APA vs MLA: Understanding the Key Differences Between Both

apa vs mla

There are a lot of different formatting and citation styles that you might come across when writing an essay, research paper, or other schoolwork. These include APA, MLA, Chicago, IEEE, etc.

Learning about their differences can help with understanding what kind of citations are needed for your specific assignment as well as knowing how to format them properly so they look professional.

Are you a student wondering which style of format to use? Are you confused between APA and MLA formatting?

Well, don't worry! In this blog post, we'll break down the key differences between these two styles of formatting and help you decide which style is best for you.

Read on for a detailed guide on how to format papers using each style.

What is APA vs MLA?

There are many formatting and citation styles in academia. APA and MLA are the two most commonly used ones.

APA, American Psychological association, is a writing style developed by the American Psychological Association and MLA, Modern Languages Association, is a format introduced by the Modern Language Association.

Each format has a specific set of guidelines for formatting your papers and citations, detailed in their Publication Manuals.

Both of them have certain similarities. Such as, in both styles, you include a brief citation in the text, as well as a full reference list at the end of your paper.

However, the formatting and layout will be slightly different in each style.

“When to use APA vs MLA?”

APA is mostly used in social science and education fields, while MLA is mostly used in arts and humanities fields.

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APA vs MLA Format Guidelines

Here are the general guidelines to follow to write papers in APA format and MLA format respectively.

APA Format General Guidelines

  • All lines are double-spaced.
  • The first line of each paragraph is indented 0.5 inches.
  • There’s a margin of 1 inch on all sides.
  • Use a legible font, such as Times New Roman-12 points.
  • A header or running head is placed at the top of every page.
  • The first page is a title page.
  • Use parenthetical citations for in-text references.
  • APA citation style requires sources to be placed on a separate page at the end of the paper, labeled as ‘References.’
  • Citations are put in alphabetical order for authors’ names and chronological order for works.
  • The first line of each citation is left-adjusted.
  • Use a hanging indent for subsequent lines of citations.

MLA Format General Guidelines

  • All text is double-spaced.
  • The first line of each paragraph is to be indented 0.5 inches.
  • A margin of 1 inch is placed on all sides.
  • Use Times New Roman-12 points as font style and size.
  • A header is also placed at the top of every page.
  • A title page is not required as such.
  • Parenthetical citations are used to reference sources in the text.
  • MLA citations are on a separate page at the end, labeled as ‘Works Cited.’
  • Citations are placed in alphabetical order for authors’ names and works.
  • The first line of each citation is left-adjusted.
  • The subsequent lines of citations are indented 0.5 inches.

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APA vs MLA Differences

Let’s look at the major differences between APA format vs MLA format to know how to format papers and cite sources in both.

Writing Styles APA vs MLA

Both formats have certain similarities and yet certain differences as well in formatting the research papers. We’ve detailed these differences below for your guidance:

APA Style MLA Style
Title Page
It is the first page of the document. The title page is not required.

The title page includes the following:

  • Title
  • Name of author(s)
  • Affiliated institute
  • Course title (only for student papers)
  • Instructor’s name (only for student papers)
  • Author’s note (only for professional papers)
  • Date

Instead of a title page, the first page of the document includes the following:

  • Name of the author(s)
  • Instructor’s name
  • Course title
  • Date
Header

The running head at the top of every page includes:

  • Title of paper
  • Page number

The running head at the top of every page includes:

  • Surname of the author
  • Page number

The title of the paper is placed in the right-hand corner and page numbers on the left.

Both the last name of the author and page numbers are placed in the left-hand corner, without commas.

Title of the Paper
The title is centered and bolded on the first page of the paper. The title is centered but not bolded, italicized, or underlined.
Block Quotes
Blockquotes are used for 40 words or more. Blockquotes are used for 4 or more lines.

APA vs MLA Citation Format

Both formats use in-text citations and a list of detailed citations at the end of the paper.

The citations in both formats give the basic information about the author, date of publishing, and source of retrieval. However, there are some key differences in the formatting of both.

Following is a comparison of citations in the two style formats:

APA Style MLA Style
APA vs MLA In-Text Citation
The in-text citation includes the author’s last name and year of publishing. May also include page numbers. The in-text citation includes the author’s last name and page numbers.
Format: (Author’s Last name, Year, p.) Format: (Author’s Last name p.)
Example: (Anderson, 2016, 8) Example: (Anderson 8)
APA vs MLA Reference Lists
Citations at the end of the paper are labeled as “References.” Citations at the end of the paper are labeled as “Works Cited.”
Author’s name is written in the format: Last Name, First and Middle name initials Author’s name is written in the format: Last Name, First Name
A period is not necessary at the end of references. A period should be placed at the end of all works cited entries.
The Publication date comes after the author's name. The Publication date is typically at the end of the citation.
The title of the sources is italicized. The title of the sources is italicized if it’s a self-contained source and put in quotation marks if it’s part of a larger source.

Format for citing a book:

Author Surname, Initial(s). (Year). Title of book (ed.). Publisher Location: Publisher

Format for citing a book:

Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. City of Publication, Publisher, Publication Date (pp.).

Format for citing a journal article:

Author Surname, Initial(s). (Year). Article Title. Title of Journal, Volume number, Page number(s). DOI or URL

Format for citing a journal article:

Author(s). "Title of Article." Title of Journal, Volume, Issue, Year, pages.

Format for citing a website:

Author Surname, Initial(s). (Year, Month, Day). Title. DOI or URL

Format for citing a website:

Author. "Title." Title of Container, Other contributors (translators or editors), Version (edition), Number (vol. and/or no.), Publisher, Publication Date, Location (pages, paragraphs and/or URL, DOI or permalink).

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APA vs MLA Examples

Following are the examples of well-written papers in APA format as well as MLA format. Check them out to see what each format looks like.

APA Format Paper Example (PDF)

APA Format Paper Example

MLA Format Paper Example (PDF)

MLA Format Paper Example

So, what is the difference between APA and MLA formats? How do you decide which one to use? And most importantly, when should you use them in essay writing?

In short, APA is used for social sciences while MLA is used for arts and humanities. However, there are other small differences which we’ve detailed in this guide.

Hopefully, this blog post has cleared up some of the confusion. If not, the experts at TheEssayWritingService.com are more than happy to help you out with all of your formatting needs.

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