Styled Obsolescence: New Editions for APA and MLA

Style GuidesStudents often wonder aloud at the minutiae of publication manuals. New editions of both the APA and MLA classics were announced this summer. The APA sixth edition, trimmed to 272 pages, at least promises to lighten the backpack when compared to the heavyweight fifth edition, which weighed in at 439 pages – still no match though for our 1977 first edition, first printing copy of the MLA Handbook, a trim 163 pages. The new, 7th edition MLA Handbook is 292 pages. 

One looks for motive. MLA now suggests one space after a period ending a sentence, but one of the changes in the new APA manual returns us to two spaces after a period at the end of a sentence (pp. 87-88). 

There are of course other styles, but APA and MLA still appear to be the heavyweights, so when they announce a rematch, we want to be ringside. 

We learn to march in cadence; if what we want is a style of our own, one pervious to whimsy, we can always try poetry, the perfect antidote to the poison of style.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. danhallahan says:

    I have no beef with some kind of uniform style that focuses on mechanics, such as how to format references, headings, etc. But what does irritate me is when a style manual switches back and forth from one edition to the next, as the APA Manual has done with respect to using two spaces at the end of a sentence. It might be different if the change involved some small matter, but this change requires a significant change in one’s typing mechanics. When in the last edition, the manual went to one space, it took me some time to adjust. To ask us now to switch back to using two spaces, especially with no strong rationale for doing so, seems arbitrary.

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    1. Joe Linker says:

      I agree. And why be so arbitrary? To force a new edition? The blog Is An Extra Space a Waste? is interesting – your blog? The “About” page’s brief history of seemingly arbitrary APA edition changes adds evidence that there’s something wrong with the steerage. Still, there are some good changes, and the APAstyle.org tutorials are effective. So it goes.

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      1. danhallahan says:

        Joe,

        Thanks. Yes, the blog is mine and John Lloyd’s, a colleague. I’m glad you found it interesting. And, like you, I agree with many of the changes. Plus it’s good that APA has a blog devoted to the manual and the changes: http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/ You’ll see that the current topic is on the use of the doi, which APA is now recommending/requiring. It’s proving pretty controversial.

        Dan

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