The Quill


Dear Peer Consultants,
I have been having trouble transitioning between two very different styles of writing: Associated Press (AP) style and the collegiate standard of the Modern Language Association (MLA).

As I pursue my English degree, I also work as a staff writer for a local news publication. Therefore, I must juggle both styles for my academic and professional work. Is there any way that I can learn to make these daily transitions between my work more simple, without forgetting the essential components of each style?

Seeking Clarity,
A Baffled Writer

mla-vs-apa-CollegeScholarshipsOrg (1)

Dear Baffled Writer,

You have come to the right place! From AP’s disregard of the Oxford Comma when listing items to MLA’s formal practice of arguably lengthy citations, these two styles of writing can be understandably confusing. So many elements of AP style disregard the teachings of MLA for the sake of concise brevity.

The lack of clarity that MLA and AP styles lead to when being implemented on a daily basis at different times may seem challenging, though you should not worry. When you transition from one piece of writing to another, try to take a moment in between to clear your mind of the previous style you worked in.

For instance, if you are wrapping up a news story then have to work on a formal essay for class, take some time in between for a brief, independent activity, such as taking a walk or practicing some simple meditation. 

When you get back to work, be sure to have a respective style guide handy to monitor your progress and stylistic accuracy as you write.

The Eighth Edition of the MLA Handbook is available in many book stores or online for less than ten dollars, making it a worthwhile investment. The Writing Support Studio has some free copies on campus as well.

Countless AP style guides are also available online, including those of the trusted Purdue Owl and references on Writing Explained. The computer program AP StyleGuard can also be downloaded for Microsoft Word as extra assurance of the perfection of your news piece. 

When learning to tame the very different beasts that are AP and MLA styles, it takes patience and dedicated research on the different guidelines of each and why they exist in order to truly grow confident in switching between the two with ease.  

Thank you for consulting the Writing Support Studio. As always, feel free to stop by the LAC’s Writing Center with any of your writing concerns, no matter the style in question. 


Best Wishes, 

The Writing Support Studio