Does style matter? It does if you’re a writer, especially if you want your piece published. Some publications have their style manuals. If you’re a journalist who conforms to the Associated Press Stylebook (or AP Style Guide), that may not be enough if you’re writing for The New York Times. The Times has its manual of style and usage. That’s not unique. Many publications have in-house style manuals. It’s not as bad as it sounds. Sometimes the difference between them is minute—for example, the Oxford comma. Many consider it persnickety. Yet it has merit.
I often follow the AP Style Guide or The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) more than any other. Yet I’m aware of the different major manual styles and apply them if they fit what I’m writing and for who I am writing. Here are other style guides used in publishing. Many more are in use.
- American Psychological Association (APA Style Guide)
- Modern Language Association (MLA Style Guide)
- The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style
- The Economist Style Guide
- The Canadian Press Stylebook
- The Elements of Style
- The University of Oxford Style Guide
- The Yahoo! Style Guide
What about those commas, periods, and quotation marks? Does it matter whether you put the period inside or outside the quotation marks? To paraphrase the late Winston Churchill, England and America are separated by a common language. If you’re an American writer, you’ll put the period inside the quotation mark in a direct quote, but outside it, if you’re English.
And how do I know this? The CMOS says so, and I’m not about bicker about style.
“Commas and periods are almost always placed before a closing quotation mark, ‘like this,’ rather than after, ‘like this.’ This traditional style has persisted even though it’s no longer universally followed outside the United States or entirely logical.”