Changing citation style in word processor

I am new to Zotero (have used Sente till now) and am just figuring out its capabilities as well as the differences between LibreOffice and Word.

One of the things I have been looking at in Zotero is the ability to move back and forth between MLA 8 and APA. That is inherently a complicated matter because the position of citations within a typical sentence is often different in the two styles. Nevertheless, the ability to switch referencing styles and have the citations and references update is very nice. But there are a few of glitches with the Word app related to the use of empty references (no pages and author suppressed).

1. In MS Word, when I go from MLA to APA back to MLA via Document Preferences in the Zotero tab, the citation doesn't disappear for references that were empty (no pages and author suppressed). Rather, the APA citation (a date in parentheses) remains after one converts back to MLA. If you show fields in Word (alt F9), you see that the APA citation sits outside the field. So one would have to delete all of them manually. Non-empty citations are handled fine: the APA citation (which is incorporated into the field, as it should be) disappears after conversion back to MLA.

2. Editing an empty reference in Word (tricky to do but possible, it seems, by selecting some surrounding text where one knows an empty reference must be) is similarly problematic: if one adds a page range, say, Word will create a citation that isn't properly part of the field. The citation remains page-less and author-less.

These problem do not occur in LibreOffice, so there would seem to be some implementation bugs in the Word Add-On.

Are these problems known and likely to be resolved, or is the lesson here that it pays to use LibreOffice if I am going to use Zotero as my reference manager from now on? Are there other problems with Word that I am going to discover down the road?

There is a further (minor) issue with MLA and APA unrelated to the Word and LibreOffice add-ons.

3. MLA, unlike APA, ask for page ranges to be abbreviated where possible by showing only the last two digits. In MLA: 125-29, 225-329. In APA: 125-129, 225-329. Zotero appears to just accept whatever range you type in for the reference. Could it not convert ranges to meet the formatting expectations of the style? Otherwise, one would need to check and update the Pages field manually in the Info tab for all of one's references.
  • (Zotero used to display an error for empty citations; this has changed -- I think for the better -- but since it's new behavior I'd expect some remaining issues.)

    1. I actually can't replicate your issue in Word. The MLA reference disappears for m in Word 2016 for Windows. Which version of Word and Zotero are you on?

    2. When I do this by showing the field code and adding the page to an otherwise empty citation, this works correctly for me. Obviously doing this feels pretty hackish.

    We've been meaning to do 3. Not sure why that has never happened. Zotero has the code to do this for page ranges and uses it in the bibliography, so this is just a matter of applying it in citations, too (same issue e.g. with Chicago manual) @fbennett -- do you remember the status of applying page-range-format to the locator?
  • Thanks for the quick reply.

    1. Sorry, should have said I'm using the Mac OS (10.12.6). Word 2017 (15.38), Zotero 5.0.22.

    2. The way I went about changing the empty citation was to select some surrounding text and then click Add/Edit Citation. That called up the editor with the correct reference selected. Are you saying you toggled the field code and changed some of the complicated code?

    ADDIN ZOTERO_ITEM CSL_CITATION {"citationID":"HrvX2EK2","properties":{"formattedCitation":"","plainCitation":""},"citationItems":[{"id":119,"uris":[""],"uri":[""],"itemData":{"id":119,"type":"article-journal","title":"Genre as Social Action","container-title":"Quarterly Journal of Speech","page":"151-67","volume":"70","DOI":"10.1080/00335638409383686","author":[{"family":"Miller","given":"Carolyn R."}],"issued":{"date-parts":[["1984"]]}},"suppress-author":true}],"schema":""}

    I used the same method in LibreOffice (select surrounding text) but much easier to find the empty references than in Word (one sees a small grey vertical marker in LibreOffice), and it worked. It would be ideal for Word to work as simply as LibreOffice does.

    3. I was actually seeing the add-ins format references (not just citations) exactly as they are typed into the Info Tab in Zotero. Maybe this is also a discrepancy between the Mac and Windows implementations?
  • 3. Sorry, I was wrong -- we're actually already doing this, just not in MLA (Frank, ingore my Q above). I'll take a look
  • OK, 3. is now fixed for MLA.
    For 1. -- can you replicate this consistently in a new document?
  • Re 3: I would need to wait for an update, correct, to see this work? The page numbers for MLA still don't use the last two digits only where possible.

    1 seemed not to be a problem when I checked in an entirely new document, re-adding citations from scratch.
  • 3) Just clicking "Update Now" in the Zotero preferences and then switching to a different style and back should fix this.
  • Clicking Update Now and switching styles (in Preferences and Word—I wasn't sure which you meant) didn't fix the page numbers.

    1 also seems to be a problem again, so I can in fact reproduce the problem almost consistently.
  • Try in a new document. We can troubleshoot what's going on in your main document later, but we'd first want to know that things are generally working in a fresh document.
  • I tried in a fresh document, and there was no problem going from MLA to APA to MLA. In fact, when I repeated, there was no problem as well. The previous time I might have switched arbitrarily to a different format (not APA).
  • OK, how about MLA page numbers in a fresh doc?
  • Still a problem. E.g., Anson, Chris M., and L. Lee Forsberg. “Moving beyond the Academic Community: Transitional Stages in Professional Writing.” Written Communication, vol. 7, no. 2, 1990, pp. 200–231, doi:10.1177/0741088390007002002.
  • Try updating one more time & try again, please? I think the last version may not have worked right specifically on this example.
  • Still not working for me.
  • edited October 9, 2017
    It seems like style updating is broken, doesn't work for me either.
    @jerryplotnick if you want to test the updated version, just re-install MLA style from

    @dstillman could you take a look? (nevermind)
  • I believe I did what you asked, but the problem remains for me.
  • OK, sorry for the trouble, try upating again (i.e. Update Now, then switch to a different style&back). The relevant changes have now actually gone through.

    So assuming that works, I'm understanding correctly that in a new document everything is working correctly, right?
  • Yes, this feature now works. Many thanks for seeing this through.

    As for MLA 8 formatting generally, things look almost as good as I would expect for the limited number of item types I have had a chance to look at. There are some issues that would be common to most reference managers. For example, a review of a book in a journal doesn't fit well into the structure of a journal article. For one thing, the title of the article shouldn't be in quotes; for another, the title of the book under review would need to be italicized. But a saving grace of Zotero is that these special cases can be adjusted using the Bibliography editor. This is an excellent feature.

    It would be nice if there was a Season category instead of having to sneak that in with the year.

    Unlike most formats, MLA likes shortened versions of Publisher names. It would be nice if there were a Publisher Short field that MLA would use instead of Publisher whenever the former field is filled. Then switching between formats would be much less of a problem.

    I did come upon one small glitch. Authors with an initial followed by a full first name don't appear to get a space between the initial and the first name. E.g., Anson, Chris M., and L.Lee Forsberg. “Moving beyond the Academic Community: Transitional Stages in Professional Writing.” Written Communication, vol. 7, no. 2, 1990, pp. 200–31, doi:10.1177/0741088390007002002. You should be able to reproduce this problem quite easily. I checked with one other example. But the reference can be found here: problem.rdf?dl=0

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