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Do You Have the Right Style?

2009 October 14
by Richard N. Landers
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It’s been a pretty slow news week in technology training, so I thought I’d briefly comment on the new printing of the APA Style Guide - the handbook of rules and guidelines for writing papers in the style mandated by the American Psychological Association.  This is the how-to manual for writing academic papers, both for students writing in social science classes and professors writing in academic journals.  A new edition (the 6th) was released in July 2009.

I can hear you now – “what a boring topic!”  And true, arguing the finer points of writing style is not terribly interesting itself.  The interesting part is the controversy that has erupted due to the recent elease of roughly nine pages of corrections to the guide, spread quite obnoxiously across four PDFs labeled Errors in APA Style Rules, Errors in Examples, Clarifications, and Nonsignificant Typos.  With some critics demanding free reprints and others suggesting dropping APA in favor of Chicago or MLA styles, this has in turn drawn even greater scrutiny on the rules contained therein.

I think the most interesting tidbit I picked up from the various debates is this comment on Inside Higher Ed from Bill Dockery on the change from single- to double-spaces after complete sentences:

Is there experimental evidence for this “double-space” rule after periods, or are there just some social scientists who can’t shake the influence of their high school typing teachers?

Modern editorial practice demands only one space after periods because most texts are transmitted (and edited) electronically and the double letter-space after periods, etc., can introduce typographic complications. That’s been common knowledge for only the last quarter century.

(And are social science editorial boards STILL working with hardcopy submissions?)

All I have to say is: “Ouch.”

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  1. October 14, 2009

    A lot of this caught me by surprise. I wonder if there is any place we can find out exactly what changed. I can’t for the life of me identify what needed to change. I hope the changes are more substantial than simply underlining everything that was once italicized.

    Did we really need a new version of the manual?

  2. October 14, 2009

    The only “what’s new” piece I could find is this one: http://www.apastyle.org/learn/tutorials/brief-guide.aspx

    …which of course doesn’t tell you much more than “the new edition is great, go buy it!” But I bet if you buy it, there’s a “what’s different” page!

    I know one of the more contentious changes is that all sources located online now require a digital object identifier (DOI) code in their citation, which theoretically applies to every source you don’t physically locate. Which seems pretty stupid to me. Example from a random webpage I found:

    Devine, P. G., & Sherman, S. J. (1992). Intuitive versus rational judgment and the role of stereotyping in the human condition: Kirk or Spock? Psychological Inquiry, 3(2), 153-159. doi:10.1207/s15327965pli0302_13

  3. October 14, 2009

    DOI? This is the first I have heard of it. I feel my expertise in manuscript editing slipping through my fingers. Where might I find a doi for this page?

  4. October 15, 2009

    I think DOIs are only provided by organizations that use the DOI system, which includes most academic journals. It means you can do things like look up articles by DOI here: http://dx.doi.org/

    For example, if you go that address and copy/paste the Kirk/Spock DOI (10.1207/s15327965pli0302_13), it will direct you to the web page associated with that DOI/article. The advantage to the system is that even if the page itself moves, the DOI should point correctly, which should prevent obsolete links from appearing in reference lists. I think the rationale for its use is for journals that don’t use the volume/issue/page number system (increasingly common in online-only journals).

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