18 November 2010

Then it would be MLA...

This semester, I have two writing classes. Nothing new, just that the university didn't think highly of the community college courses that they refused to accept. In fact, the only difference between my previous classes and these is that I have to write a page more. In my advanced writing class, English 201, we have to write a research paper using the proper formating for my major (in my case, APA). This will be the first time I get to cite in APA and be graded on it. Usually I have to cite in MLA.

In my other writing class, English 101, I also have a research paper (two pages shorter, and yes, they will probably be almost identical). I asked my teacher if I could use APA instead of MLA, as per my major I should be citing in APA. She delicately said no, then after I explained that in the "real world", being a Communications major, I would be writing in APA, not MLA.

She smiled and said, "but if you ever write an English or humanities paper in the real world, then it would be MLA."

I smiled and left thinking, "No, it would be neither MLA or APA, it would be Chicago because I wouldn't be trying to get into a stuffy peer-reviewed journal. No, I would try to get into the newspaper where a lot more people, people who live and deal in the real world instead of reading about it in their peer-reviewed journals, would read it."

P.S. I'm not against peer-reviewed journals, or their readers. In fact, I understand they are a valuable treasure trove on credible and reliable information. I am, however, against people who cannot imagine that most people can't even list a single peer-reviewed journal and that the local "rag" is probably better at getting more people to act on information than "Nature" will ever be.

P.P.S. "Nature" is a peer-reviewed journal. If you already knew that, then you get a bonus 5 points.

04 November 2010

Why not Chicago?

In writing, there are two "major" styles for citing sources: MLA and APA. MLA is the style that I have been trained in since I was young, it is the format that most people have been trained on all throughout their schooling. It is also the wrong format for more than two-thirds of the graduating majors. Why? Because MLA was designed, and only used by, the English and Humanities Departments (i.e. English teachers, History majors) to be cryptic and unuseful. Okay, maybe it wasn't designed that way, but imagine committing the vast array of rules to memory, being graded on them and finally doing good at following them only to find out one day, as I did last year, that the style the English department thinks is so cool is actually pond scum compared to the, still cryptic but more useful, APA format that is used by all other majors. APA is supposed to be used by the all non-English and non-Humanities majors! This whole time I've been worrying about MLA and really only the English people even know what it is. Science journals, and basically everyone else, format in APA. Oh, the shock of the English department misleading me all these years.

After this great revelation, I still had a lingering question: what does the real world? Because I've never seen MLA or APA in a publication outside of school. Instead, in the real world, I've only ever seen these little "superscript" numbers and footnotes at the bottom. Low, and behold, foot noting (and end noting) are part of the amazingly useful and very practical Chicago style. Who uses this style? The same people who crafted it into the amazingness it is today: Journalist. Journalist need to communicate a vast amount of information as quickly as possible (both on the inputting and the consuming sides), while keeping the information as accurate as possible. Both MLA and APA are rather cumbersome for both the writer and the reader, Chicago style overcomes their failings, all while still giving proper credit where it is due. The rest of the real world picked up on the formating after reading so many newspapers and so Chicago style became the official style of Journalist and the unofficial style of everyone in the real world.

All this really makes me wonder: why can't everyone let go their archaic and old school ways to adopt a single, useful style that we can all use?

P.S. If you want a good laugh, get a frumpy English teacher to talk about Chicago style. The look of disgust on my teacher's face was priceless, it was as if it were a filthy rag in a pristine linen closest (which is probably what she thinks of newspapers in general).