What Is the Difference Between MLA and APA?

We assure you that knowing the difference between APA and MLA format, you will be able to become a skilled writer, who won't have any problems with formatting. So, let's start.

Before you understand the difference between MLA and APA, we highly recommend you to learn what a citation is.

A citation is a quote included in the academic paper in order to refer back to the original source and to give credit to the author. A bibliographic reference is a collection of bibliographic information about a document cited, considered, or referred to in the text, necessary and sufficient for the general characterization, identification, and search of the document.

To cite the source properly, you need to include the author`s name, the full title of the work, the date of publication, full information about the publisher, page number, etc. When you cite a book, journal, or anthology, you need to name the journal, indicate the editing, or the online source from which the data was retrieved. Citing the information properly is necessary in order to avoid plagiarism in academic work. You probably know that plagiarism is a great crime in the academic world because it is a violation of authorship rights. If you want to maintain a successful academic performance, you need to cite all the outside sources carefully because it will add credibility to your work. Being a student, you probably know that there are various citation styles including MLA, APA, Harvard, Chicago, Turabian, AMA, IEEE, and many others. In our guide, we are going to focus on two of the most popular citation styles, APA and MLA.

APA Citation Style. History and Common Guidelines

An APA style is a widespread social science form designed by the American Psychologists Association. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association provides the critically important guidelines for organizing the article, as well as helpful suggestions for designing quotes, footnotes, tables, font, and article structure. This style was established in 1929 to help authors structure their papers with the help of proper headings and subheadings, citations, and additional features. There are two essential ways to create an APA style quote: an in-text citation in the right place in the document, and a non-textual list of sources of references. The main purpose of this citation style is not to distract the reader but to present the information in a maximally clear and comprehensive way. Nowadays, the APA citation style is actively used in research studies, lab reports, documents, and other scientific papers.

APA formatting standards include:

  • Double-spacing;
  • Times New Roman Font;
  • Footnotes are double-spacing;
  • In-text citations have the author`s name, the date of publication, and the page (for direct quotations);
  • The bibliographical information in the reference list is arranged alphabetically;
  • Long papers require abstracts;
  • Titles are always centered.

  The APA style involves using reference in the text each time you cite a source, be it a paraphrase, a short quote, or a block quote. The internal text link contains the information about the author of the work (editor/compiler or the title of the cited source if the author is absent), year of publication, and the page number. Paraphrases are usually not quoted. The name/s of the author/s may appear:

  1. In the sentence itself, followed by the date of publication in parentheses.
  2. In parentheses after the paraphrase with the date of publication. More information should be included in the references list.

MLA Citation Style. History and Common Guidelines

MLA citation style, developed by the Modern Language Association, is widespread in the humanities, especially in the field of language and literature. The main difference between MLA and APA is that MLA style is more detailed when it comes to citations and references. Also, the MLA citation style allows using outdated sources, whereas APA requires using only the latest academic references. MLA style text links are placed in brackets behind the quotation or sentence, but the content of the link may vary and depends on the type of source used. As well as in APA, the list of sources used is always arranged in alphabetical order.

MLA formatting standards include:

  • Double-spacing;
  • Times New Roman Font;
  • One-inch margins;
  • Footnotes are double-spaced;
  • Works cited list;
  • There are no extra line-breaks between citations;
  • Direct in-text citations include the author`s name and the page number (Breaks 311);
  • Page number with the author’s name is in the upper right corner (Lucas 752)
  • The titles of the articles always appear in quotation marks. Each word has to be capitalized.

APA vs MLA. What Are the Essential Differences?

It should be noted that APA vs MLA citation styles are quite similar when it comes to spacing or font and its size. In both these styles, Times New Roman 12 pt. font should be used. However, there are many other aspects that make these two citation styles totally different. Whereas an APA citation style has a pretty detailed title page, MLA style does not require it. All the information about the student, instructor, and the educational institution is arranged in the left top corner. If you want to become a skilled essay writer and impress your teacher by a professional approach to work, you need to follow the formatting style indicated in your prompt thoroughly. You should realize that formatting is a particularly important part of your grading rubric. Therefore, if you want to get the best grade for your paper, you should take care not only of the content and structure of your paper but also its formatting and clearly understand what is MLA or APA format.

Talking about the difference between MLA and APA, one should pay attention that both these styles have different origins, histories, and purposes. However, despite the significant differences, the researchers created these styles in order to facilitate the writing process. Below, you will find a detailed guide on APA vs MLA differences and their similarities that will help you improve your writing competence.

Key Differences between MLA and APA


APA: Only the necessary words (first word in the name, proper names, etc.) are capitalized and the name is in italics.

MLA: All the main words in the headline are capitalized and the headline is underlined.

Sources page

APA: The original page is called References.

MLA: The original page is called “Works Cited”.

The name of the author in the list of references

APA: Only the author’s last name is used; the name comes down to the initials.

MLA: The full name of the author is used.

Publication Date

APA: The date of publication, in parentheses, follows the name of the author.

MLA: The date of publication is written after the revision.

APA vs MLA Format. Which Citation Style is Better?

So, which citation style is better? MLA vs APA? Well, everything depends on the paper you are working on. Both styles have unique features and characteristics. There are researchers who prefer the MLA writing style because it helps organize content easier. However, there are also scholars who prefer the APA style because it focuses on the presentation of important nonfiction in a professional manner.

When to use APA vs MLA?

The MLA (Modern Language Association) is commonly used in the humanities such as Religion, Philosophy, Law, Politics, Anthropology, etc., whereas the APA is widely used in the social sciences such as Sociology, Nursing, Business, etc.

APA vs MLA Examples


APA: Skits, L. (2005). Empty Promises. London: Macmillan Group.

MLA: Skits, Leonard. Empty Promises. Macmillan Group, 2005.


APA: Brian, O., and Jobs M. (1999). Cognitive theories in adults` behavior. American Psychology school, 42 (4), 83-88. DOI: 12.12007 / tox.15630.

MLA: Brian, Olivia and Michael M. Jobs. “Cognitive theories in adults` behavior”. American Psychology School, vol.42, no.4, 13 Jan. 1999, pp.83-88. University of Toronto Online Library, DOI: 12.12007 / tox.15630. Accessed 15 May 2019.

Websites and Blogs:

APA: For websites, only the link is added with the author`s name and date of publishing. The date on which it was accessed is not needed,
Bike, M. (2000, January 17). The Positive effects of Facebook on socialization. Social Media Tools TFF. Retrieved from http://socialmediatools.com
For articles and blogs, you need to follow the structure below:
Canada and the US Department [Web blog post]. (2008, February 18). Retrieved (2018, April 13).

MLA: One main difference that should be mentioned in APA versus MLA debate is that APA follows a separate format for blogs and websites, whereas MLA follows the same format for both.
Bike, Michelle. “The Positive Effects of Facebook on Socialization.” Social Media Tools TFF n.p., 18 February 2008. Web. 13 Apr. 2018.

APA vs MLA Citation

For a Single Author

For an in-text citation in APA, the last author`s name is usually followed by the date of publication and page number.

“Maslow`s theory of needs is consistent and reasonable.” (Lawson, 2002, p. 33).

In case the author’s name is already mentioned in the sentence, you may just add the year in front of the writer’s name and the page number at the end.

Lawson (2002) states that Maslow`s theory of needs is consistent and reasonable (p. 33).

In MLA style, the last author`s name, followed by the page is usually presented in parenthesis.

” Maslow`s theory of needs is consistent and reasonable. (Lawson 33).”

If the author’s name is mentioned in the sentence already, then only the page number is provided.

Lawson (2002) admits that Maslow`s theory of needs is consistent and reasonable (33).

For Multiple Authors

In APA citation style, all the last names of the authors, as well as year of publication are used in the first in-text, separated by a comma.

Deforestation is one of the key reasons for global warming (Jones, Owen, & Smith, 1999).

For all the other citations, only the first author`s name is added, followed by “et al.” and the date of publication.

Deforestation is considered one of the main reasons for global warming (Jones et al., 2015).

For MLA paper citation, one should not add and mention all the writers in the citation. Only the first author of the article is mentioned while the others are usually cited as “et al.” followed by the page number.

By minimizing the deforestation, humanity will be able to overcome the global warming effects (Jones et al. 211). If the authors are already mentioned in the sentence, only the page number should appear.

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