I sometimes say that the Chicago Manual of Style has an answer to every question. While that's an exageration, of course, I did just find it taking a position on a point of finer detail that I think vaguely about from time to time:
An author-date citation, like any other bibliographic citation, is a noun form; it denotes a work, not a person ... A locution such as "in Smith 1999," though technically proper, is awkward and best avoided. Reword—for example, "Smith's study (1999) indicates that ..." (16.115)
The CMoS calls this a "syntactic consideration", which is to say that it goes to the logic of referencing, and I want to spend a few posts on that subject.
Suppose that Joe Smith once discovered that there is a positive link between organizational complexity and stress-related sick leave and that he published a paper presenting this finding in 1999. If you want to cite this paper, you need to put it on your reference list (more on that later). Once this has been done, as the CMoS points out, you have created a noun, in fact, a proper name, but not of a person. It's the name of a thing—a text, a "work".
"Joe Smith" is the name of the author. And "Smith 1999" is the name of the text. As the CMoS points out, you can, technically speaking, use "Smith 1999" straighforwardly in a sentence.
Smith 1999 is a study of organizational complexity and its connection to stress-related sick leave.
Let me stress that this is not good style, it is just okay grammar. And here's the subtle syntactical point: the following sentence is grammatically wrong.
Smith (1999) is a study of organizational complexity and its connection to stress-related sick leave.
By putting the date in brackets the single noun "Smith 1999" is actually converted into two separate nouns, both of which are short forms that depend on context to make sense. It actually says:
Joe Smith (Smith 1999) is a study of organizational complexity and its connection to stress-related sick leave.
And that's not true, of course. Joe is not a study (he is a 'student' of the subject). And the reference is in a strange position so that we don't really know what it's saying. We've essentially made nonsense of this sentence.
I suspect that a great deal of writing in organization theory (and no doubt also other fields) is rendered nonsensical because too many writers don't understand the syntax of author-date references. The purpose of a reference is to refer, of course, and a successful act of referring is one that indicates exactly that thing, or part of a thing, that you want point out to the reader. Over the next few posts I want to show just how precisely that can actually be done.