Chicago Style: It’s the Big Book

This style is probably the one you are least familiar with. It is much more common to be used in publishing than student academics. That said, history and art majors, you may want to pay attention to this.

The Chicago Manual of Style

20140807_114447Chicago is the granddaddy of the style manuals. You’d recognize it by its two-inch spine proudly proclaiming the 16th edition. First published in 1906 by the University of Chicago Press, it was originally created as a way of standardizing not only style rules, but standards of typography and proofreading for the University. It soon grew beyond the University and became the standard style manual for many in the publishing industry.1

Unlike MLA and APA, both of which focus more on the writing and formatting of academic papers and research, Chicago has much broader uses. Chicago deals with all aspects of the publishing process according to both the author’s and the publisher’s needs. Because of this, it’s going to have far, far more than you are going to need to just write your AH 110 class is going to ask for.

My best advice to you is do not get intimidated. The book may seem scary from the outside, but it has the best index of all of the style manuals. Whatever you need to find can be easily located either through its table of contents or the index. So don’t get lost wading through the entire book, make it a surgical strike for the information you need.

Formatting a Paper

Because Chicago has become so important to the publishing industry, it doesn’t provide a lot of guidelines specifically for students preparing a paper for class. It does offer standard manuscript preparation guidelines that you can find in our Chicago Style Guide, and we’ve also prepared a handy How to Format a Chicago Paper tutorial.

When it comes to title pages, Chicago doesn’t really talk about it. If you look up title page in its index, it’s going to tell you what the title page in a published book should have. A Pocket Style Manual offers an example of what students can do based off the Chicago guidelines,2 which can be found in How to Format a Chicago Paper. If you are unsure of what to do, you can always ask your teacher what he/she expects.


If you’ve been paying attention during these blog posts so far, you might have noticed I’m not using APA or MLA to cite my information. In fact, I’ve been using Chicago. Now you can scroll down and see how different it is. The reason I’ve been using Chicago is because it is less intrusive to the text. Instead of parenthetical citations, it uses either footnotes or endnotes. In a blog, endnotes are useful since it is read linearly. For a research paper, footnotes will be easier since they are seen at the end of each page.

So what should you know about Chicago citations? A complete listing can be found in our Chicago Style Guide, but for now, I’ll give you the big ones.

  • It’s not as scary as you think!
  • The reference/works cited page is titled Bibliography.
  • You do not need both footnotes and endnotes. Choose one.
  • You do need both the foot/endnotes and the bibliography.
  • Footnotes and endnotes are complete citations. These are not simply author and date or page number. This has all the same information as what is listed in the bibliography.
  • Foot/endnote entries are not the same as the bibliography entry. They may look the same at first glance, but there are major differences in punctuation. You must pay attention to the punctuation.
  • Foot/endnotes have a first line indent, while bibliography entries have a hanging indent.
  • Names in the foot/endnotes are written forward, while they are inverted in the bibliography.


1. The University of Chicago Press, “The History of The Chicago Manual of Style,” University of Chicago Press, accessed August 4, 2014,

2. Diana Hacker and Nancy Sommers, A Pocket Style Manual, 6th ed. (Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2012), 239.

APA Style: The Nitpicky One

Unless you’ve been reading science journals in high school, you’re probably not familiar with APA, and looking at the manual for the first time can be intimidating. While it is different from MLA in many ways, it’s only confusing at first. Once you learn the rules, they are very easy to follow. And APA has a rule for just about everything, so if you have a question, its answer is in the book.

Though APA stands for the American Psychological Association, it is the go-to style for most of the sciences and their style reflects that. According to the official APA Style website, “Manuscript structure, word choice, punctuation, graphics, and references are all chosen to move the idea forward with a minimum of distraction and a maximum of precision.”1 Here at Southeast, the nursing department recently adopted it as well, so, nursing students, this is something you’ll want to pay attention to.

The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association

20140807_114413This book may seem too complicated, but it’s not that bad if you know what it’s trying to do. Unlike MLA, which gives you a lot more flexibility in writing and structure, APA is designed to ensure that your research can be clearly and easily presented to the reader. For that to happen, they created precise rules for setting up the paper from start to finish.

If you feel overwhelmed and need a place to start, look at the table of contents. The first two chapters are about setting up the paper, the next two are about the writing, the next is about your results (because this is the sciences, remember), and finally, citations. So basically, they set it up in the order you’re going to need to know these things. If you ever have a question that you just can’t find in the book, check out their website, APA Style, which offers a search feature.

Formatting a Paper

APA has very strict rules on formatting, so you’ll want to pay attention to Chapter 2: Manuscript Structure and Content. This lays out section by section what your paper should look like. Remember though, your paper may not include every section that the book lays out. They are all listed in case you do have those sections you know where they go and how they should look.

Two things to take note of are the running header and the cover page. APA has set standards on how these should look and your paper won’t look APA without it. At the end of chapter two there is an example to show you how it should look, and you can also find tutorials on setting up both in the APA section of our website.

Make sure you go through the section on numbers if you have a lot of measurements or numbers throughout your paper. APA gives you guidelines on when to use numerals vs written out numbers. Luckily, APA doesn’t care if you want to use both numerals and written out numbers in the same sentence as long as it follows their rules.

Section headings are also very strict and examples can be found on our website.


Sometimes a teacher will say they want your paper in APA style but you don’t need a cover page or anything. That usually means what they want is the citation style to be APA. And if you’ve never used APA before, do not assume it’s the same as what you know.

APA uses an Author/Date style of internal citations. This means your citation will include the author(s) last name(s), the year of publication, and the page number: (Name, Year, p. #). If you use the author’s name in the sentence you are citing, then the form of citation changes; the year will appear directly after the name, but the page number will remain at the end of the sentence: According to Barker (2014), “blah blah blah” (p. 4).

Something that can be a little confusing in your internal citations is whether you need a page number when paraphrasing. The APA manual words it as “you are encouraged to provide a page or paragraph number, especially when it would help an interested reader locate the relevant passage in a long or complex text.”2 For a style that has a rule for everything, that’s a bit ambiguous. To be safe, if you can provide a page number, go ahead and do so. If the idea is too broad or in too many places to say that’s where you got it, don’t.

The easiest way to tell if you’re in APA style by looking is the date will be listed directed after the author’s name. Now, for a complete explanation of your reference page citations, visit our APA Style Guide, which has tutorials and examples of citations to help you. Here I’d like to list a few common mistakes that are made and important differences from MLA that students don’t know about. As with MLA, do not trust citation generators! They will eat your sources, and either way it comes back out you don’t want to touch it.

  • Yes, it should be double spaced.
  • It needs a hanging indent. (Don’t know how? Visit our Word tutorial.)
  • Punctuation is important! Look and see whether you should be using a period or a comma or nothing at all between each part.
  • The date is always second. It doesn’t matter if it is the author or title listed first, the date is second.
  • In titles, only the first word, the first word of a subtitle, and proper nouns are capitalized. All other words are lowercased. Journal Titles are written normal.
  • In all journal articles, the volume number is italicized. The issue number is not.


1. APA, “About APA Style,” APA, accessed July 30, 2014,

2. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed. (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2010), 171.

MLA Style: The Flexible One


MLA is probably the style you are most familiar with since most high schools require you to cite sources in a research paper in MLA. It’s where you must have the last name and the page number in the text: (Name #). Now, if you aren’t familiar with it, that’s fine; you have to take EN 100 and 140—you’ll learn.

MLA stands for the Modern Language Association and, after more than a hundred years, is now one of the largest scholarly organizations out there.1 Though it was originally created for the study and teaching of language and literature, its style is widely used in academia, especially in the humanities. If you end up in the sciences, you won’t be using this as often, but it’s still good to know for any university studies courses that may require it.

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers

You’ve probably avoided the actual MLA manual in favor of those pocket manuals that 20140807_114225just show the citation examples, which is fine if you only need to look up a single citation. The MLA Handbook offers a lot more than simply citations, though. As the title suggests, it has everything you need to write a research paper from start to finish. If you’ve never written a research paper and don’t know where to start, the MLA Handbook can help.

In addition to tips on writing and finding sources, it also explains about plagiarism and the mechanics of writing according to their style. This includes spellings and usage of words, when to use quotation marks or italics, capitalization rules for names, how to use foreign words, abbreviations, etc.

Most of these rules are consistent with what you know since all styles follow grammar conventions; however, if you’re not sure, go ahead and look it up. The different styles stress different things. Being used in the humanities, MLA has far more rules about how to quote a book, a play, a poem, than APA, which focuses on the sciences.

Formatting a Paper

If you’re not worried about all the nitpicky details and are thinking all you need to worry about is the citations, think again. If you pay attention to nothing else in this book, pay attention to the formatting rules. Nothing makes a paper appear less put together and the writer lazy than 16 pt font in Comic Sans with margins so wide the paper looks like a ten-page epic poem. Just . . . don’t.

MLA gives very straightforward guidelines on how to format your paper properly. If you don’t have access to the MLA Handbook or a pocket manual, you can see how to do it at our Online Writing Lab where we have step-by-step tutorials on using Word and formatting your paper from header to works cited page.


I’m sure some of you just skipped on down to here, because for your classes this is the important bit. To those of you that did, I’d suggest going back up and checking out the other information when you’re done here.

As far as citations go, each style is a product of what it worries about most. Since MLA is used more in the humanities, it deals with scholarship that can be from this year or older than King Arthur’s court. Needless to say, it doesn’t care as much when it was made as it does what it is and who wrote it. So if you’re not sure something is APA or MLA, MLA is the one that is NOT author/date.

There are two forms of citations, internal and full references on the works cited page. Internal citations are very simple. They appear at the end of the sentence (before the period) and have the last name(s) of the author(s) followed by the page number: (Name #). That’s it! If you have a website with no page number you can either reference the paragraph if they are numbered or simply leave the page number off.2 If you use the name in the sentence, then you don’t need it in the citation.

The works cited citations provide the reader a way to find any sources that you used, should they want to go looking, and therefore should have enough information for them to easily do so. For a complete explanation of MLA citations, visit our MLA Style Guide, which has tutorials and an extensive list of citation examples to help you.

Here I’d just like to make note of a few things that I often see students doing wrong when they attempt to make their works cited page. Many of these problems come from outdated reference books or websites (or students using horrible citation generation software—do not trust them!)

  • Yes, it should be double spaced.
  • It needs a hanging indent. (Don’t know how? Visit our Word tutorial.)
  • No, it doesn’t need the URL at the end (unless the teacher asks for it).
  • Punctuation is important! Look and see whether you should be using a period or a comma or nothing at all between each part.
  • Nothing gets underlined anymore.
  • Alphabetize, don’t number.


1. MLA, “The MLA’s Mission,” MLA, last updated July 21, 2014,

2. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th ed. (New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2009), 220-1.

What are the Writing Styles?

With the school year starting again, and all the new freshman coming in, I thought we’d take a look at the various writing styles that you’ll need to know about for your classes. There are three main styles you’ll need to be aware of: MLA, APA, and Chicago. There are other styles that specific disciplines may use, but for the most part, if you know MLA, APA, and Chicago, then you should be able to handle most classes.

So what is a writing style exactly?

Styles are the rules and conventions to follow when writing and preparing a paper either for class or publication. You may be most familiar with it this idea through citations. You’ve all probably been told before that you must cite your sources in a specific way: name, title, publication information. For many of you, that may be the extent of your knowledge about writing styles.

The truth is they are called style guides and not citation guides for a reason. The manuals to these styles contain rules or guidelines to everything you need to write a paper from formatting the headers, where to put your name, when to use numerals vs spelled-out numbers. If you’re writing a paper on Bartolomé de Las Casas and don’t know whether the de is part of the last name, your style guide can tell you. If you’re not sure if the Bible should be capitalized, italicized, in quotation marks, or all of the above, your style guide can tell you.

Why should anyone conform to a style?

Now, why does it matter if his last name is de Las Casas or Las Casas or if you think the it should be typed, “THE BIBLE”? The easy answer: your grade depends on it. You turn in something that doesn’t match any style, and your teacher can’t grade your paper the same way he/she grades all of your peers’ papers. Trust me, that’s not a good thing.

The longer, more meaningful answer is that it will make you appear literate. This is very important in the long run. No matter what field you go into, being able to present your written work in a professional way is going to be vital to your success. Whether you’re in the business world or going into social work, the sciences, education, nursing, pre-med, pre-law . . . it doesn’t matter. You must be able to present yourself according to their conventions. If you don’t, anyone who reads that will assume—right or wrong—that you have no idea what you’re talking about or are too lazy to find out. That’s not the best first impression for a prospective employer.

It also makes it easier on the reader to make quick judgments or find information if each piece they read is formatted the same. And if the person you’re submitting this to must read fifty papers, and all but yours is formatted the same, yours will be shoved to the bottom of the pile very quickly.

In the next few weeks, we’ll go over all three of the major styles that you should be aware of and how they’re different from each other. Even if your chosen field has its own style, these three are a good base to start from.