Changing Word’s bibliography style to use square parentheses

This content is 12 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

One of my main activities right now is writing a white paper discussing how linked data potentially provides a solution to one of the problems that big data creates. I’m sure I’ll tweet the link when it’s published but, for a sneak preview of the main points, check out my lightning talk at CloudCamp London next week.

Unlike most of the stuff I create these days, it’s written for architects, rather than for a CIO/CTO and so the style is more of a technical journal than a piece of marketing collateral. That’s meant lots of graphics and fully-detailed sources. I’ve never used the citation capabilities in Microsoft Word before (I did write my dissertation in Word 2.0 for Windows, but that was in 1994 and it was still fairly feature-light then!) but I’ve been pretty impressed at its ability to create a bibliography for me.

Word lets me choose from a variety of bibliography styles but I have chosen ISO 690 (Numerical Reference). The only problem with this is that it uses normal round parentheses () rather than square parentheses [] which can be confusing when a sentence contains both text in parentheses (brackets) and a citation (1).

Custom Word 2007 bibliography styleA bit of googling turns up various solutions involving editing XSLT stylesheets but that all seems a bit of a pain. Then I found that “Yves” on CodePlex has already done the work and released ISO690NmericalSquare.XSL.  After downloading this to %ProgramFiles%\Microsoft Office\Office12\Bibliography\Style and restarting Word (2007 in my case – there’s anecdotal evidence to suggest it would work for Office14/2010 too), I have a new option in the bibliography style dropdown and my citations are all labelled with square parentheses.


8 thoughts on “Changing Word’s bibliography style to use square parentheses

  1. There is a problem on ISO690NmericalSquare.XSL file with Word 2013. Is there a way to make compatible with the new office.

  2. The only difference from the previous versions I’ve met so far is that the location of the actually used Style directory is in App Data\Roaming\Microsoft\Bibliography\Style…

  3. Thank for the topic!

    I use the latest Office Version. The edited file doesn’t work under Word 2013.
    I’ve found a tutorial for editing the ISO690Nmerical by yourself. The negative point of this tutorial is, that they only change the square brackets in the main corpus of a text. Later in the bibliography Word still use the original brackets ().
    There are some further tutorials in the internet, too, wich show a for editing the brackets in the bibliography. When I do this steps, my .xml is “damaged” and Word isn’t able to read this file. Addiotinal, the tutorials don’t help in the issue of re-naming the file. Many users want both files in their dropdown menu () and [ ] . It would be of advantage to change the indicated name in the application, too.

    May I asked, if you are able to fix this issue for Word 2013, too?

    kind regards!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.