5 Most Common Style Guides

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Easily when working as an editor, one of the most common questions I ask of a new client, is what Style Guide they are using. Sometimes, I am asked by a prospective client what ones I am familiar with and like everyone, as an editor and researcher I have some that I am most proficient at using. If you work as an editor long enough, however, you will end up coming across a wide variety of style over the years, including some that are exclusive to certain publications. The truth of the matter is, though, that there are a small handful that editors and writers encounter the most. Here are my thoughts on the 5 Most
Common Style Guides that I have worked with in the last 25 years.

American Psychological Association Style (APA)
Obviously this was originally created for the discipline of Psychology and other Behavioural Sciences, but as time has progressed more and more of the Social Sciences and Journals are requiring APA to be used.  In many of these disciplines there is a need to reduce the bias within the literature, because so much of the research deals with communication (interviews, in particular) and thus allows you to avoid gendered pronouns, learn though it to bring information forward so that is can stand on its own without the bias of language.

APA provide a very clean, consistent, and easy to navigate format that writers, editors, and readers alike the ease of understanding the document.

It is also particularly useful because of how citations are handled both within the text and in the Bibliography or Works Cited.

Associated Press (AP)
The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law has been around in 1953 and is considered the premiere tool for anyone working as an American Journalist today. Originally created for reporters, it is now the leading publication reference for any communication in the public forum. It allows for a consistency across the country for writers and editors in new and social media. It also is designed to assist a writer and editor in creating full impact stories in a tight medium of brevity.

Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago) & Turabian
A huge, in-depth style guide, the Chicago Manual of Style is probably the most common guide that I have come across in the last 15-20 years. It is used across many academic disciplines and has two different citations systems available depending upon whether you are working with the Social Sciences, Note-Bibliography citation system, or the Physical Science, where the Author-Date citation system is typically used.

I personally find that Chicago is a bit lengthy and overly abundant in nit picky rules, however, after working with it for several years, most of the common rules are easy to remember and there are several on-line tools to consult if you have questions.

Sometimes, when working with Chicago, you hear the term Turabian—this is an offshoot guide that was created for Research by Kate L. Turabian.

Modern Language Association
The MLA Handbook is what I learned in high school back in the 1980s/90s and is to this day still used in classroom education when teaching research papers. Outside of the classroom, you will find MLA used in the Liberal Arts and Humanities (when APA isn’t being used), including Literary Criticism, Cultural Studies, Comparative Literature and Analysis, and Foreign Language studies.

The Elements of Style
Possibly the most outdated and overrated of the list, The Elements of Style was once considered the penultimate Style Guide. Time, however, has overtaken it and as newer styles have been developed and honed, The Elements of Style has fallen to less use. The book is smaller than most and is a generalized collection of advice (not always substantiated) on word usage and writing. I NEVER suggest it to any of my clients, because it just doesn’t not work as well with modern publishing.

So, there you have it, the top 5 Most Common Style Guides that I have encountered over the years. If you have a style guide that you think should be on this list, or if you have one that is very rare and you think it should be on my upcoming “Rare or Obscure Style Guides” post, let me know!

Galen, An Editor’s Journey

Important Websites:
American Psychological Association (APA)
Associated Press Style (AP)
Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago)
Modern Language Association (MLA)

Books mentioned on this page on Amazon:


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