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Cf. (orig. posted May 2002)

Posted by (Various posters) on August 10, 2002

Posted by R. Berg on May 21, 2002

In Reply to: cf posted by psi on May 21, 2002

: Can anyone help me with "cf", please?

: I am editing a piece where a particularly distinguished person has used it in the context:

: "She followed a principle of blah (cf. her book Blah Blah Blah)..."

: cf is in both my dictionaries as meaning "compare, from Latin confer", nothing more, nothing less.

: Personally I would have thought comparing suggested a contrast, whereas this context suggests looking up, as a reference. Maybe "vid." would be a good substitution, but I wonder of anyone here has any better suggestions.

: Because of the nature of the work, I only want to change it if I am absolutely sure of my ground.

: ... which I'm not!

: psi

"Cf." does indeed stand for "confer," and it means "compare." It isn't properly used to mean "see." Many authors, even distinguished ones--well, maybe not the MOST distinguished ones--use it when they should be using "see." (They saw it used that way in other writers' academic works and so thought it was correct.) "Cf. Robins, 1994," is appropriate if the author wishes to point the reader to a comparison between the point she has just made and what Robins says. Comparisons may involve differences, similarities, or both. In context, your author's "cf." looks like a simple "see." You can change it without comment or query, informing/reminding her of the meaning of "cf." and asking whether "see" would better fit the meaning in this instance.

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