Why Isn't APA Style Applied to the Book Describing It?
Open your copy of the 6th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Peruse the pages. Absorb (and enjoy!) its wisdom. But do not look for strict adherence to APA Style in the dropped letters beginning each chapter, nor the flush left indentation of the first paragraph of each section, nor the cool logo and shading found at the top of each page.
On page 7 of the Publication Manual is a brief explanation: “APA Style rules are designed for ease of reading in manuscript form. Published work often takes a different form in accordance with professional design standards.” This sums up the reasoning but may strike some as unsatisfying.
It may help to think of it this way: The Publication Manual applies not to all stages of writing but to a particular stage of writing, the first and arguably most important stage when ideas are being shaped and clothed in words and symbols that readers will understand. APA Style encourages and supports standards of clear communication for writers while keeping in mind the needs of readers, consisting, at this stage, of editors and reviewers (or, for students, professors and other graders).
Once the article is written, reviewed, edited, revised, accepted for publication, copyedited, and sent to the printer for typesetting, the article leaves the land of APA Style and enters the stylistic world of whatever publisher has accepted it. With a book like the Publication Manual, the designer needs to keep the information easily readable and accessible while drawing the reader’s eye and interest, thus the visual elements such as shading and boldface where one might not be used to seeing them in classic APA Style. Samples of writing and visual elements that are in APA Style stand out and are easier to find and use when they differ from the book’s style.
Although an entire book that puts APA Style into practice from beginning to end is a good idea in theory, our hope is that a book that clearly describes APA Style and is liberally filled with examples of it—that is, the new Publication Manual—will be even more useful.