This entire section refers to fixed format only. Your COBOL system also accepts compilation groups written in free format.
The reference format, which provides a standard method for describing COBOL source text, is described in terms of character positions in a line on an input/output medium. Your COBOL system accepts source text written in reference format and produces an output listing using reference format.
The rules for spacing given in the discussion of the reference format take precedence over all other rules for spacing.