Why Can’t Style Manuals Just Agree?
Caitlin Thomas sounds pretty fed-up with the differences she finds between the various style guides in her life:
Perhaps you’d know the answer to this question? Why are MLA citation formats being continually revised? And why are there so many discrepancies for a process that claims to be so precise? My college’s library Style Guide, the MLA Handbook, web articles, and the internet often seem to disagree on proper citation methods when cross-referenced. I’m afraid I’ve at this point written them off as a joke on students.
I’ve been there, Caitlin. My idea of torture is having to prepare a dissertation according to MLA specifications.
In writing for DWT I often feel little shivers of guilt when I make a statement about usage without following it with a parenthetical citation. I have to remind myself that I’m writing a blog, not a research paper.
As painful as following them can be, style guides are not intended as a joke on students.
Style guides are necessities for anyone who writes for any kind of publication–academic or otherwise. Like so much else in this world of free enterprise and different-sized electrical plugs, they don’t all match. They also change to keep up with the times.
It’s not surprising that a university library would develop a hybrid style guide that doesn’t quite match up with any other. Librarians work with departments that follow various guides, for example: MLA, APA, AP, and CMS.
I recommend that college students who share Caitlin’s frustration take a look at the Online Style Guide on the website of Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. In addition to a useful guide to writing for the web, it offers a brief explanation of why style guides are necessary.
Dealing with multiple style guides is just one of those things that college students must put up with. The good news is that when you graduate, you can settle on just one.