Writing with Style
You may or may not be aware that there are several different writing styles — including APA in the academic world. Today, I’ll focus on two of the most prevalent: AP (Associated Press) and Chicago. Knowing a few of their differences will allow you to understand why some copy variances aren’t wrong, but a matter of style.
In general, AP style — which I typically use as a former journalist — supports quick, space-restricted content, like newspapers and online articles, while Chicago style is seen in lengthier, more detailed materials, like books and technical documentation. Here are a few ways these styles differ:
Em dashes. As evidenced by my use of them above, em dashes appear with a space on either side in AP style. That’s not the case with Chicago—those spaces disappear.
State abbreviations. AP style favors abbreviations — but not those used by the post office, and 30 cities need no state identification at all. Just north of San Diego, Del Mar, Calif. is a beautiful seaside community. Chicago typically doesn’t use state abbreviations, but if they are used, they follow post office style. I live in San Diego, California. I’m a native of Chicago, IL.
Ellipses. “Triple periods” in AP style look like this … while the same type of punctuation looks like this. . .in Chicago style.
Numbers. There are some nuances I won’t go into, but in general, only numbers under 10 are spelled out in AP style. My almost 19-year-old niece is finishing up her sophomore year at Michigan State. Chicago style says to spell out numbers under 100. My seventeen-year-old nephew and I will be attending a Cubs game at Wrigley Field in July.
Serial (Oxford) commas. AP style says no. I share apples, carrots and green beans with my adorable dog, Cubbie. Chicago style says yes. Cubbie’s three favorite things are sleeping, going for walks, and eating.
Focus on consistency. You can follow one style, but unless it’s mandatory to do so, use the elements that make the most sense to you or feel more natural — and stick to them. For instance, I’ve had clients say they prefer AP style, but want to use serial commas.
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When I saw publically in a document I was editing, it didn’t seem right, so I looked it up. I learned although it’s considered a variant spelling of publicly, most people consider it a misspelling.