Choosing a Style Manual and Documentation Guide

28 Standard Style Guides for Students, Researchers, and Professionals

A style manual (also known as a style guide or stylebook) is a set of editing and formatting standards for use by students, researchers, journalists, and other professionals. Style manuals are essential reference works for scholars who need to document their sources in footnotes, endnotes, parenthetical citations, and bibliographies. Because style manuals also attend to some of the finer points of usage, spelling, punctuation, and mechanics, they should be useful to all writers.

Your choice of a style manual should be determined, first of all, by your academic major or area of professional interest. For example, the MLA guides (The MLA Handbook and MLA Style Manual) are the main source for citation guidelines in the fields of literature, languages, and the humanities. Students and researchers in the social and behavioral sciences traditionally rely on the APA guide (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association). The AP Stylebook is known as "the journalist's bible," and, not surprisingly, most government employees in the U.S. adhere to the standards in the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual.

If you're not bound by the conventions of a particular profession or academic field, consider choosing a style manual that is updated frequently and that provides online supplements. Also, make sure that it's accessible and meets your needs. For instance, The Chicago Manual of Style is the most comprehensive but not the most user-friendly guide.

The shorter version, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, may be a more practical choice. The various journalism and media guides are generally concise and clearly organized, but they don't tell you how to write a footnote or construct a bibliography.

  • General
    The Canadian Style: A Guide to Writing and Editing, rev. ed., Dundurn Press, 2004.

    The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed., University of Chicago Press, 2010. See also: Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide.

    A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers, 8th ed. University Of Chicago Press, 2013.*

    New Oxford Style Manual, 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, 2012.

    Style Manual: For Authors, Editors and Printers, 6th ed., John Wiley & Sons Australia, 2011.

    * The Manual for Writers of Research Papers (still popularly known as "Turabian," after its original author, Kate L. Turabian) is based on the much larger Chicago Manual of Style. The Manual for Writers of Research Papers is intended for "students at every level--from first-year undergraduates to dissertation writers."
  • Business and Technical Communication
    The AMA Handbook of Business Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Style, Grammar, Punctuation, Usage, Construction, and Formatting, Amacom, 2012.

    The Business Writer's Handbook, 11th ed., Bedford/St. Martin's, 2015.

    Franklin Covey Style Guide for Business and Technical Communication, 5th ed., Pearson FT Press, 2012.
  • Government
    U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual: An Official Guide to the Form and Style of Federal Government Printing (also cited as GPO Style Manual), 30th ed., Military Bookshop, 2010. 
  • Humanities and Languages
    The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2009.

    MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, 3rd ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2008.

    Note: The Modern Language Association publishes two books on its documentation style: the MLA Handbook is intended for high school and undergraduate students; the MLA Style Manual is for graduate students, scholars, and professional writers.
  • Journalism and Other Media
    The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law, 46th ed., Basic Books, 2015. See also: AP Stylebook.

    The BBC News Style Guide, 2003.

    The Canadian Press Stylebook: A Guide for Writing and Editing, 17th ed., Canadian Press, 2013. See also: Canadian Press Stylebook.

    The Economist Style Guide, 11th ed., Economist Books, 2015. See also: Economist Style Guide.

    Guardian Style, 3rd ed., Random House UK, 2010. See also: The Guardian, Observer and Style Guide.

    The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, 5th ed., Three Rivers Press, 2015.

    UPI Stylebook and Guide to Newswriting, 4th ed., Capital Books, 2004.
  • Law
    ALWD Guide to Legal Citation, 5th ed., Wolters Kluwer Law & Business, 2014.

    The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, 20th ed., The Harvard Law Review Association, 2015. See also: The Bluebook.
  • Science, Medicine, and Technology
    The ACS Style Guide: Effective Communication of Scientific Information, 3rd ed., American Chemical Society, 2006.

    AMA Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors, 10th ed., Oxford University Press, 2007. See also: AMA Manual of Style.

    Geowriting: A Guide to Writing, Editing, and Printing in Earth Science, American Geological Institute, 1995.

    The Manual of Scientific Style: A Guide for Authors, Editors, and Researchers, Academic Press, 2009.

    Scientific Style and Format: The CBE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, 7th ed., Council of Science Editors, 2006.
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences
    The Political Science Student Writer's Manual, 7th ed., Pearson, 2011.

    Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (commonly known as the APA Style Manual), 6th ed., American Psychological Association (APA), 2009. See also: APA Style.

    Style Manual for Political Science, rev. ed., American Political Science Association, 2002


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