Caleb S.
Caleb S.

APA vs MLA - Comparison Between the Formats

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Published on: Apr 28, 2018

Last updated on: Dec 28, 2022

APA vs MLA Format

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APA or MLA? This is probably the most common question that the students ask. While your teacher will tell you which one to use, it is difficult to understand and remember the differences. Different formatting and citation styles have different guidelines and styles that the writer uses when formatting his paper.

Learning about these citation styles is a great way of understanding the differences and knowing how to use them will help you in many ways.

Your teachers will assign you assignments from writing essays to research papers, to assess how far you can go in writing.

A winning paper needs a lot of research, strong arguments, and citing references that are good enough to support your statement.

When formatting the paper and citing the references in your APA or MLA paper, you will follow the rules of these two most popular formats: APA vs MLA, in your paper.

However, what makes them different from each other? Below we have discussed the differences.

APA vs MLA - Standard Guidelines

APA style has originated from the American Psychological Association, it has defined some rules for journals, articles, books, anthologies, and publications. It helps authors to structure their work and add references and citations in an easy-to-understand way.

APA formatting is completely different from other formats. From the paper layout to the references, you will have to pay close attention to each and everything.

For more details, you can also explore our complete guide of APA format. There are relevant examples that will help you write a winning paper in APA format.

APA Standard Includes:

  • All lines are to be double spaced.
  • 12 Times New Roman.
  • For all margins - One-inch.
  • A number on the top right corner of every page + short work title.
  • Footnotes to be double spaced.
  • Reference list in the bibliography.
  • In-text citations to show the author’s name, publication year, page number.
  • The paraphrased idea with the name of the author and year in the parenthesis.
  • The authors’ names should be in an alphabetical work order in the references list.
  • The name of the authors should be added as the last name first followed by the initials of the first name.
  • The title is centered.
  • Include Abstract for lengthy papers.

MLA standards Include:

MLA style originated from the Modern Languages Association specifically for scientific work and literary research work in the field of humanities. MLA focuses on in-depth work when it comes to citations and references.

  • All lines to be double spaced.
  • 12 Times New Roman.
  • For all margins - One-inch.
  • A bibliographical list of works
  • For authors and works - follow the alphabetical order
  • Direct citations have only name and page, without a comma
  • Indirect citations have a single page
  • No extra line-break in between citations
  • Page number along with the name of the author on the top right corner.
  • Titles for articles in quotation marks

If you have decided to follow an MLA in your paper. Then you should read our step-by-step guide to MLA format and citation. It will really help you to understand all the important things about MLA.

APA Vs. MLA Format: Main APA Vs. MLA Differences

Here is the list to highlight how these two writing formats are different from each other.

Title PageStudent name, name of institute, course name, and deadline.Professor’s name, your full name, the course title, and the deadline of the paper are in the header of the first page.
HeadingRunning head with a short paper title and the page number.The header on the first page of the paper with the above-mentioned details.
For Authors and EditorsThe APA format includes the author, editor, as well as compiler’s name in the list of references.Authors, editors, and compilers are cited in the parenthetical citations, while their entire descriptions will be added right in the list of works cited.
BibliographyThe reference list in APA style follows an alphabetical order by author name after work that follows a chronological order.The entries in MLA citation follow an alphabetical order by the name of the author, followed by the title.
Multiple Work - Same AuthorList the works in a chronological manner with the most recently dated work first.The first listing with author’s name, the remaining entries begin from three hyphens, a period then space, and title name ending with a period
Article TitlesIn APA, it does not contain articles in quotation marks and the first word is capitalized only.In MLA format, titles should be added in the quotation marks and capitalize the first letters of each word.
In-text CitationIn APA, follow the pattern below.
(Name, Year, page number) such as (Plaut, 1991, p. 50).
In-text parenthesis is used to cite the work.
(Name page number ) such as (Plaut 50)
CitationGoldin, C. D., & Katz, L. F. (2008). The race between education and technology. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.Felluga, Dino. Guide to Literary and Critical Theory. Purdue U, 28 Nov. 2003, Accessed 10 May 2006.

APA Vs. MLA Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography is different from the bibliography as it includes the reference as well as the explanation of the included reference. The explanation includes a brief introduction of the writer of the source, a short summary of the source, and the analysis. The aim of making an annotated bibliography is to provide a detailed description of the source and how and why it is helpful for the research.

Are MLA and APA style annotated bibliographies different from each other? The only difference between them is that the citation and referencing style is different. However, the explanation and analysis of the source remain the same. Below are the examples of both APA and MLA style annotated bibliography:

APA Style Annotated Bibliography

Forsyth, M. (2014). The elements of eloquence: Secrets of the perfect turn of phrase. Penguin Books.

The author, Mark Forsyth, examines the rhetorical devices used in the English language, analyzing the patterns and formats that create memorable quotes. He traces the history of rhetoric to the Ancient Greeks, and provides an abridged timeline, following their use and evolution through to the modern-day. The author also explores the broader subject of persuasion and maps out the role that the figures of rhetoric play in it. In all, he examines over thirty devices, dissecting notable passages and phrases from pop music, the plays of William Shakespeare, the Bible, and more to explore the figures of rhetoric at work within each of them. Thorough definitions accompany this examination of structure to demonstrate how these formulas have been used to generate famously memorable expressions as well as how to reproduce their effects.

MLA Style Annotated Bibliography

“What Guidance Should I Give My Students for Preparing an Annotated Bibliography?” The MLA Style Center, The Modern Language Association, 4 Nov. 2016,

This article offers brief and clear directions for MLA formatting of a bibliography with annotations. Citing James Harner’s On Compiling an Annotated Bibliography, it provides guidelines for writing annotations that can be applied to either paraphrase or commentary form. It also demonstrates how writing annotations can benefit students who are tasked with researching a subject and offers instruction on the organization of entries and acceptable page titles. While the advice is tailored to respond to a question posed by an instructor, students and researchers may also benefit from the guidance that the MLA provided.

When to Use APA Vs. MLA?

Since both APA and MLA formats are used for different purposes, many students do not know when to use which.

If you are writing about fictional literature, MLA is appropriate to use. Since MLA allows the writers to add detailed references in their paper they can add details along with references.

If you are writing short publications such as academic articles then it is better for you to use MLA.

APA in-text citations seem more appropriate to use because it helps us to easily track the research chronology. Unlike MLA format, writers do not need to add the details with the reference list.

APA Format Example

Below you can find a sample format of APA. Don't forget to check this sample before starting your own paper.

MLA Format Example

Here is an MLA sample paper for your better understanding. can help you out with your paper’s format, whether it is an APA or MLA format. Formatting can be a tough and tricky task so to clear the confusion, you can directly talk to our best essay writers and get a custom essay written in your selected format. 

Contact our writing services now for getting help on any academic writing assignments.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do colleges want MLA or APA?

The short answer is that they use both. The format you are required to use depends on the college and courses you take. 

Why is APA style needed?

APA Style is important for scholarly communication because it provides a clear, precise foundation that helps writers present their ideas in an inclusive manner. 

Caleb S.


Caleb S. (Literature, Marketing)

Caleb S. has been providing writing services for over five years and has a Masters degree from Oxford University. He is an expert in his craft and takes great pride in helping students achieve their academic goals. Caleb is a dedicated professional who always puts his clients first.

Caleb S. has been providing writing services for over five years and has a Masters degree from Oxford University. He is an expert in his craft and takes great pride in helping students achieve their academic goals. Caleb is a dedicated professional who always puts his clients first.

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