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).

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