Citation, Documentation of Sources

Q. How many works to include in a single citation? The following in-text citation includes too many works, to my taste: (Hong & Kuo 1999; Holton 2001; Rowden 2001; Reichert 1998; Gravin 1994; Holt et al. 2000; Griego et al. 2000; Thomsen & Hoest 2001; Goh 2003; Porth et al. 1999; Gardiner & Whiting 1997; Watkins & Marsick 1998). Does anyone have a rule that can be helpful in deciding (1) how many works are too many? (2) what you do with the works that have to be deleted? Suggest incorporating them elsewhere?

A. Author-date style can get ugly, and your wish to trim this string is understandable. But the right number of works is however many works the writer needs to list in support of the point she is making. It’s not a good idea for an editor to whittle down a writer’s documentation. Readers in the disciplines that use author-date style are used to being interrupted by it; they seem to appreciate the economical delivery of the information.