by Christian Hilgemann, junior writing coach
Today I am forced to address what is quite possibly the most controversial issue in modern literature. Wars have been fought, entire continents have descended into chaos, and lifelong friendships have been torn apart because of this conflict, but now, in accordance with popular demand, I will be providing the final say on which formal citation format is truly the greatest of them all. I’m sure that you already have strong opinions on the subject, but even if you think that you already know all there is to know about this debate and are convinced that your favored style is beyond reproach, I would encourage you to read on; you might be in for a surprise.
Starting with the worst of the worst, APA (American Psychological Association) style citations are usually used by vampires, serial killers, and social scientists. This is the most generic, and frankly, boring citation format. It follows the “author-date” method of in-text citations, which is about as unique as that Harlem Shake video you were in in 2013 (Paiz 2018). The thing that really sets APA apart from the rest of the pack is that there is absolutely nothing to set it apart from anything whatsoever. Really, the only reason that it’s on this list is because it is a relatively popular practice in its field, and that clearly has nothing to do with its value as a method of citing things.
The Chicago style is truly the citation equivalent of that one guy who says “whom’s’t’ve” every other sentence for no reason, and is the most common style for published works rather than class papers. It has two variations, which are almost identical, and are representative of the larger problem with Chicago, which is that there is just too much complex detail and minutia incorporated into the style as a whole (Clements 2018). In fact, the lack of details in this paragraph is mostly due to the fact that I don’t really understand how the system works, so Chicago gets second to last.
Moving on to a legitimately useful style, MLA (Modern Language Association) citations also use the run-of-the-mill “author-date” method for internal citations. However, while other styles have different required elements for different types of sources (books, websites, etc.), MLA uses the same core list of elements for every source, including author, title, and others (Russel 2017). This simplicity makes it ideal for high school students, as well as other people who have better things to do with their time than write up citations (or blog posts about citations).
Of course, all of these pale in comparison to the little known, and much underappreciated, IEEE (Institution of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) system, which is championed by some genius engineers. The supreme elegance of IEEE lies in its numbered in-text citation method. The only citation necessary is a number in brackets that corresponds to a source in the works cited page . This solves the problem of bulky citations taking up room and distracting from the content of a paper, completely ends discrimination against authors with long last names, and reduces the amount of paper used, thus stopping deforestation and saving the environment and the human race from their previously inevitable doom.
This has been a one hundred percent objective ranking of citation formats. If you have any questions please email me at christianh@IEEE.org.
Paiz, J. M. (2018, February 21). Welcome to the Purdue OWL. Retrieved March 01,
2018, from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/02/
Clements, Jessica. “Welcome to the Purdue OWL.” Purdue OWL: Chicago Manual of
Style 17th Edition. January 31, 2018. Accessed March 01, 2018. https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/717/01/.
Russel, Tony. “Welcome to the Purdue OWL.” Purdue OWL: MLA Formatting and Style
Guide, 23 Oct. 2017, owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/02/.
 “IEEE Style: All Examples,” Subject Guides, 18-Jan-2018. [Online]. Available:
http://libguides.murdoch.edu.au/IEEE/all. [Accessed: 01-Mar-2018].