Tag Archives: APA style

The Complete Writer: Get to Know a Style Manual *FREE READ*

Chapter 11
Get to Know a Style Manual

The Complete Writer:
The Ultimate Guide to Writing, Publishing, and Leading the Writer’s Life

Even if you hire a professional editor—which you should, if you’re self-publishing and want your writing to look professional—you still should familiarize yourself with the style manual relevant to your type of writing.

The standards are The Chicago Manual of Style, the American Psychological Association Style Manual, the Associated Press Style-book, and Modern Language Association style, outlined in the MLA Handbook. There are also specialized style manuals for the sciences and the professions, among them the American Medical Association Manual of Style; The Blue-book: A Uniform System of Citation and the Association of Legal Writing Directors Citation Manual; and the Council of Science Editors’ Scientific Style and Format. There are others.

Each of these serves a different purpose and a different market. Chicago, for example, is the standard for the book publishing industry. Almost all publishers of fiction and nonfiction follow Chicago style. APA (American Psychological Association) is used by writers in business, education, psychology, and the social sciences and is the standard for scholarly journals in those disciplines. MLA style is used almost exclusively by journals in English and foreign languages; most college students learn to use it because research writing is taught in freshman composition courses, which are based in English departments and taught by English faculty. AP (Associated Press) style is used by newspapers, magazines, and public relations professionals. And obviously, AMA, Blue-book, and CSE style are used by doctors, lawyers, and scientists. AP is not APA is not MLA is not AMA . . .

They’re all different from each other!

For that reason, the MLA style you learned in college will not suffice for the book you hope to self-publish. Nor will it do for a manuscript to be submitted to a traditional publisher, since typesetting and formatting are now foisted on the author: your book will be typeset from the manuscript you submitted, and so your copy will need to be correctly formatted, no matter who publishes it.

Consider a passage describing research done by the eminent Professor Boxankle. APA style would format first the passage and then the reference to its source like this:

Boxankle (2017) found that the salinity of water in which baskets were woven “is the critical factor in determining outcome” (p. 143).

Reference Section

Boxankle, O. Q. (2017). “Underwater basketweaving: Key components for success.” Journal of Comparative Basketry 11(2), 140–50.

In Chicago’s author-date system, the same information would look like this:

Oliver Boxankle (2017) found that the salinity of water in which baskets were woven “is the critical factor in determining outcome” (143).

Reference Section

Boxankle, Oliver Q. 2017. “Underwater Basketweaving: Key Components for Success.” Journal of Comparative Basketry 11 (January): 140–50.

Chicago’s notes-and-bibliography system would elicit these:

In a 2017 study, Oliver Boxankle found that the salinity of water in which baskets were woven “is the critical factor in determining outcome.”3


  1. Oliver Q. Boxankle, “Underwater Basketweaving: Key Components for Success,” Journal of Comparative Basketry 11 no. 4 (2017): 140–50.

Alternatively, after the first reference or if the full references were listed in a bibliography at the end:

Second end- or footnote:

  1. Boxankle, p. 143

And that, let me re-emphasize, is from just two of the many manuals in use.

Few authors come to know these manuals in exquisite detail—research and writing are quite enough to take up one’s time and attention. That’s why authors and publishers hire copyeditors.

However, it’s wise to have at least a working knowledge of the manual your publisher wants you to use. First, obviously an acquisitions editor will be more impressed by a manuscript that looks reasonably clean than by an amateur production.

Second and less obvious is that a sincere effort at formatting your work according to the desired style can save you money. Editors set their rates to account for the difficulty of the job.

Some editors charge by the hour. Clearly, a task that takes six hours because the editor has to do extensive reformatting will cost you more than a job that takes four.

Others charge a page rate based on the editor’s estimate of the copy’s difficulty. This is especially true if English is your second language, since the challenge of editing ESL copy varies wildly according to the author’s facility with the language. My rates, for example, range from $4.50 to $15 per page. If the client asks for an hourly rate (some business executives prefer this), it will range upwards of $40 an hour, depending on how complex and demanding the job will be.

So, even though you needn’t be an expert in every style manual on the market, it’s in your interest to build a working acquaintance with the manual your publisher uses. If you’re self-publishing, get a current edition of the Chicago Manual and use it.



What is the matter with people that they just flat REFUSE to follow instructions? Please. Don’t be one of “those” people. When a publication has writer’s guidelines, read the GD things. And while you’re at it, try to figure out how to abide by them.

Today I spent a good five hours trying to untangle an unholy mess a contributor to one of our clients’ scholarly journal made of her references section. Page on page on single-spaced page of references: one long, nauseating tangle.

This journal wants accepted papers formatted in Chicago author-date style. Apparently neither of the faculty editors looked carefully at the final copy before accepting Author’s final effort and filing on DropBox for us to clean up.

Chicago author-date looks superficially like APA style. But it is, most decidedly, not APA style.

Author’s “References” section looked superficially like Chicago author-date. But it was,  most decidedly, not Chicago author-date nor APA style.

The only way to describe it is as a kind of half-assed, bastardized version of APA.

Chicago does NOT set titles — any titles — c/lc (“sentence style”).

Chicago does NOT leave quote marks off article titles.

Chicago does NOT insert punctuation between the journal’s title and the volume & number.

No style manual known to Personkind uses two colons in the data for a journal’s volume, number, and inclusive pages. Nowhere does anyone write Wallbanger Quarterly, 26:14: 226-348.  Or better yet, Wallbanger Quarterly, 26:14: (Summer 2014) 226-348. W.T.F.?????

By the time I got about halfway through this endless aggravation, I had to get up and pour myself a bourbon and water. Well before that point, I was so fully launched into swearing and calling upon any number of deities to lay supernatural curses on Author’s head that the cleaning lady asked me if I was all right.

I asked if I could go into business with her, cleaning houses. She pretended not to understand enough English to respond to that one. But she did like the idea that we should both go to school to learn how to drive a forklift.

All of this happened after my associate editor and her underling had gone through the document, supposedly behind me. Because they saw some edits and comments left by one of the faculty editors (or possibly one of Author’s readers or peer reviewers), they jumped to the incorrect conclusion that I’d already edited the copy. No. I had formatted it in the journal’s template but left the edits to the sidekicks, whose skills amply rise to the job.

Going through this bitch absorbed a good five, maybe six hours of my $60-an-hour time that could have been spent editing the copy of a client who does pay my full rate. I charge a cut rate to non-profits, because The Copyeditor’s Desk is interested in supporting good works and because we know full well a scholarly publication can not, on a bet, afford our august services.

Five hours of my time comes to about $300, at my regular rate. That is over a quarter — almost half! — of what we are charging to prepare the entire book for typesetting. And I will have to pay my subcontractors part of that for the work they did on this misbegotten document.

FIVE HOURS taken away from a client who does happen to pay a fair market rate.

All because some bird-brained author couldn’t be bothered to read the writer’s guidelines. Or if she did, she couldn’t be bothered to go to the library to consult a hard-copy Chicago manual or spring for the modest fee to look at the damn thing online…or take the time to look at it for freaking FREE.

This is it. I’m telling Client that when authors submit sh*t like this, we are bouncing it back, and they can kindly tell their magnificent contributors to do the job right.

If you do not want a variety of deities raining curses on your head, dear scribbler, read the goddamn writer’s guidelines!