What format? What’s MLA…? Chicago?

The semester is winding down very quickly. With the end, as at Berkeley, are final exams. I was in my discussion section for Scandinavian Politics preparing for the final exam with I was struck by another cultural difference.

Minutes before the review was over, I slowly raised my hand and asked ‘Which format are we using?’

Discussion Leader: What do you mean? Intro, theory, emperical, and conclusion.

Me: I mean, format – do you want MLA, ASA…?

DL: What are those?

For the exam, we are given two essay prompts and I have to write a three to four thousand word essay. Usually at home, before we go over the content of the exam, the professor lets us know if the format will be MLA, ASA, or even the dreaded Chicago.

All I was told for this essay was that it should be 12 point font, margins of 2.25 centimeters (well, one inch margins for you non-Europeans out there), and have an alphabetical and chronological bibliography. This is where my problem came in.

I recognize they gave us a lot of details on the formatting, but I’m used to having a name for the formatting so I can google it later to ensure everything is right. Turns out no one knew what those are. They hadn’t hear of MLA before. I have written my essays in MLA for fifteen years. It never occured to me that other countries would use a different format or not have a specific name for it.


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