Difference between APA and MLA

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In the academic discipline, there are different ways of writing, each having its own uniqueness. You would know about writing forms such as APA, MLA, Chicago, etc. But do you know what their differences are?

Both APA and MLA would look the same to you. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be taking a look here to find out the differences between APA vs. MLA writing ways.

We will talk about the APA vs. MLA differences in this article. These two are the most commonly used writing style for academic purposes. Even in colleges, these styles are used the most, whether for writing an essay, research paper, academic essay, etc.

When you get a college assignment, you also get specific guidelines for writing on a particular writing style and text citation. What would you do if you don’t know the differences in the writing styles? 

Both APA and MLA may seem similar, but you can differentiate between the two based on different means. If you know how the formats based on these types work along with specific guidelines, you can write in any documentation style without any difficulties. 

Here, we will discuss the difference between APA vs. MLA styles below.

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Comparison Between APA vs MLA

MLA stands for Modern Language Association; on the other hand, APA stands for American Psychological Association. MLA is mainly applied to fields related to humanities like history, literature, etc. APA format is primarily applied to social science-oriented fields such as psychology, criminology, etc. 

These are styles of citations which means the preferred type of citing the sources. Proper citation in your paper is crucial since it prevents the act of plagiarism. Institutes recommend these styles so that they won’t get plagiarised work, and it will be easier for them to check your writing. 

Both APA vs. MLA styles has a source citation consisting of a complete reference page and a reference list at the paper’s end and the text has a parenthetical citation. But, the citations in both these styles look slightly different from each other and have separate rules for author names, date placement, and title capitalization. 

Below, we can discuss the differences between APA and MLA styles of writing in detail. If you pay attention to these differences, writing in any of these styles would become more accessible. 

The Bibliography:

The bibliography is a list where you cite all the writers or editors whose works you have used in your paper. The bibliography has a different name in both APA and MLA writing styles. In MLA style, a bibliography is called ‘works cited,’ and in APA style, it’s called ‘references.’ 

You can connect the citations to whatever is in your paper by adding a brief citation in parentheses alongside the source statement. Both APA vs. MLA styles have different ways of organizing entries in their bibliography.

  • In MLA style, you have to arrange the authors and titles in alphabetical order.
  • IN APA style, you have to arrange the authors alphabetically but their works in chronological order.

Multiple Work Citations – One Author:

Both APA and MLA styles use different ways of citing multiple works of the same author. Let’s check out the APA vs. MLA style example based on multiple work citations below:

  • The author’s works are listed alphabetically in MLA style, and their name is written once. All the author’s works should start written with a formula: three hyphens, one period, one space, title name, and one period. For example:
    • Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. 1599
    • —. Romeo and Juliet. 1597
    • —. The Tempest. 1611
  • In APA style, the author’s works are listed chronologically (as per the publishing date), and all the listings incorporate the writer’s name. For example:
    • Shakespeare, W. (1597) Romeo and Juliet.
    • Shakespeare, W. (1599) Hamlet.
    • Shakespeare, W. (1611) The Tempest.

The Article Titles:

The style of writing the article titles is different for both APA vs. MLA styles, which you can notice below:

  • You must place all the article titles in quotation marks in MLA style and capitalize the main words.
  • In APA style, there is no need for putting quotation marks in the title, and you need to capitalize only the first word.

In-Text Parenthesis:

Both MLA vs. APA styles have their own way of structuring the in-text parenthesis. Let’s discuss how:

  • When citing your actual text, you have to place the author’s last name and the page numbers in parentheses in the MLA style.
  • In the APA style, when citing your actual text, you have to structure your parentheses like: the author’s last name, a comma, a publishing year, a comma, then a “p” and the page number.

The Period:

There is also a difference in the works cited in both MLA and APA styles that you can notice.

  • In MLA, you would notice a period at the end of all the citations.
  • In APA, you wouldn’t see a period in the citations if it ends in a URL or DOI.

Other Subtle Differences:

You would also notice some other minor differences between APA and MLA styles of writing. For example, the APA style usually includes the publication date after the author’s name. However, MLA consists of the publication date near or at the end of the citation or the publication.

MLA vs APA Citations

As you can see above, MLA and APA styles have different citations. Hence, let’s get into some examples of APA vs. MLA citations below:

When Citing A Book In MLA vs. APA Citation:

The citation of a book is different for both APA vs. MLA styles. You may get confused about how to cite a book in MLA or APA style. But, no need to worry; you will get adequate info on citing a book to know APA vs. MLA citations. The citations for books takes place as follows:

  • MLA: In an MLA-style document/paper, you have to structure your book citation in the way as follows:
    • The last name of the author, the author’s first name;
    • The title of the book you are citing is in italics;
    • The city of publication, publisher’s name, and the publication year;
    • The medium of publication;
    • Additional citations (if any);
    • Additional information (if any).
  • APA: In an APA-style document, you have to follow the structure given below for citing a book:
    • The last name of the author, their first or middle name’s initials
    • The book’s publishing year is in parentheses;
    • The book’s title is in italics;
    • The city and state of the book’s publication, a colon, and the publisher’s name.

When Citing An Article In MLA vs. APA:

Even the citation for an article is different for APA vs. MLA format. Let’s discuss the way of structuring the citation for an article in both APA and MLA.

  • In MLA, you have to follow a specific formula/structure for citing an article. The way is:
    • The last name of the author, their first name;
    • The title of the article is in quotation marks;
    • The journal title is in italics;
    • The volume of the article;
    • The release number;
    • The Date;
    • The Page(s);
    • The database’s name;
    • The DOI number (if any, or a URL/permalink)
    • The date month year of article accession.
  • In APA style, you have to cite the article based on the following rules or formulas:
    • The author’s last name, their first name’s initials;
    • The publication year of the article with parentheses;
    • The title and subtitle of the article;
    • The journal title is in italics;
    • The volume of the article;
    • The release number is in parentheses;
    • The page(s);
    • The DOI number.

Now that we have discussed the APA vs. MLA citations, you should also know the APA vs. MLA format to prepare your paper as per their guidelines. 

APA vs MLA Formatting

You may find formatting your paper based on specific tasks a complicated task. You have to research the latest formatting guides for different styles and work as per that, which may be time-consuming.

But now you can rest assured since this guide will help you understand all the APA vs. MLA format guidelines simply. Read below to know more about these writing styles’ formats.

Both APA vs. MLA formats has the same recommended styles for the font, spacing, and margins, which include:

  • 12pt Times New Roman font
  • 1″ margins on all sides
  • Double spacing

The other guidelines for APA vs. MLA formats are different such as the title, running head, quoting, etc. We will discuss the format differences between these two writing styles.

Title Page And Header:

AN APA vs. MLA example can be the header or title. The difference in this formatting type is:

APA: In an APA-style paper, you must write a separate title page. On that page, you have to list your paper’s title, institute’s name, department, course paper, instructor’s name, and date, and all should be in the center and double-spaced.

MLA: You don’t need to create an additional title page in the MLA style. You have to write a header on the first page, which will be left-aligned at the upper corner of your page, which should list your full name, the instructor’s name, the course’s title or number, and the submission date. After that, you have to make the title of the paper centered under the header. 

Running Head:

The difference in the running head for APA vs. MLA is:

MLA:  In an MLA-style paper, the running head includes your last name and the page number on each of the pages, and it’s situated at the top right corner.

APA:  In an APA-style paper, the page numbers included at the top of every page are right-aligned. You should include a short version of the paper’s time (around 50 characters long) in capital letters at the left upper corner as the running head in your paper.

Such a running header is not necessary for students’ papers unless mandated by the instructor.

Blockquote Formatting:

Blockquotes mean those quotes that are long, set on a new line, and are indented as a block that has no quotation marks. APA and MLA formatting in block quotes also consists of differences which are:

APA: The APA style paper having quotes of 40 words or longer should be formatted as a blockquote. 

MLA: The MLA-style paper having quotes of more than four lines (prose) or more than three lines (verse) should be formatted as a blockquote.

Section Headings:

APA:  In an APA-style paper, the section heads include the headings and subheadings that organize your paper.

MLA: In an MLA-style paper, there are no headings or subheadings to organize the paper.

Which Style To Choose: APA vs MLA?

Now that you are aware of the two writing styles, namely, APA vs. MLA, you would be confused regarding which one to select. This article can help you with that as well. 

Usually, school assignments for high school or elementary schools depend on the assignments’ MLA writing style. Instructors prefer the MLA style since it’s easier to teach as MLA is not made for advanced subjects. Hence, it is more suitable for students. 

Colleges and universities prefer the APA style of writing more since it is more advanced and scholarly. It includes scientific papers primarily. Students also use it for subjects that are connected to testing, hypothesizing, and reporting. College instructors prefer this style more compared to the MLA style of writing.

You should ensure choosing the right style as per the teacher’s instruction. It also depends on whether you are doing it for school, college, or university, since universities pay special attention to writing style. It helps in speeding up their research or grading process.


You would have to write papers/assignments and even choose from APA vs. MLA styles throughout your academic life. Moreover, using the correct formats for writing your papers is crucial in the academic discipline. 

Thus, it can be problematic if you don’t format your paper correctly based on the specific formats you are required to write. But now you know the differences between APA and MLA styles, you can write in these two styles without mixing them up in a hassle-free manner. You only have to focus on their formats, citations, and specific guidelines, and it’s good to go. 

Hence, you must be upset about which style has guidelines and select from APA vs. MLA writing styles. First, you can decide the style you will write, then format your paper based on the guidelines for that style. 

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