Citation, Documentation of Sources

Q. Can you call out a figure from a subsequent section? For example, can you make a first reference to figures 3.9 through 3.12 in section 2.4? My stance is that you can’t make a first-reference callout from the future, only from the current or a previous section. Calling out subsequent sections and appendixes (but not tables and figures) seems somehow different and not subject to this rule, which I might well have unknowingly made up.

A. This is one of many situations where it’s not helpful to consider the general rule to be inflexible. If certain figures are mainly discussed in chapter 3 but the writer wants to point forward to them in chapter 2, it’s perverse to either not allow it or force the writer to move the figures to chapter 2, away from the main discussion. Writers organizing a book should number the figures in the order they are discussed in the text, but after that, they should be able to refer to them anywhere the figures enhance the discussion.