When should one use a section sign (§)?

I recently asked this on English.SE. My question was closed but there was a suggestion to post here. To be clear, the "section sign" § is \S in LaTeX, &sect; in HTML and Compose+s+o in the X Window System.

I'm writing a scientific article. In the main text, I write out the word "section". e.g. "In Section 3, I review the details of ..." When referring to books, I like to specify a section to make the reference more useful. Here, I use the section sign. e.g. "... as in Smith & Bloggs (1994, §8.2.5)".

Is this usage wrong or otherwise discouraged? I prefer using the symbol for brevity. A reference like "Smith & Bloggs (1994, Section 30.1.5)" seems awkward to me. But one of my co-authors, who is usually right about grammar and style, disagrees. If it is wrong, then when should one use the section sign, if ever?

I realise I could probably sidestep the issue by referring instead to pages. Is this preferred under standard citation practices?

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I couldn't find many appropriate tags... –  Warrick Aug 17 '11 at 14:31

I see the §-sign mainly used in legal texts, maybe your co-author has the same problem.

If you use the section sign, I would put a space (a small non-breaking) between the sign and the numbers (§ 8.5.2).

Using page numbers instead is a nice thing to do, especially if you refer to a single page in a bigger section. If you want to refer to the whole section, I prefer section 3.5.6 or § 3.5.6 instead of p. 254-271.

You may be interested in the Legal Research and Citation Style in USA.

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I think your distinction is perfect. That's exactly how I'd do it.

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Ok deleted. This had shown up in the "answers that need reviewing", & I guess it does make sense when you read the question :) –  Shantnu Tiwari Sep 19 '12 at 8:48