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an example of parallel structure

College Prep Writing

Style Manuals

Style manuals are reference books that provide guides to writing and displaying text on a page, among other things. The purpose of these guides is to provide standardized and highly readable content.

The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) is an example of a style manual used in the United States. In Britain and in some former British colonial countries, the Oxford Guide to Style is the authoritative style manual.


Style is arbitrary. One of the stylistic differences between American and British written English is the position of a period or full-stop at the end of a quotation. In British English, the full-stop goes outside of the final quotation mark, and in American English a period goes inside the final quotation mark. Publishers are, of course, aware of the arbitrariness of these traditions, yet the traditions are followed in most kinds of writing because of a need for the standardization of published works.

There are similar stylistic differences within American English. In the U.S., one publisher might recommend the use of a hyphen to separate the two parts of mid-Atlantic. The policy of another publisher might be to keep the compound word open: mid Atlantic.

Chicago Manual of Style

In the U.S., the Chicago Manual of Style is most commonly used with publishers, academicians, professional researchers, and others. CMS does not specifically address issues that most often puzzle inexperienced students, such as page formatting for student essays. However, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers (often referred to as "Turabian," the author) is, as the title suggests, based on the CMS and is popular among students.

MLA Handbook

The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers is often introduced in American high schools, and teachers frequently continue with that manual in the first year of college. The MLA Style Manual is also what many teachers are most experienced with from their education, and that makes it convenient for them in high school and in first year or two of college.

For students, the most common use of a style manual is as a guide to works for essays and research papers. Guides to citation are also available in software programs, but software is sometimes considered too proscriptive. A style manual, on the other hand, may discuss a particular guide in some depth and suggest alternatives.

Style Manuals and Style Manuals

In addition to the ones mentioned above, there are many other English style manuals, including—

• The Complete Guide to Citing Government Information for U.S. government documents;

• The AMA Manual of Style, published by the American Medical Association;

• The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation for writers on legal matters and published by the Harvard Law Review et al.;

• In Canada, The Canadian Style: A Guide to Writing and Editing is an authoritative guide. As might be expected, the book offers a guide to presenting French words in English text.

• In Australia, the Style Manual offers guidance for writers and publishers in that country.

Please see Tutorials for videos on MLA and CMS