November 15 2009

Writing in style

by Barbie in Style

Editors must be proficient in a number of style guides. Standards vary among industries and academic departments. Even if an industry universally adheres to Chicago style, corporations often also follow an internal style guide. Thus, reading style guides and learning style standards is all in a day’s work for an editor.

However, students and professionals also have to adapt to changing style. Your professor may require you to follow MLA, while your friend who is majoring in Psychology follows APA. If you switch majors, you may also switch style guides. A career shift brings countless changes, one of which may be embracing new style guidelines. For example, a journalist entering corporate America suddenly might be using that dreaded serial comma, which is frowned upon by AP style but required in most other style guides.

Here, we’ll highlight a few common style guides and what industries and disciplines use them.

American Psychological Association (APA) Style

The social sciences use APA style. The dissertations we edit, in disciplines ranging from nursing to engineering, almost always follow APA style, but these standards are often dictated by the university.

Associated Press (AP) Style

AP style is the book of choice for communications professionals. Journalists and PR pros exclusively follow AP style.

Chicago Manual of Style

Many publishers expect manuscripts to follow Chicago style. Publishers often have their own style standards as well but refer writers to Chicago for general style issues.

Modern Language Association (MLA) Style

If you’re a student that is not following APA, chances are you’re using MLA. MLA is another style guide used frequently in academia.

Microsoft Manual of Style

Technical communicators often refer to Microsoft’s relatively new style guide. Although technical writers and editors often work with project-level standards, Microsoft’s manual is another resource for technical documentation.

So, embrace change because you’ll probably use more than one style guide in your academic and professional career, just like we do!