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Oftentimes when I’m asked a question about grammar, punctuation, or citations, I’ll preface my response with the words, “depending on which style guide you are using . . . .” Of course, this response brings up an entirely new discussion. What is a style guide? Where do you find them? And how do you know which one you should be using?
“A style guide,” according to Wikipedia, “is a set of standards for the writing and design of documents, either for general use or for a specific publication, organization, or field. A style guide establishes and enforces style to improve communication.” In other words, our English language is a living language that changes constantly. Some groups embrace these changes and variations at different times. But the most important part of writing style is consistency. Therefore, many publishing houses and many fields have adopted their own standards. So, a style guide is an interpretation of the rules of grammar, punctuation, and citations to create consistency.
Style guides can be found in most libraries and bookstores. According to Wikipedia, in the United States, most non-journalism writing follows The Chicago Manual of Style, while most newspapers base their style on the Associated Press Stylebook. A classic style guide for the general public is The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White.
The more popular style guides are:
- For general academic papers: A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, Seventh Edition: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers, by Kate L. Turabian. Often referred to as "Turabian."
- For general academic papers: MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, by Joseph Gibaldi. (Often referred to as "MLA.")
- For social sciences: Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, by the American Psychological Association(APA)
- For newspapers: The Associated Press Stylebook, by the Associated Press (AP).
- For electronic publishing: The Columbia Guide to Online Style, by Janice Walker and Todd Taylor.
- For fiction and general nonfiction: The Chicago Manual of Style, by University of Chicago Press staff.
For a more comprehensive list of style guides, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_style_guides
If writing is your career, you may want to invest in the latest edition of the style guide for your genre. Since our language does change and mutate, it’s important to get the latest edition available. You may also want to subscribe to the online version, which keeps up with changes as they happen. Chicago Manual of Style offers a free trial subscription at http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/home.html.
A cheaper and faster option is to purchase a “Quick Study” version of the style guide you use most. For example, you can purchase the Chicago Manual of Style Quick Study version for $6.25 at http://www.amazon.com/Chicago-Manual-Style-Guidelines-Quick/dp/1423218604/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1435184828&sr=8-2&keywords=chicago+manual+of+style. If you’d like to be the proud owner of your own quick study guide, just tell us in a comment below which one you’d like to have and how having one would be beneficial to you. We’ll randomly choose one winner on July 1, 2015, and send you out a copy. This mini-contest is limited to USA addresses only.
The bottom line is this: if you plan to be a professional writer (which means you plan to make money writing), you need to take your profession seriously and invest in the tools you need.
And, remember, we’re always here to answer your questions and provide a free sample edit. See more info at http://www.inspirationforwriters.com/editing/sample.html.