Style Watch: The APA Style Guide

by Erin Brenner on November 28, 2017

Usually in this space, I aim to educate you on grammar, punctuation, style, and other language topics. Today, I’m looking to you to educate me.

As a freelance editor, I have to be an expert on at least one style guide, have a working knowledge of several more style guides, and be cognizant of even more style guides. This is OK with me, because my brain works that way. I don’t find it difficult to remember that Chicago uses the serial comma and AP does not. Each style guide has a feel to it, and tapping into that feel is one way I remember so much about these styles. But I find the American Psychological Association‘s (APA’s) style manual a mystery. Maybe it’s because I didn’t write in the sciences during school, and though I’ve done some science editing since then, I haven’t done that much. I just don’t understand some of the decisions APA makes. So I look up a lot of stuff any time I work with APA style.

I can’t be the only one. APA helpers abound. In addition to the official Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, there are these books:

I haven’t peeked into those books. If you have, let me know what you think in the comment section below. Do they help you understand the style? Give you some basic rules that you use all the time?

Then there’s the official APA style blog, which I’ve used a fair bit. I like how the writers break down the rules. And, of course, APA has a Facebook group, which promotes the blog, and a Twitter feed, which offers brief tips. I like both. APA offers a Website for learning the style. I haven’t had the time to go through the tutorial yet, but it looks promising. Have you tried it? Let me know in the comments how it worked for you.

There are other Web sites, mostly colleges, that offer their own tutorials or cheat sheets:

It makes sense. If you’re going to require that students use a demanding style, give them the resources to learn that style. I have leaned on Purdue’s site to get me through successfully. I’ve mentioned OWL before. It’s a great overall writing resource; if you’ve never used it, go there now and bookmark it. You’ll be glad you did.

There are even cheat sheets for what was updated in the sixth edition:

Finally, there are always some errors in a first printing. If you have a first printing of the sixth edition, you can review the corrections in “Correcting a Style.

UPDATE: Also check out Style Guide Resources: MLA. APA. CSE. Chicago, a webpage from InformED that outlines reference examples and additional resources for the four mentioned styles.

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