Citation, Documentation of Sources

Q. I write and edit reports for an environmental firm, and we frequently cite publications that are published by government organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency. These publications almost always include the authors’ names. We use the author-date system for citations. When referring to EPA publications in the text of a report, I typically word the text such that both EPA and the correct author-date text citation are mentioned (e.g., “As recommended by EPA guidance [Puls and Barcelona 1996], sampling . . .”). The project manager for one of the reports I’m working on has requested that we use the publishing organization name (or acronym) instead of the authors’ names in the in-text citations (e.g., use “EPA 1996” instead of “Puls and Barcelona 1996”) and then use a cross-reference in the references section to point to the correct citation based on the authors’ names. Is this appropriate? Her reasoning is that “EPA 1996” will be more recognizable to the reader than the authors’ names. I could not find a similar question in the Q&A, but if I missed one, please let me know!

A. Your manager’s system is a bit cruel, sending readers on a two-hop trip to the correct reference, in service of a spurious goal, since readers don’t normally need the names in author-date citations to be “recognizable.” Although CMOS allows an organization to serve as author when there is no author (see 15.37), when there are actual authors, it’s right to cite them.