Differences between APA vs. MLA: What Format to Use?

Differences between APA vs. MLA: What Format to Use?

It doesn’t matter how much effort and time you have spent writing an essay, doing a well-crafted presentation, or performing any other assignment if you’ve turned a blind eye to the citation rules. The academic world doesn’t excuse such a slip-up. If you resort to any additional sources to write your paper, you should necessarily mention them following citation styles. When it comes to higher academic institutions, you can come across the three most common ones: Chicago, MLA, and APA. They ensure proper citation, the absence of plagiarism, and the uniqueness of a paper provided. While the situation is simple with Chicago style since it is used for economics and history, a rookie can easily confuse MLA and APA formatting despite their differences. That’s why it is important to learn how to distinguish them and select the right one for your assignment. 

When to Use APA or MLA?

When you start working on your paperwork, it is worth checking the requirements provided by your teacher since they can indicate what citation format to use. If not, you can choose it based on the subject you are working with. In other words, you can find out when to use APA vs. MLA depending on the field of science you undertake research on. Thus, when it comes to behavioral and social sciences, you should opt for APA. If it is about humanities, you should choose MLA. 

What Does MLA Involve?

It is aimed at citing sources in academic writing. Its main users are academics, journal publishers, students, and scholars. When you resort to the MLA style, you should list certain details in a strict sequence:

  1. Author.
  2. Source title.
  3. Container’s title (e.g., webpage).
  4. Other contributors.
  5. Version.
  6. Page number.
  7. Publisher.
  8. Year of publication (or latest update).
  9. Location (web address).

What Does APA Involve?

At the beginning of the past century, it was created to help ordinary people read works created by specialists in Psychology and Anthropology. Its referencing style has a few peculiarities and changes depending on the source you are going to reference. Thus, if you reference books with it, you should list details in the following sequence:

  1. Author.
  2. Year of publication.
  3. Source title.
  4. Edition.
  5. Location.
  6. Publisher. 

APA vs. MLA Paper Formatting

It is reasonable to start with similarities between MLA and APA and mention that you should double-space your paperwork in both cases, use a 12pt font with 1-inch margins from every side. 

However, you should make sure your paper involves a title page, an abstract, body paragraphs, and a reference list when you use APA style. The abstract represents one double-spaced paragraph, consisting of about 250 words maximum and summarizing key points of the paper.

In this case, MLA vs. APA format differs in the number of main elements since the MLA style suggests the absence of a title page and an abstract. Instead, you work only on body paragraphs and a reference list.

Difference Between MLA and APA Title Page

When you resort to the APA style, you use the first page as a title one. You should put page headers atop every page, including a title page. Pay attention that page numbering is located on the right throughout the paper except for a title page since there you should put it on the left. A title page involves three main aspects: title, author’s name, academic institution.

When it comes to the MLA style, there is no title page as such. Thus, you put the title on the first page, separating it from the paper’s title by a double space. Next, you should indicate the header on the left, writing down first and last name, professor, name of the course, and the date. You mark all other pages with a header on the right, mentioning your last name and the page number. 

MLA Citation vs. APA Citation: In-Text

In the case of in-text citing, there is a key difference between MLA and APA citation. Thus, when you resort to the MLA style, you write the author’s name, then the page number of the source being used. However, the situation is different when you use the APA style since you write the author’s name, then the year of the source’s publication. Other differences in APA vs. MLA citation will look the following way:



Direct in-text quote

(Covey, 18)

(Covey, 2018, p.18)

Indirect in-text quote

According to Covey, this is a controversial case (18).

(Covey, 2018)


Difference Between APA and MLA Citations: Reference Page

When you utilize the APA style, you should create a separate page called ‘References’ and locate it at the paperwork end. Arrange all the references in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name, then chronologically, putting the oldest first. If you cite two or more works of the same author, you should list everything chronologically, starting with the earliest ones, and specify the author’s name every time. When citing an article title, you should capitalize just the first word of the title and don’t use quotation marks.

If it is about the MLA style, you do the same but call the page ‘Works Cited.’ You should arrange all the references in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name, then by title. If you cite several works of the same author, you should list them from newest to oldest, but you specify the author’s name only once at the very beginning. When citing an article title, you put the title in quotation marks and capitalize major words.