Editor’s Corner: Chicago, MLA, APA, AP, Oh My!

Wondering what the difference is for writing styles? Heard of Chicago style? Know what APA is but not AP and MLA has you confused beyond reason? Take a look below at what the different styles are for writing and how uses what and when.

Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS)

  1. Chicago Manual of Style also known as CMOS.
  2. CMOS is the choice of style for book publishers.
  3. Used by writers and editors in academic fields, especially humanities and social sciences.
  4. Covers everything from style and usage of source citations.
  5. Uses the mechanics of editing and proofreading
  6. Comprehensive coverage and the go-to guide for most genres and formats like novels and blogs as well as creative non-fic.

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]Where does the Chicago style come from? Well, the style was named after Kate L. Turabian. She is the original author of A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. The Turabian manual is used by students. It covers citation style while covering advice on how to research, write, choose a topic, and how to finish their paper.

Modern Language Association (MLA)

MLA (sic Handbook) is also known as the Modern Language Association.

  1. It focuses exclusively on how to cite resources.
  2. MLA style is used by students who write papers on literature, theater, and film.

The latest edition of the handbook focuses exclusively on how to cite sources. A companion website answers questions about writing-related matters.



American Psychological Association (APA)

  1. APA manual focuses on writing styles and source citations.
  2. Students and professions use this style.
  3. Used as an editing and writing guide for social and behavioral sciences.
  4. Emphasis on writing about data.
  5. Used to present quantitative and qualitative results in tables and figures.

APA is a style used for non-fiction by students and professionals that are usually found in professions and programs such as psychology, data analysis, infrastructure analysis, information technology, and so forth. APA is a publication manual.

Associated Press Stylebook (AP)

  1. This style focuses on glossaries.
  2. It covers preferred spellings and abbreviations.
  3. It shows the writer how to choose the right term and avoid the wrong ones.
  4. Journalists and those who work in news and current events depend on this style.
  5. It is updated annually.

AP is mainly used for news articles, journalism, magazine articles, and so forth. Journalists rely heavily on this particular style and it is updated annually. Known by both AP or APS, it helps a writer or editor in the media industry to choose the right term or avoid the wrong one for any given context while writing or editing. Media Copy Editing uses this style as well.

Chicago, MLA, and APA all recommend the serial comma; AP does not. So “people, animals and machines” is AP style, but you’d need a comma after “animals” to make the grade with Chicago, MLA, and APA. In other words, in Chicago, MLA and APA an “and” still needs a comma even though “and” is representative of a comma.

Another big difference you’ll see between the styles is in titles. Chicago and MLA lowercase prepositions regardless of length. APA and AP capitalize all words of four letters or more, including prepositions. So The Man with the Greasy Monkey is correct according to Chicago and MLA; APA and AP would capitalize “with” (but not “the”). While we’re at it, AP would put the title in quotation marks instead of italics: “The Man With the Greasy Monkey.”

Possessives are different too. For proper names, Chicago, MLA, and APA always add an apostrophe and an s, even for names that already end in s: Rick Grimes’s gun went off. In AP you’d refer to it as Rick Grimes’ gun went off.

Take all of those rules, and more and slap them together and you get a particular style. Depending on the rules you are following that style could be any one of the four above, or even, in some cases, as I’ve seen, a mix of styles (though frowned upon).

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