APA vs MLA: Which Format to Use?


There are different types of referencing styles that you can use in your academic papers. Different referencing styles are used to cite different types of academic papers and are widely used to eliminate plagiarism and ensure factual and correct information. This is why references play a vital role in any academic paper that you write, and students should use the correct references in their answers.

With this being said, the two most commonly used referencing styles are APA and MLA. However, several students tend to confuse between these two.

In this blog, you will find the differences between APA and MLA. Next time you write your academic papers, you will know the correct formats and options to use.

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The APA referencing style

The APA referencing style was developed by the American Psychological Association and comprised in-text citations and a complete and detailed reference list at the end of the paper's contents. It is mainly used for citing journals, books, and scientific publications.

  • In-text citations

The reference consists of an author-date style, where only the author's name and year of publication are used in the content's body. Round brackets are used for enclosing the information, and a comma separates the two words.

Only the author's surname is used here, followed by the publication year. One can also use section or chapter names for writing a detailed reference.

For example, if your author’s name is Paul and the publication date is 2018, then your reference will look like this:

Paul (2018) states that…..

Or you can use

(Paul, 2018)

  • Reference list

The reference list at the bottom contains all the detailed information that is not mentioned in your in-text citation.

The reference list is also arranged alphabetically by the author's name, in case multiple authors are present. The primary purpose of your reference list is to mention the sources you have included in the body of your text.

An example of your reference list in APA style is given below.

For example, your author’s name is Thomas, the book’s name is Health And Diseases in Children, the publication date is 1997, and the page number is 245, then your reference list will look something like this:

Thomas, (1997). Health and Diseases in Children, (p245) 

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The MLA referencing style

The Modern Language Association developed the MLA referencing style, and hence the name.

Like the APA referencing style, MLA citations also consist of two parts in their referencing style. This type of referencing style is used in citing works of sociology, science, medicine, and arts.

Moving on, let’s take a look at the referencing formats for MLA.

  • In-text citations

Here, the author’s surname and the page numbers are used in the content’s body. For example, if your author’s name is Paul, and your page number is 345, then the in-text citation will be:

(Paul 345) or even Paul states that ……… (345).

  • Reference list

Like the APA referencing style you will also have to include a detailed reference list at the end of the paper. You will be writing your authors' surname(s) in alphabetical order, followed by the elements highlighted below.

Author, title of your source. Title of book. Other contributors, Version, Number, Publisher, Publication date, location.

Moving on, let’s look at the differences between the two referencing styles.

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The difference between the APA & MLA referencing style

Students often confuse between APA vs MLA referencing styles. This is because the referencing styles for both are somewhat similar. If you see these two citations in a book, you won't tell the difference between APA vs MLA.

However, some of the main differences between both are given below.

  • Uses

MLA is used for humanities and arts papers. However, it is mainly used for books, paintings, and other types of literature.

On the other hand, APA is designed for citing technical works found in social science and humanities.

  • Title

In the tile of the citation page, MLA will have the phrase – Works cited

On the other hand, APA references will have – References

  • Author’s name

In the MLA referencing style, the author’s name is written as – Last Name, First Name

In the APA referencing style, it is written as – Last Name, First Initial, Middle Initial

  • Title capitalization

In the MLA style, only the major words in the title are capitalized.

On the other hand, only the first letter is capitalized in the APA format.

  • Periods

A period is put at the end of all entries in the MLA style.

On the other hand, in APA style, a period is not added if the entry ends in a URL or a DOI.

  • In-text citations

In the MLA style, only commas are used in in-text citations.

In the APA style, commas are not used anywhere.

  • Title italics

In the APA style, the title is italicised.

However, in the MLA style, the title is underlined.

Thus, as you can see, the primary APA vs MLA difference is how they are formatted. APA vs MLA in-text citations are also used differently, and students should take note of the key differences outlined above. 

Final thoughts

I hope this blog helped you correctly use both the MLA and APA referencing styles in your papers.

However, if you still feel unsure about using these two correctly in your academic answers, you can get expert assistance from us at Allessaywriter.com.


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