Post: AP versus MLA versus Chicago Manual of Style writing guidelines

writing styles

Depending on the type of writing you’re doing, and in what capacity (such as for school, as a professional copywriter or other) you might refer to one of the three main writing style guidelines. Sometimes, you might be required to use one set of guidelines over another. At other times, you might be given a choice. If you’re used to one writing style, you might land a job or have an assignment in school that necessitates learning another. 

The three main writing styles are the Associated Press (AP) guidelines, as well as the Modern Language Association (MLA) style and The Chicago Manual of Style. These are not the only three formats for writing styles. However, these are the three most used in various forms of writing. 

If you’re a copywriter or freelancer online, you probably use AP guidelines

The AP Stylebook is what most journalists and online writers use when creating content for blogs, news stories, digital magazines and other journalistic endeavors. AP guidelines are updated at least once per year and include many preferred abbreviations and spelling recommendations. 

Most book publishers prefer the Chicago Manual of Style

When submitting a manuscript to a publishing company, you might be required to format your story using the Chicago Manual of Style. This is also the guidelines most often used by academic writers. The Chicago Manual of Style contains a lot of information about how to cite sources. It also covers proper proofreading and editing procedures. 

Use MLA for literature essays

The Chicago Manual of Style isn’t the only set of guidelines that focuses on source citations. You can find a lot of information on the topic in the MLA guidelines, as well. If you’re writing a literature assignment for school, your instructor will no doubt require you to follow the MLA rules for writing. 

The serial comma gets the axe in the AP guidelines

If you’re a fan of the serial comma, also referred to in writing circles as, ”The Oxford comma,” you might be disappointed to learn that the AP rules for writing advise against its use, unless you need it for clarity in a sentence. Rules for capitalization, apostrophes and other grammar and punctuation issues also vary between styles. 

If you’re not sure which set of writing guidelines you’re supposed to be using, always seek clarification. Most of the writing style guidelines offer free support online. You can also purchase downloads, if you want to own the full rule book. How many writing styles have you used? Do you prefer one over the others?