The sheer number of writing styles is ridiculous.
When we’re taught how to write essays during K-12, we’re taught to do it in Modern Language Association (MLA) style. It’s practically drilled into our brains by the time we graduate high school. And then we go to college.
In college, we still use MLA for all the English classes, but writing styles vary depending on the field of study. Sociology wants American Sociological Association (ASA) style, psychology wants American Psychological Association (APA), Council of Science Editors (CSE) is used for the physical sciences, and Chicago and Turabian are used mostly in the humanities.
That’s not even all the styles out there; those are just the more common ones that happen to be listed on our university library’s website. Oh, and I used Associated Press (AP) style to write this article. It’s ridiculous.
Of course, you could make the argument that each one serves a different purpose and thus each one is necessary.
English professor Susan Ertel said: “For me, the purpose of each writing style is to govern the rules of engagement with text within a profession. If the writing style changed from journal to journal within a chosen field, the content would get lost because the readers would constantly be juggling the style changes. The method of communication would impede the message. So, professionals in a given field agree on a method, or style, of presenting their work for consistency and clarity.”
I agree. Of course there should be consistency within a given field, but why can’t the writing styles be consistent across all fields? Ertel said it’s because of tradition at this point. After all, why change the way things have been done after everyone in each field is already used to it?
Fine, but at the very least, schools should teach writing styles other than MLA so students aren’t jarred into a new way of writing when they enter college.
Ertel said she deals mostly in MLA and APA, with some occasional dabbling in Chicago style. She also said AP is her least favorite style because editorial changes made for the sake of being AP have altered the effect of her writing, and she considers the Oxford comma to be “sacrosanct,” while AP style insists on leaving the comma out.
I have to agree with her on that one. After all, the lack of an Oxford comma forced a company in Maine to pay out $5 million due to the legal misunderstanding it caused.
I’m just saying, consistency across all the fields of study would make things a lot less complicated. Either eliminate a few writing styles or start teaching students how to use the other styles before college.