The SSA style sheet philosophy is very simple. No one writes after they die. This simple fact is the foundation of the so-called “historical layering principle”, which requires SSA authors to bear this semiotic truth in mind while finalizing their writing for publication. Upon that truth is based the SSA’s principle of reference style as expressed in the SSA Style Sheet, still to this day the only style sheet to uphold that truth explicitly.* Unique to it is the requirement that authors citing sources take not only scholarly but also temporal account of the “historical layers” implicit in their use of others’ writings. References historically layered enable readers to see at a glance the time dimension of the discourse, just as geologists see the history of the earth in rock layers.
One consequence is that it behooves TAJS authors to research the history of the writings they refer to in order to develop and cultivate their own historical conscience. The semiotic underpinning is that to quote an author is to refer to that historical author’s own symbolical creation and to affirm that origination as of greater semiosic significance than its reproduction or rendition by subsequent editors or translators. In so doing, historical authors retain responsibility for the quoted thought. Correct dating within citations is therefore an ethical as much as a logical act that envelops care with exactitude, due recognition, and indebtedness.
The practical application of this principle relies on the distinction between source works, tied to the lifetime of the text’s author, and access volumes, which may at times be the same as the source work. That distinction yields a reference style at once simple and compatible with the informational content demanded by all other styles, but with this advantage: the SSA Style uniquely establishes for any cited work an invariant reference base across all disciplines, in accord with semiotics’ own interdisciplinarity.
Thus, in SSA publications, the reference or source date for a work in relation to its author should, both ideally and on principle, be taken from within the lifetime of that author or source. Other dates may be important, for instance when the access volume is a translation or a particular edition. If the access volume is a translation or an edition from outside the source’s lifetime, that information—the access date for the work—will be given in the final list of References, but in every case the reference year is that of the source work. The complete “References” list, at the end of the article, otherwise follows standard form, arranged alphabetically by last name of authors; SSA Style requires that all last names be fully capitalized.
Manuscript submissions are expected to be submitted conscientiously prepared in accord with the historical layering principle and to be complete as far as the scholarly intent and state of the knowledge of a field allow. The full version of the Style Sheet is available in The American Journal of Semiotics 4.3–4 (1986), 193–215, and in the Semiotics 1984 Proceedings volume pp. 715–739. An abbreviated version is provided here.
A second SSA Style requirement that opts for logic over custom concerns punctuation placement vis-à-vis quotation marks. Given that the purpose of quotation marks is to show what was actually said or written, the rule is that punctuation which is part of the source cited belongs inside quotation marks; otherwise punctuation is placed after the closing quotation mark.
* The SSA Style Sheet has been adopted by the University of St. Thomas Center for Thomistic Studies for its publications program and also for the preparation of undergraduate papers, graduate papers, and dissertations: see their PDF.