17 November 2010

APA Style

As editor of our FASS journal South East Asia: A Multidisciplinary Journal, I need to apply a consistent formatting system, and we are using the APA style. Just today, my UBD colleague, Gary Jones, gave me a copy of the APA style book (published in 2005):Quite apart from the observation that a tome with 212 pages is hardly concise, there are some startling comments on grammar. For example, see if you can guess what they think is wrong with the following two sentences from page 14, both of which are labelled as "incorrect":
  • These data only provide a partial answer.
  • The participants were tested using this procedure.
The answers are that, in the first, the word only "should be placed next to the word or phrase it modifies", and that, in the second, there is a "dangling modifier", as there is no obvious subject for using. The suggested correct versions are:
  • These data provide only a partial answer.
  • Using this procedure, I tested the participants.
This is absolute nonsense. There is nothing at all wrong with either of the sentences, and it is stunning to see such rubbish promoted by people who clearly have no clue.

Language Log has a long history of campaigning against such idiocy from self-professed style experts (eg here). It looks like the APA style book is a prime candidate for their analysis.