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Different Writing & Referencing Styles – MLA, APA, Chicago

Numerous writing styles have been created over time. Each style has different requirements when it comes to its format. APA, MLA, and Chicago writing styles each have their own guidelines to follow when writing. While it may seem like each style has only little differences, it can make a difference depending on who is reading it. Professors at universities may require a certain writing style, while other times it can be the author’s choice. If your boss or teacher specifies a certain way, it’s best to follow their guidelines in order to appear qualified and serious about your work. Each style has a few basic guidelines that are shared among each other. Margins, spacing, and font will usually be the same for each style unless otherwise specified.



The first writing style that’ll be discussed is the American Psychological Association (APA). Authors who cite a lot of social science sources may prefer this style. The first page using the APA style will be a title page including a byline and affiliation, title, and running head for publication. The top right hand corner of each page should have a one to two word version of your title with the page number five spaces after. Some essays written in this style may require an overview, which is a short, 100-word summary explaining what the essay is on and any key points the reader should make sure to read. Headlines aren’t required, but if they’re used they should be centered with every word capitalized except for short prepositions, articles, and coordinating conjunctions. Any tables, graphs, charts, drawings, or photographs should be very simple with each visual appropriately labeled Table 1, Table 2, and so on, along with a title of the visual. The very last page will be dedicated to making any necessary references. Alphabetize the list based on the author’s last name or the first word of the title if no author is given. Label the page ‘References’ in the center of the page.



Next, the Modern Language Association (MLA) writing style will be further explained. Papers written with many liberal arts and humanities sources tend to follow this style. To begin, the text should be double spaced and written in a basic font, such as Times New Roman or Courier. Unless otherwise requested, you should only have one space after punctuation marks, including periods. Unlike the APA style, MLA doesn’t have a title page, but it does want writers to create headers that numbers each page consecutively after their last name, and is placed in the top right-hand corner of the paper. Write the title in the center of the page in Title Case. The upper left-hand side of the page should be your name, the course the paper is for, and the date; each on its own line. Endnotes can be included on a separate page before the Work Cited page.



First, the text should be double-spaced without blank lines between each paragraph, and the first line of every paragraph should be indented. This style allows plain serif or sans-serif font, such as Palatino, Arial, or Helvetica, but it's best to check with your professor to see if they want a certain font to be used. The writer has the choice of underlining or using italics to emphasis titles of books, he or she just needs to be consistent with whatever they decide. In the past, you would double-space between sentences, but if you’re using a modern computer you should only space once. For the best impression, the title should be seven to 15 words long, and have a title and subtitle divided by a colon. Only papers that are longer than five pages in length should have a title page with the title centered nearly halfway down the page with your name, course, and date below. The second page will be your text, but without any heading. If your paper is under five pages, in the upper left-hand side of the paper you should have your name, course, and date listed with the title centered below. Unlike other styles, the Chicago writing style opts for using bibliographic notes instead of in-text citations. Your professor can determine if they want the information in footnotes or endnotes. Remember that an authors name is not inverted in notes.


About the different styles

As you can see, each style has similarities, but they all have different requirements. Each technique has its own preference when it comes to displaying the title. While APA requires a title page, MLA doesn’t, and you have to meet a certain page requirement to need one when using the Chicago writing style. When it comes to margins, each style wants one-inch margins on each side of the paper’s main text. Your editor or professor may require a certain style; therefore, it’s important to know the difference in order to look professional. Also, make sure you’re citing your sources the correct way. APA wants sources on its own page based on the author’s name while the Chicago writing style has the option of writing your sources at the bottom of each page using footnotes.


Although the certain characteristics of each approach may not appear to be very obvious, many of those reading it can determine what style you’re writing in. Therefore, it’s best not to think otherwise and write a paper how you deem fit, especially when a certain writing style has been assigned beforehand. Certain styles, such as MLA and sometimes Chicago, don’t require a title page, so if your reader sees one they could already eliminate some of the professional methods. In order to look better educated and serious about your work, you don’t want to take certain rules from one style and mix it with another. Determining how you’d like to cite your sources is a key element when it comes to deciding which style should be used for your paper. By following these writing styles, your paper will look well put together, organized, and qualified.