Just to be clear, I'm not talking about scholarly work of the sort that might be published by a university press. I'm talking about work by people like Goodwin, McCullough, or Larson. These kinds of books usually don't have in text citations. References will come at the end of the book, usually marked by a book page and phrase.

I realize once the writer has a contract the publisher will probably specify all this. However, I would like to format my work from the very beginning, e.g., sample chapters for proposal, so that I only need to make minimal formatting changes later.

2 Answers 2


There are many different formats depending on the type of work being cited, and the standard being used. Common standards are the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Psychological Association (APA). MLA style is widely used when writing about history and literature. APA is widely used when writing about science and technical subjects (not just psychology).

Here's a reference for MLA style: http://www2.liu.edu/cwis/cwp/library/workshop/citmla.htm

Here's a reference for APA style: http://www.umuc.edu/library/libhow/apa_examples.cfm

  • Thanks for responding, Jay; I appreciate it. Just to clarify, your answer is about referencing. I'm asking about in text citations. In APA, for example, citations are typically author,year, in parentheses, e.g., "(Jay, 2012)". I think nonfiction books often use Chicago style referencing, but I don't know whether the text the author submits to the publisher includes Chicago style citations, since I think they include superscripts and publishers usually don't want manuscripts with "fancy" formatting ... Does that make sense?
    – Al C
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 18:07
  • Very late follow up: APA style involves in-line citations like your example. MLA style calls for footnotes, I don't think there's a provision for such in-line citations in MLA. Yes, it's true that publishers generally want very simple formatting, I presume because getting the text from the form submitted by the author into their typesetting system is not always clean and direct, and any formatting may cause more trouble than it helps. When I used to write for magazines, they would typically have a style sheet that said how they wanted such things. ...
    – Jay
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 13:31
  • I'd seek direction from the specific publisher rather than generic suggestions, as their requirements vary. If you're sending out cold query letters and don't want to reformat for each publisher, any format that is reasonably readable should be adequate. If the publisher is interested, they can ask you to resubmit in a format they like better. I've done that a couple of times.
    – Jay
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 13:35

I realize this was a long time ago, but I would like to clarify a couple things. APA, MLA and Chicago Manual Style have different purposes and uses that contribute to why they are preferred within specific disciplines. APA's in text citations are preferred in technical disciplines because they emphasize the author and the date (Jay, 2016)Those who are knowledgable within the field are aware of the authors' reputations and the date proves that the research is recent, so the author verifies that they are up to date on the field. The page numbers are less important because frequently what is being referenced are ideas rather than quotations.

MLA has in text citations, not footnotes. They tell you the author and page number. (Jay, 293) or after a repetition of text cited (294). This is because they are the citation style of choice for the humanities in academic papers and the most important aspects are the author and the page number, so a researcher who is trying to follow the historical thread of the research can easily find the reference. Primary source material is considered key and therefore date is inconsequential to relevance.

Chicago Manual Style is a separate citation style from MLA and uses--most commonly--endnotes. Chicago Manual Style is a publishing style for the humanities. It allows the reader to consume the text uninterrupted but provides a means for including a more in depth citation style all around. All the information contained within the bibliography plus the specific page number is used within the initial endnote for a text and then the author name and page number, and finally an IBID, if the second citation is on the same page.

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