Suffix/delimiter conflict in cites (bug)

edited November 12, 2018
This is a very specific case and hard to describe (sorry for the generic title). Since it occurs so rarely I don't mind treating it as an exception and custom-formatting the field when needed, but it is an odd result, so I'm reporting it as a bug for your information.

This only occurs in complex cites with multiple entries and when additional information must be added. Assume the following:

1. I'm citing two papers, Smith & Jones 2000, and Washington 2010.

2. I want to cite "p.c." (=personal communication) for additional information given to me by Jones, but this will not appear in my bibliography. I want to insert what looks like an additional citation within the field, but I'll do this as a suffix. Note that I only talked to Jones, not Smith (or Washington). So I want this to follow "Smith & Jones" and precede "Washington", but be specified as only "Jones".

3. Let's assume Chicago [17th ed., author-date] style (I think it occurs in any similar style), and the original citation would look like this:
(Smith and Jones 2008; Washington 2010)

4. I want to insert "Jones p.c." between those. This is the desired output, but cannot be generated by Zotero:
(Smith and Jones 2008; Jones p.c.; Washington 2010)

5. I can add ; Smith p.c.; as a suffix to "Smith & Jones". The result is this:
(Smith and Jones 2008; Jones p.c.;; Washington 2010)
(Note the doubled semi-colon delimiter.)

6. But if I remove that semi-colon and use the suffix ; Jones p.c., then the result strips both semi-colons, resulting in no delimiter:
(Smith and Jones 2008; Jones p.c. Washington 2010)

The only workaround appears to be inserting ; Jones p.c. as a suffix for the final item cited, but that restricts where it can appear in the cite (and I'd like it to appear near the first use of the name). Or I can of course avoid this entirely (split the cite in two and change my phrasing, for example). (Or I can customize the cite manually and break automatic updating.)


This only occurs very rarely when, for example, you wish to cite personal communication (etc.) from one of several co-authors. If it's just the original author then you can easily generate for example (Smith 2018, p.c.) but with the year-delimiter, not the author-delimiter (which in a more complicated cite would run into the same problem I assume). I haven't thoroughly tested this with other cases to see how or when exactly it occurs, but I hope that's enough information.
  • Actually, I just found my own workaround for this:

    Add Jones p.c. ; as a prefix to the following item, and then it does render properly, as if this is an additional item in the cite.

    Of course that's not semantically correct: the additional information from Jones should be associated with "Smith & Jones", but it displays correctly, and this occurs so rarely this isn't a practical problem.

    But hopefully the bug report above is still helpful.
  • What is “Jones p.c.”? If it is a different item, I would recommend just making a new item for it and entering “p.c.” in the Date field. Why exactly doesn’t that work.

    (Just a remeinder that short replies are much easier to read than very long ones.)
  • edited November 12, 2018
    What is “Jones p.c.”?
    Oh, odd. I used a less than symbol in my original post that got parsed as HTML and removed where I said p.c. = personal communication. Corrected and updated that post. Write out "pers. comm." or just "personal communication" if you prefer, it won't affect the technical issue.
    If it is a different item, I would recommend just making a new item for it and entering “p.c.” in the Date field. Why exactly doesn’t that work.
    It's a... quasi-item. It's not something I'd want to enter into Zotero as if it corresponds to a paper on my computer. It's an odd case, I admit, but relatively common in my field, and could come up anytime I think of something that someone said to me. Most importantly, it shouldn't appear in the bibliography, so I wouldn't want to cite it as an item in Zotero. (The purpose of putting it next to the citation for a paper is to identify who it is, no more info than that needed. Most often this is a much simpler situation like (Smith 2010, p.c.) which is easy to do without any technical issues. This is the first time I've ever run into this odd situation.)

    I'm not sure exactly what other unusual cases would cause this to come up. But one I can think of is "inter alia" or "among/and others", for example:
    (Smith 2010; inter alia; see also Jones 2011)

    In principle, because we cannot combine two cites (without duplicating parentheses), we should be able to add in any extra material between them.

    But if this is a technical issue in Zotero (there's some reason that the current logic of not allowing additional delimiters manually solves other problems unrelated to the current question), then that's fine. Again, this is a very rare case but seemed like a bug to me. I can work around it as needed.
  • Yeah, this seems like a clear bug to me. Was going to suggest prefix as a workaround, so I'm glad that works
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