Thursday, August 27, 2009
Manuscript Style Sheets
The best writing is direct, straightforward and focuses on ideas. Style sheets are used to facilitate written communications among scholars, students, and writers. The style sheets use conventions of language, consistency, and formatting to enable readers to concentrate on the message rather than the form. (At least that is what they claim.) Many teachers in high schools and colleges teachers require their students to follow a particular style sheet. Many professional and scholarly journals require adherence to particular style sheet.
Word choice is sometimes dependent on the field of study. Storytelling and narratives are best left to fiction and creative writing works. All scholarly publications depend on using and citing sources.These citations give credibility and support to the ideas expressed. Stuhlman's rule of citations is: All citations must be reversible. That means if I see a citation I must be able to look it up without ambiguity or confusion. One way of citation is the public view of a library catalog entry. If one searches Carter, C (that is last name Carter and any first name beginning with C)
This is the result from one library catalog. APA style sheet says to use on the initials of the author's given names. If you knew the author's last name and only the first initial you would not know which entry to choose. This is one example of the reasons APA style sheet is not sufficient for library searching. For library searching knowing only part of a name is not enough. Name authority is a system of entering names in catalogs. The system will bring together variants of names and spellings in other languages. One can't expect an author of an article or book to do the same name checking work as a librarian-cataloger, but it should be reasonable to copy the full name as listed in the source. Using the source name will give the library searcher a reasonable starting point to finding the bibliographic reference.
APA suggestions for author citations should not followed because it goes against their stated goal of clarity of communications.
Other features are legacies from the pre-computer word processing age. APA requires a serif type such as Times Roman face in the main body. This is the imitation of a typewriter. San-serif type faces such as Ariel look cleaner and more modern. The double-spacing between lines was done so that editors could make corrections on the paper. On the computer screen double spacing makes the document harder to read. We read by scanning in the upper parts of the letters. Double spacing confuses this ability to read quickly.
I challenge the makers and users of APA style sheet to start talking to librarians and library users so that changes can be made to bring the features into the age of computer word processing and library data base searches of articles, books, and other documents. This is just a short rant about style sheets. I challenge others to share their opinions.