Five Most Common Style Guides

Five Most Common Style Guides

When working as an editor on academic and research documents, one of the most common questions I ask of a new client is the 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. Suppose you work as an editor long enough. In that case, however, you will end up coming across a wide variety of styles over the years, including some that are exclusive to specific publications. However, the truth of the matter is that there is a small handful that editors and writers encounter the most. Here are my thoughts on the five most standard style guides that I have worked within the last 25 years.

American Psychological Association Style (APA)

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

APA provides a very clean, consistent, and easy-to-navigate format that writers, editors, and readers alike can understand the document.

It is also beneficial because 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 since 1953 and is considered the premier tool for anyone working as an American Journalist today. It was created initially for reporters; it is now the leading publication reference for any communication in the public forum. It allows for consistency across the country for writers and editors in new and social media. It is also 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 vast, 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 citation systems 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 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 standard rules are easy to remember. There are several online tools to consult if you have questions.

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

Modern Language Association (MLA)

The MLA Handbook is what I learned in high school back in the 1980s/90s and is 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 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)

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