Scientific writing is sprinkled v Latin. Yes, there room “Latin” (or “scientific”) name of organisms, and those can be unexpectedly fascinating; yet that’s not my object today. Instead, that those tiny words and also phrases, frequently abbreviated: i.e., e.g., versus, sensu lato. Risk lurks for those who don’t use them very closely – and also it lurks in cf. especially, that seems.

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In fact, the misuse of cf. is high top top my list of creating pet peeves. It additionally carries a broader lesson, which I’ll acquire to.

So what’s the problem with cf.? It’s the I generally see it provided as if it method “see also”, or just “see” – but it doesn’t. It’s in reality an abbreviation of the Latin conferre*, precise “bring together”. It way “compare”, and in certain it says that the reader have the right to see the writer’s point by bringing with each other (to to compare or contrast) two or much more things the follow the “cf.”. For example, I can write “While concept confirms that assault by specialist parasitoids can reason herbivore populaces to cycle, authors have differed as to whether parasitoid-attack data because that spruce budworm are consistent with this system (cf. blacksmith 2014, Jones 2016)”. This is an ext specific than creating “e.g., smith 2014, Jones 2016” or “see smith 2014, Jones 2016”, in the it identify the contrast between those 2 citations as the point of interest.

So that’s what cf. method – other than that in vital sense the doesn’t, or in ~ least, not any more. It is the more comprehensive point ns promised. What a native “means” is simply a convention common by a set of readers about the info conveyed through its use. Those conventions space sometimes strong (with virtually everyone assigning the same meaning to a word) and also sometimes weak (with a solitary word having multiple meanings, some more familiar than others). To do matters worse, definitions can evolve and sometimes also reverse over time: for example, a counterfeit was when a actual copy. The an interpretation of counterfeit has now stabilized and also would confuse a reader only if friend tried to usage its initial sense. Cf., in contrast, is probably finest seen as currently in a state of quick semantic drift, through no consensus around its meaning. Together a result, it doesn’t issue whether you use cf. in its “correct” sense or that is “incorrect” one – some readers will misunderstand.

Of course, cf. is not drifting alone. The exact same is true, for example, the a moot point – some readers will assume you median a point open to debate (the original meaning), others will certainly assume you average a suggest irrelevant to the matter at hand (the more common definition now), and still rather will just be puzzled. Better to protect against the problem: friends don’t let friends usage cf. because as lengthy as its an interpretation hasn’t stabilized, the an ineffective tool for communication. Ditto because that moot point, and also beg the question for that matter, and also if you have a favourite example, please leaving it in the Replies.

Semantic drift is, through the way, a normal part of etymological evolution. It’s straightforward to decry the ruin of our language at the hand of that is ignorant butchers, but those who do so are just betraying their own naïveté around how language changes as human being use it. Similar to counterfeit, cf. and also moot point may soon be helpful words again; it’s just awkward the we’re living through the duration in i m sorry they’re changing too conveniently for trustworthy use**.

Since we’re ~ above the topic, various other Latin tidbits acquire misused too, albeit not so egregiously. This is a fast rundown of part common*** Latin words and also phrases. These aren’t mid-semantic drift; they’re just tricky. That method there’s a clear “correct” method to usage them, and also it’s perfect fine to carry out so. (Overusing them can make text sound stuffy and also pendantic, though.) by the way, italicization the Latin borrowings is a common but not universal convention; check journal style.

ca. Or c. (circa): “around” (temporally) or “approximately” etc. (et cetera): “and so on” (surely the the very least troublesome, however I have actually no idea why that abbreviated as if it to be a single word)e.g. (exempli gratia): “for example”i.e. (id est): “that is” (note that e.g. and also i.e. room not interchangeable)f./ff. (folio/folii): “and following”, referring generally to page numbers. 226f. would typical 226-227, when 226ff. would typical 226 and at the very least two an ext pages.ibid. (ibidem): “in the exact same place”, supplied to point out the exact same work most recently cited (common in arts and humanities, but rarely used in science).n.b. (nota bene): “take notice”, or “this is important”sensu X: “as used by human being X”, denote you intend a term to median what X expected by that (common in but not exclusive to systematics)sensu stricto (s.s.): “in the strict sense”sensu lato (s.l.): “in the vast sense” (s.s. and also s.l. space most usual in systematics, whereby they describe stricter or broader circumscriptions of genera, etc.)vs. (versus): “as opposed to”, “or in contrast to”

There. Sorting out cf.

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and its brethren might not readjust the world, but I’ll sleep better tonight. Such is the life of the word nerd.