Writers
style guide tips and Resources

WHY ARE THERE SO MANY STYLE GUIDES?

Style guides work like a family of three generations. There is one progenitor (The Chicago Manual of Style) and multiple children and grandchildren. A child guide can set its own rules and overrule the parent guide. If the child guide is "silent" about a rule (does not contain reference to a rule) look to its parent. If the parent is silent, look to Chicago. 

1. The grandparent:

This is the bible of style, the style guide for all writers in the United States: The Chicago Manual of Style.

2. The parents (discipline-specific style manuals):

Here is an examle of the grandparent-parent relationship in action: The Associated Press Stylebook (AP)--which is not to be confused with Publication Manual of the American Pscyhological Association (APA)--overrules The Chicago Manual by specifying that in a series of three or more items there is no comma before the conjunction at the end of the series: "apples, oranges and pears."

The Chicago Manual by contrast, uses the "serial comma," also called the "Oxford comma" (but of course The Chicago Manual, being American, does not call it the Oxford comma). Here is the serial comma: "apples, oranges, and pears." Sometimes people get into near fist fights about which way is "right."

We've gotten calls at the writing center asking us to "settle a bet." Our callers are disappointed to learn that the answer is, "It depends." In fact, they stop listening when we say that. They believe there is no "it depends" in grammar, but it does depend. Are you writing for The Quad ? Then follow AP. But if you are writing a paper for class, use the serial comma. All the academic style guides follow Chicago and use the serial comma because it tends to eliminate confusion.

3. The grandchildren (publication style sheets):

The third tier is only relevant when you are sending out a paper for publication. These are the "style sheets" specific publications use. Every publication has one, and they often include specific acronyms preferred for the field, or they may include contradictions to MLA, APA, or another disciplinary parent guide. As an example, here is a link to the Writing Center Journal Style Sheet

I AM WORRIED ABOUT WRITING IN APA

We can help! This is a good time to make an appointment.

That said, it will be helpful if your tutor understands the specifics. APA isn't just one thing, and it depends on the course. Yes, there is one consistent APA standard for formatting the References page, but how does your professor want you to set up the paper?

Some professors may want the APA title page and running head, but not the section titles. It depends. Look carefully at your rubric. If there is nothing specific on the D2L site, ask your professor for more details.

Check out the links at the bottom of this page for further APA resources. 

THE BIG THREE: CHICAGO, MLA, and APA

Chicago Manual of Style
Ah, the mighty Chicago, weighing in at almost four pounds and over three inches thick. The bible of American style. It isn't everyone's bible though. Publishers in other countries, such as the U.K. do not use Chicago. There are two main reasons to go to this bible of style:

  • To find guidance on the super-picky details of writing. Do you hyphenate well-researched (yes). Do you captitalize "internet"? (not any more).
  • As a style guide for certain disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. Often Philosophy, Political Science, and History will ask for "Chicago Style." Here's the trick: There are two citation styles in Chicago, so you have to ask your professor which one they want. One uses footnotes, and the other uses parenthetical citations, as do APA and MLA.

Turabian (aka, baby Chicago)
This is a digest of the citation rules found in Chicago. If your professor tells you to "use Turabian," they are referring to A Manual of Style for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. Turabian is the student version of Chicago.

APA Manual, 7th edition
This is short for Pubication Manual of the American Pscyhological Association. Here you will find the citation style for "APA style papers."APA style is a lot more than just formatting running heads, a reference page, and in-text citations. The APA also has guidelines to help authors write "with clarity, precision, and inclusion." 

MLA Handbook, 8th edition 
The MLA Handbook 8th tries to change the culture around citations. Rather than seeing citation as a a picky gotcha for students that can trip them up on "points," MLA now suggests you think in terms of the "elements" that need to be present in a citation. Often you will find an unusual source that you don't know how to cite. How do you cite an advertisement? How do you cite a specific episode of a podcast? if you can't find a sample of exactly how to cite a specific text, use logic and include the proper elements with the proper format. MLA asks you to think this way: What does my reader need in order to easily find the source I am referencing?

OTHER RESOURCES

The Purdue OWL
This resource is used by high school teachers and college teachers as a quick reference guide for a number of styles. The site contains sample papers and video guides to help you format your paper step-by-step using Microsoft Word.

Free Microsoft Office 365 download for WCU students
Speaking of formating, you should start Microsoft Word. Word helps your professors grade your papers by allowing them to compare your drafts. Other professors may want you to work in Google Docs, but it's a good idea to know how to use Word. You will also need PowerPoint for many of your classes, and this is included in the download. Furthermore, you have free OneDrive cloud storage while you are at WCU.

SHOULD I USE A CITATION GENERATOR?

Sure, why not. It can save you time, but remember the adage "garbage in, garbage out."

A citation generator works by pulling fields from a database according to an algorithm. The citation generator may use a weak algorithm, or it may be pulling from a database that contains formatting that is incorrect for the citation style. Here are some examples. The WCU library's basic search engine is Primo. It isn't a good tool for searching, but it does contain a strong citation generator. It's a good one to use, but it can still make mistakes.

Here is an example of a citation generated from the WCU library's Primo citation generator.

MLA (8th edition):

  • Bullock, Emily. “Addressing Apprehension: Approaching the Low Self-Efficacy Writer.(TUTOR'S COLUMN).” Writing Lab Newsletter, 2012, p. 14.

APA (6th edition):

  • Bullock, Emily. (2012). Addressing apprehension: Approaching the low self-efficacy writer.(TUTOR'S COLUMN). Writing Lab Newsletter, p. 14.

Chicago:

  • Bullock, Emily. "Addressing Apprehension: Approaching the Low Self-efficacy Writer.(TUTOR'S COLUMN)." Writing Lab Newsletter, 2012.

There are many errors in each citation. There is no "hanging indent." The title of the journal isn't italicized. And so on. You need to be aware there will be errors and fix them by refering to the citation guides linked above.

However, the most glaring error is (TUTOR'S COLUMN). This is an artifact from the database the Primo generator is drawing from. You could leave it out entirely. There is no requirement to cite the type of column in any of the three citation styles.

Resources for Specific Disciplines

Writing in the Nursing Field
This site explains the unique genres associated with the nursing profession and includes additional resources on writing scientific abstracts, finding reliable academic sources, and writing to a specific audience.

Disciplinary Writing Guides
The Harvard Writing Project includes specific PDFs on writing across the disciplines including psychology, life sciences, philosophy, economics, and more. There are also guides on writing the senior thesis in a variety of subjects.

Please contact us if you would like use to add information about a specific discipline: writingcenter@wcupa.edu

Other Campus Services

Office of Services for Students with Disabilities
If you are registered with OSSD, you can get writing tutoring from them.

Twardowski Career Development Center
Getting ready to find a job or internship? This office can help with resumes and cover letters. The writing center mainly specializes in cover letters and personal statements.

Learning Assistance & Resource Center
This is your go-to for all tutoring other than writing tutoring.

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