APA, AP, MLA, Chicago and Oxford Walk into a Bar;
You Walk Out With a Terrible Truth about the English Language.
I believe grammar is one of the most important things in any language but, by now, many readers will have noticed odd little…discrepancies *shudder*. Maybe my comma use bugs you. Maybe I end some sentences with prepositions. Maybe you just don’t like my word choice. Well, I hate to tell you this, but the way I write is correct, just not with your grammar style book.
If We all Switched to French Everything Would be Easier.
France legally recognizes L’Académie Française as the ultimate authority on the entire French Language. That means that, although there are variations between countries, French Grammar is a singular entity. English should be so lucky. English has no ultimate authority controlling the language. English has dozens. These terrible creatures are called the Style Books *cue dramatic music*. While the Style Books agree on basic things like spelling (for the most part) and commas (sometimes), they disagree on almost anything else.
In the AP Style, used by journalists, there is only one space after a period, the Oxford Comma is a plague and may your death be swift and painless if you mess up numbers. In MLA, used by scholars for publishing and disgruntled grade school students turning in that last minute papers, never put your name, your instructor’s name, your course name and your date in the wrong order. Chicago Style, the supreme authority of humanities studies…yeah, I still can’t get that bibliography right…
You Will Never Get it Right…Ever.
So…Do We Just Stick With the Common Rules and Hope for the Best?
No. It doesn’t matter that the Style Books are a pain in the ass. If you don’t pick a style you are never going to be right ever, which is worse than only being right some of the time.
With personal writing you need to start making dissensions; what style suits what you write best and requires the fewest adjustments from the way you write now? This can be a bit tricky to figure out but think about why you right that way. Most people who write well either write the way their high school teachers wrote or the way they read writing most often. How did your high school teachers write? Well, how did they want you to cite work? How do you figure out what style your reading uses? You are on your own to figure that one out. Good luck.
With professional writing you have no mystery to solve. Every field has a style book it recognizes as the ultimate authority. Sometimes it’s a matter of legality; you have to use that style book or face severe consequences. Start studying. Good luck.