Styles of writing: MLA, AP and Chicago NB

(Wikimedia and The Weber RamPage/Sloane Warner)

(Wikimedia and The Weber RamPage/Sloane Warner)

Sloane Warner

Most students have heard the instruction from a teacher: “Make sure this is in MLA format!” Or, “Don’t forget to cite your sources!” Sometimes, it can be difficult to figure out where to begin with formatting, especially when there are so many options. Most English courses follow MLA formatting, but The RamPage follows the AP Stylebook. The “Weber History Journal” course uses Chicago Manual of Style with the Notes-Bibliography (NB) system for their research papers. Listed below are some of the key differences and uses for a few of the most popular style guides.



According to Purdue Online Writing Lab, “MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities.” This format gives guidelines for English writing, citations and paper formatting. By citing their sources, authors give their writing a sense of credibility. This keeps writers accountable for their sources.

Key Tips:

Paper formatting:

  • Use Times New Roman 12 point font
  • Double space your paper
  • Make sure all margins are set to 1 inch
  • Indent the first line of new paragraphs by pressing the “Tab” key
  • Create a header with your last name and page numbers on the right side of the page
  • Center your title and do not underline, italicize or place quotation marks around it.
  • At the top of your first page, list your name, your instructor’s name, the name of the course and the date. Here is an example:


  • Create a Works Cited page at the end of your work. To do this, make a new page and title it “Works Cited.” List your citations in alphabetical order and indent any lines below the first in each citation.
  • A helpful citation guide and maker can be found at Easybib.
  • Make sure to cite any quotes in your work as well. This is called a “parenthetical citation.” When citing books, write the author’s last name and page number after a quotation. If the author’s name has already been mentioned in the sentence, then his/her name is not needed in the citation. Here is an example:

“Fern loved Wilbur more than anything” (White 10).


AP Style

The Associated Press Style, or AP Style, is used by many news writers around the world. It gives clarification on wording, capitalization, punctuation and brevity. For example, readers may have noticed that The RamPage does not use an Oxford comma in its articles. This is one of the changes stipulated by the AP Stylebook. Here are some of the most important aspects of the AP Style.


  • Only use a single space at the end of a sentence.
  • Commas and periods are placed within quotation marks.
  • Names of publications, books, movies, TV shows and etc. are placed in quotations.
  • Unlike MLA formatting, paragraphs are not indented.
  • Do not use the Oxford comma in a simple series.

Say “I gave pens to Sarah, Leah and Josh” versus “I gave pens to Sarah, Leah, and Josh.”


  • Certain abbreviations are set for states, well-known jobs and titles. Most abbreviations are used on the second reference. For example:

Alabama: Ala.

Georgia: Ga.

Doctor: Dr.

Governor: Gov.

  • If you are working in news, broadcast writing or press releases, it is useful to have a working knowledge of the AP Stylebook.


Chicago NB Style

According to Purdue Online Writing Lab, “The Chicago NB system is often used in the humanities. This provides writers with a system for referencing their sources through footnotes, endnote citations and through bibliography pages.” It is most commonly used by historians and is currently being used by Weber’s History Journal class.


  • Footnotes, subscript and superscript numbers are used to reference citations throughout a piece of writing. Footnotes are placed at the literal foot, or bottom, of the page where the work is referenced.
  • If a work is cited more than once without a bibliography, then a shortened citation is recommended. On a second citation, a writer only needs to include the author’s last name, the title and page numbers.

Grammar, citations and formatting are important in any style of writing, but it is critical that a writer follows a style throughout their work. If a student has questions about the format they are using, they should ask a teacher from the English department to guide them through whichever style they are working in.