APA vs. MLA: Know the Major Differences between the Citation Styles

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Would you like to know the differences between APA and MLA? If yes, then this blog post is for you. When it comes to referencing, often many students would get confused about APA, MLA, Harvard, and Chicago styles. So, for your better understanding, here, in specific, we have explained APA vs. MLA. Continue reading this blog post to learn the major difference between the two popular citation styles APA and MLA.

APA vs. MLA: Definition

If you have enrolled in a college or university course, certainly the pain of doing academic assignments will bother you. Generally, it’s not the assignment writing that bothers you, but it’s the different referencing styles that give you goosebumps. Moreover, the academic world has several protocols that you need to follow while writing simple essays or even science publications. Mostly, there are three population citation styles followed in American Higher Education that include MLA, APA as well as Chicago.

Meanwhile, let’s first understand the objectives of proper citations, as this might motivate you to learn them. Besides, if you want to prevent plagiarism, consider using appropriate citations and develop an integrated paper structure system. Generally, the Chicago style is applied in economics and history, hence, it’s mostly directed given with the assignment.

Undoubtedly, the main issue arises, when it comes to APA vs MLA as everything doesn’t seem easy for the students. Mostly, APA and MLA referencing styles seem similar, however, it has a few differences that you ought to understand. If you don’t understand the technique, perhaps you will end up making a blunder in your assignments.

APA vs. MLA: Differences in the Citation Styles

If you compare APA vs MLA citation styles, possibly you will notice a little difference in their formatting. Generally, MLA (Modern Language Association) is applied in humanities and arts academic assignments. While, APA (American Psychological Association) is created for technical tasks, especially in social science.

Now, that we have understood the basics, let’s explore the difference step by step to obtain greater clarity.


APA vs. MLA: Standard Writing Guidelines

Here, let us have a look at the standard writing guidelines of APA and MLA formats.

APA Standards

Basically, the APA style has some defined rules for journals, articles, books, anthologies, and publications. When compared to other citation styles, APA is different. Moreover, it also helps the authors to structure their work by adding references and citations in an easily understandable way.

If you want to write a winning paper in APA format, then follow the standards specified below.

  • All lines should be double-spaced.
  • Font size and style should be 12pt Times New Roman.
  • The margin should be one-inch on all sides.
  • There should be a number on the top-right corner of every page and a short work title.
  • Footnotes should be double-spaced.
  • The reference list should be in the form of a bibliography.
  • In-text citations in APA format should show the author’s name, publication year, and page number.
  • The paraphrased idea should be with the name of the author and the year in the parenthesis.
  • In the references list, the author’s names should be in alphabetical order.
  • While writing the name of the authors, the last name should be added first followed by the initials of the first name.
  • The title should be centered.
  • There should be abstracts for lengthy papers.

MLA Standards

When it comes to citations and references, the MLA style focuses on in-depth work. Specifically, the MLA style is used widely for scientific and literary research work.

To write a successful paper in MLA format, remember to follow the standards outlined below.

  • All lines should be double-spaced.
  • Font size and style should be 12pt Times New Roman.
  • The margin should be one-inch on all sides.
  • A bibliographical list of works.
  • The authors and works should be listed in alphabetical order.
  • Direct citations should have only the name and page, without a comma.
  • Indirect citations should have only a single page.
  • In between citations, no extra line breaks should be provided.
  • The page number and the name of the author should be provided in the top right corner of the page.
  • Titles for articles should be given in quotation marks.

APA vs. MLA: Title

Besides, the most prominent difference between the APA and MLA citation style is found in its title page.

  • Firstly, the MLA format will use the work cited page, while the APA format will use the reference page.
  • Secondly, titles in both formats need a center alignment at the top of the page. Also, the citation page in both formats needs double spacing.
  • Finally, the title is the easiest way that might help you to identify the difference between MLA vs. APA.

APA Vs. MLA: How to Write the Authors?

Here, let us see, how to write the name of the authors in APA and MLA citation formats.

MLA: Author’s Name

  • Basically, the author’s name in the MLA format might appear as follows: Last Name, First Name. For example, John, Lee.
  • Also, in MLA, the formatting of the authors depends on how many authors you ought to cite. Perhaps, if you have two authors, you will separate them with an “and”. However, if you have over three authors, certainly you will mention “et al.,” which means “and others” in English.
  • For example, John, Henry, and George Lee are the format for the two authors. While, John, Henry, et al. serves as the format for three or more authors.

APA: Author’s Name

Generally, in the APA format, you ought to write the last name first and then the first and middle initials. For example, Henry. J. Moreover, if you have multiple authors to cite, consider following the below format:

  1. Two Authors: In this case, you ought to list both authors using the symbol “&” to separate both. For example, Gillespie, P. H., & Lerner, N.
  2. Twenty or Fewer    Authors: Simply, if you have twenty or fewer authors, consider writing all of them, separated by a comma, and use “&” to separate the last one. For example, Gillespie, P. H., Corn, D. P., Son, C. R., Barry, A. B., Harlow, T., & Beck, J.
  3. Over Twenty Authors: Basically, you will list the nineteen authors using a comma to separate them and then make an ellipsis (…) before the last author. For example, Gillespie, P. H., Corn, D. P., Son, C. R., Barry, A. B., Harlow, T., Beck, J., Jones, A., Robins, C., Jackson, S., Smith, J. P., Johnson, T., Turney, W., White, K. L., Hunter, B. A., Lewis, H., Beck, J., Winters, N. I., Young, L., Crow, J., . . . Ruben, H.

APA vs. MLA: Title Capitalization

  • Generally, the MLA style embraces capitalization in the header, where every important word in the title is capitalized. For example, Gleason, Jeff. Chaos: A Look at the Stars. RedRiver, 2010.
  • Alternatively, in the APA style, only the first letter of the title needs capitalization. Hence, it sounds easy to distinguish between the APA and MLA referencing styles. For example, Gleason, J. (2010). Chaos: a look at the stars. 

Identify the Period

  • Besides, in the MLA format, you might notice a period at the end of every cited work entry.
  • Meanwhile, in the APA, a period might not exist, if the citation entry ends with a DOI or URL.

APA vs. MLA: Publication Date

Generally, in the APA style, you may find the author’s name followed by the publication date. While in the MLA style, the publication date is written near or at the end of the citations.

APA vs. MLA: Comparison in Tabular Form

The below-mentioned table will display the major differences between APA and MLA.

Times Roman 12 and 1-inch margin. Times Roman 12 and 1-inch margin.
Double Spacing Double Spacing
Direct In-text citation: (John, 2016, p.18) (John 18)
Bibliography Title: References Works Cited
Authors in alphabetical order and works in chronological order. Write both authors and work in chronological order.
Title Page:

1. Title

2. Name

3. Academic Institution

1. First and Last Name

2. Professor

3. Class

4. Date

5. Title

6. Text


Headings and subheadings are required. Headings and subheadings are not recommended, however, they might be required.


We hope you have now gained a clear understanding of the similarities and dissimilarities between APA and MLA citation styles. In case, you still have any doubts regarding it, get in touch with our experts for help. As per your university guidelines, they will assist you in preparing flawless assignments with proper citations and will help you in earning top grades. Never take risks, if you are not confident about using the referencing styles because it may create blunders in your paper. Moreover, you will also get trapped in plagiarism issues, if you do not cite the sources properly.

Jacob Smith Education Reading Time: 8 minutes

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