020. “Qeerroo: From ‘Revolt against Subjugation’ to ‘Popular Uprising against Tyranny’.” Ethiopia Insight, 03/09/2020. Accessed November 5, 2021.

Recorded fieldwork interviews

Name of interviewee, interview by [name(s) of interviewer(s)], place of interview, date of interview.

Maria Jonas, interview by Helena Chaibo, Cape Town, March 1, 2016.

Note that interviews should be cited in the reference list, as it allows for shorter in-text citations, which improve the readability of the text.


Orr, Rodney Hugh. 1998. “African American Missionaries to East Africa 1900-1926: A Study in the Ethnic Reconnection of the Gospel.” PhD diss., University of Edinburgh.