Choosing the Write Style

How many writing styles are there and when the heck do I use them?

These are two questions I often asked myself in school whenever a teacher instructed the class to write a paper. One would say “write it in MLA format.” Another would follow up with, “write it in APA format.” Then more recently, I was assigned a research paper to be written in Chicago Manual style or Turabian. My initial response to the Turabian style was a head scratch followed by a “What? What the heck is that?”

I immediately began research and was fortunate enough to come across I will briefly provide the key points to provide the leg work for you. (When you’re writing, I know the last thing you want to do is search all over the internet for answers).

American Psychological Association Writing Style also known as APA is used most often in Social sciences such as Psychology, Sociology, Criminology, and Nursing just to name a few.

Modern Language Association Writing Style also known as MLA is often used in the Liberal Arts, Art, and Humanities. This is the most common writing style as it can be formatted for everyday uses.  Per, when surfing the internet, you may find the MLA format for some of these things:

  • articles
  • research papers
  • interviews
  • essays
  • web sites
  • newspapers
  • manuscripts

Chicago Manual Style or Turabian Writing Style is usually used in economics and history. Turabian Style was a modified version of the Chicago style to meet the needs of the students or writers. Its style is used in history, literature, and arts. The citation style is different in that it cites a bibliography, notes style (footnote style), and author-date style. (This by far has been my least favorite style to write for what I consider obvious reasons).

According to, other writing styles include Council of Biology Editors (CBE Style), Harvard Style, and Columbia Guide to Online Style (CGOS). I will be the first to admit, I have used none of these. If you have any experience in using these styles, drop me a comment below of your writing experience with them. 🙂

I’m sure these are not the only writing styles out there in the world today, but I found that these are the most popular here in the US. If you know of a different writing style or have used a style not listed here on this post, please provide your information and expertise in the comment section. We would love to hear from you!

Hopefully, this post has provided some insight on when it is appropriate to use each style. If you know of a college kid that has to write in any of these styles, point them in this direction to possibly help them understand what the heck the letters mean.

Although, I don’t have much in depth information to pass along, this is a start. Visit the A Research Guide for Students for a list of helpful resources.

And as always, happy writing! 🙂



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