I've had a look through some older questions and some of the less popular tags on the main site and I stumbled upon the tag , which sadly has neither a tag wiki excerpt, nor a full tag wiki. It immediately reminded me of the tag , which says in both, its full tag wiki and its tag wiki excerpt, the following:

The style manual for the American Psychological Association.

I wondered whether "ap-style" might simply be another form of referring to this specific style, so I started looking through the questions in the tag:

I don't know much about this topic and the different style manuals. Could someone enlighten me as to their specific meaning and tell me whether the tag is used correctly?

If they are interchangeable I would like to know whether it makes sense to merge these tags and make ap-style a synonym of apa. If they are different I would like to know whether the tinyURL question needs retagging and the footnote placement question needs a notice for the existing answer.

In any case it would be nice if someone with the knowledge could update the tag wiki(s) to make it easier for someone with not-so-much knowledge to understand this. Maybe we could make the tags themselves longer so that it's easier to understand at first glance, as with the chicago manual of style.

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    I've made some tag wiki entries for these tags. This is a pretty big omission for a writing site, thanks for bringing it up! Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 15:52

1 Answer 1


They're not the same thing.

APA, as the tag-wiki notes, stands for the American Psychological Association, which is a professional organization for psychologists. APA style is thus a style for scholarly publications, created by the APA for its journals and widely adopted in the social sciences. Its standards are published in the Publication Manual for the American Psychological Association. APA style specifies formatting for citations, both in-text and in the References section (that heading is preferred over "Bibliography" (Chicago style) or "Works Cited" (Modern Languages Association style)), as well as things like using double-spacing, having a running header, etc.

AP, on the other hand, stands for Associated Press, a multinational (US) news agency that writes "wire reports". AP style is therefore designed to optimize and standardize popular journalism. Its standards are published in The Associated Press Stylebook. Relative to APA style, it has more information about issues like word choice and less about citation (since news articles don't typically come with a list of references at the end, all with a hanging indent).

I haven't done a head-to-head comparison between the Manual and the Styleguide, but I imagine that they will conflict in some particulars as they are aimed at different types of writing and should not be used interchangeably. Many of the examples that you cite may, indeed, be using one or the other term incorrectly. In particular, answers requesting one style or the other ought not to be answered using the other style, unless it is clear that the OP was confused. (This might be obvious if, for example, the OP is asking about writing a scholarly paper and referencing "AP style" or vice versa.)

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    Have updated the tag wikis for AP and APA, using some of your text; I also made a start at one for Chicago, using some of the language at the wikipedia article. Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 15:51

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