For writers, content is often more important than the mechanics required to format an academic paper. However, there are rules for formatting academic papers. And when the rules of writing in APA or MLA style are required but not properly followed, most college instructors will take points off the paper’s overall grade.
So in the case of formatting academic papers, you have no choice but to follow the rules. That said, style guides are often intimidating in their scope and size. Let’s face it – rather than hunt through a voluminous document, it’s often easier to have a condensed version of the rules, especially the rules you are most likely to use.
That’s why books such as APA: The Easy Way! (Updated for 6th Edition) and MLA: The Easy Way! (Updated for 7th Edition) are nice to have around. They are quick and easy guides to formatting academic papers, focusing on the most commonly required elements.
APA: The Easy Way is divided into three parts. The first part addresses the mechanics of setting up your pre-2007, 2007 or 2010 Word document. If you aren’t sure about the requirements for page headings, or levels of headings, this section explains how to set them up. Similar instructions are included for margins, font type and size, line spacing, title page, the paper’s abstract, appendices, and the body of the paper. It also includes numerous examples for in-text citations.
Part two addresses the reference page and provides examples for referencing works used in your paper including but not limited to books, magazines, encyclopedias, motion pictures, television series and music recordings. There are also examples for referencing the many forms of online resources including but not limited to technical reports, online magazine/journal articles and videos.
The final section includes a sample paper. Sometimes a quick visual is all you need to properly cite a reference document, or to correctly quote Oprah Winfrey (assuming you’ve quoted Oprah!).
As one user said on Amazon, “This is a great little book that summarizes the most important aspects of APA style. It is concise and easy to follow with just enough examples. I highly recommend you start here before buying the style guide which is more difficult to follow. If you do buy the style guide, get this book to work with and the larger more complicated books as a general reference. There are also many free online resources for APA style and some of them are excellent.”
MLA: The Easy Way! is set up similarly, except that the mechanics of using Microsoft Word, and in-text citations are separated into two parts.
If you have used either of these books and found them to be useful (or not), please let us know in the comments section below.