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Lisa Stewart
August 7, 2023
Reading time
2 min read

Styles in editing

Did you know that there are multiple ways to write something correctly in English? This article will explore the many styles of writing within the English language.
Styles in editing

Styles in editing

Did you know that there are multiple ways to write something correctly in the English language? Often, you may be overcome by doubts, wondering if what you wrote is correct because you were taught one way, but saw it written differently elsewhere. To the surprise of many, even native English speakers, are faced with these questions.

Woman looking confused

Any writer of English will be, at times, confounded by all the rules and exceptions that abound in this language. There may even be different rules in different contexts.

Capitalization, abbreviations, punctuation, spelling, grammar, the representation of numbers, incorporating foreign words, and citing other works are just a few of the major conundrums that stand between mediocre writing and extraordinary writing. This is due to the many styles of writing within the English language.

Major style guides

Fortunately, there are several style guides to help writers and editors navigate and implement these rules in different situations. Here are four major ones.


AP style (The Associated Press Stylebook, 55th Edition): used in newspapers and magazines, as well as by broadcast writers.


APA style (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Seventh Edition): used in academics, scholarly writing, healthcare, psychology, and the natural sciences.  


Chicago style (Chicago Manual of Style, Seventeenth Edition): used in published fiction/nonfiction books and stories, academic journals, social sciences, business, history, fine arts, and the humanities (history, philosophy, human geography, law, religion, politics, art, languages, literature, anthropology). 


Modern Language Association (MLA) style (MLA Handbook, Eighth Edition): used in academics, scholarly writing, literary criticism, and the humanities.  

Seeing the differences

The differences between styles are in the details. These differences form the individual styles and guide the unique choices an editor has to make with regard to how written content is styled.  

Woman looking through maginifying glass

For example, APA, Chicago, and MLA all use the Oxford comma (aka the serial comma). So the final comma in “milk, chocolate, and bread” is an Oxford comma that AP would not use.  


Chicago and MLA keep all prepositions lowercase in titles. AP and APA capitalize all words that have four or more letters, including prepositions, in titles. This means the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s would have a lowercase “at” in Chicago and MLA, but AP and APA would write Breakfast At Tiffany’s.  


Chicago has a thick hyphenation guide with solid examples that provide far more details than the other guides.  

To show ownership, AP simply adds an apostrophe to names that end in s: James’ cat. But APA, MLA, and Chicago all add an apostrophe plus another s to names that end in s: James’s cat.  


AP cites sources in the text and does not include a bibliography. APA uses an author-date style for citations, whereas MLA uses an author-page style. Chicago has two approaches: (1) author-date and (2) notes and bibliography.

Managing different styles guides

Sometimes style guides agree on a matter, sometimes they don’t. Editors do not have all of these differences memorized, but they have copies of all guides on their desks and they know exactly where to look when a question arises.  

Woman wearing glasses and looking at papers

As you can see, depending on the type of writing you are doing, there are different ways of, and rules to, writing. The average writer is not expected to know all of these styles or have them memorized.

That is where an editor comes in. Their expertise and easy access to the different style guides allow them to clean up your work while ensuring consistency throughout. This guarantees that your work is cohesive and professional, and assists in connecting your message with your readers.