A side by side comparison of APA and MLA formatting and referencing styles

MLA and APA are the two most commonly used styles of citation. The APA manual that is published by the American Psychological Association has mainly been used in the field of education and social science The manual of MLA published by the Modern Language Association is used mainly in the field of humanities. In both styles, a citation source consists of in-text citations and a complete reference list at the end of the paper.

However, the citation is usually different in each reference style, with different instructions related to author names, date, capitalization, and date. The main focus for both APA and MLA is to ensure that all your sources come directly from an authentic source and are clearly credited. MLA style was mainly created for literary work, anthologies, and books where the name of author and location is important. APA style was created mainly for scientific writing and requires the last name of author and year of publication. Writing a good research paper or a college essay is a great challenge and to follow the format and in-text citation guidelines seems like one more task to add on to a long list of requirements. But these are very important as they demonstrate to your readers that you have taken your work seriously. They also show your readers that you respect other people's work by acknowledging their work. Using the following guidelines will help you to produce a paper with correct citation and formatting without any extra burden.

In-text citations in MLA and APA

Both MLA and APA use parenthetical citations in the text but with slightly different information. An APA citation contains the last name of author and year of publication. If you are paraphrasing and quoting a specific passage, then you can also add the page number. On the other hand, in MLA in-text citations, you have to include the last name of the author and page number. Both these styles have also different rules regarding the shortening of a citation with ‘et al’. Like APA style, MLA provides a framework for in-text citation, parenthetical citation, or manuscript text. MLA style usually emphasizes clarity and brevity. The correct citation style usage produces scholarly work that prevents the accusation of plagiarism.

APA MLA
1 Author (Garrison, 2019,p.24) (Garrison (24)
2 Authors Garrison & Taylor,2019,p.24) (Garrison and Taylor 24)
3-5 Authors First citation: Johnson, Anderson & Kotler, 2019, p.24) Subsequent citation: ( Kotler et al.,2019,p.24) (Johnson et al.24)
More than 6 Authors Kotler et al.,p.24) (Kotler et al.24)

MLA work cited list vs. APA reference list

In both MLA and APA style, it is important that you include complete details of all cited sources at the end of the paper and on a separate page. In MLA, this is known as the work cited whereas in APA it is known as the reference list. In each style, the source entries formatting is also different. By interactive tools usage, an essay writer can also switch between MLA and APA citation for common types of sources. For example

APA Nisa, Z. U., Zafar, A., & Sher, F. (2018). Assessment of knowledge, attitude, and practice of adverse drug reaction reporting among healthcare professionals in secondary and tertiary hospitals in the capital of Pakistan. Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal.
MLA Nisa, Zaka Un, Ayesha Zafar, and Farooq Sher. "Assessment of Knowledge, Attitude, and Practice of Adverse Drug Reaction Reporting among Healthcare Professionals in Secondary and Tertiary Hospitals in the Capital of Pakistan." Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal (2018).

Now let’s look at the difference in the formatting and layout of both styles: APA vs MLA formatting. The main difference between the MLA and APA format is present in the running head, title page, and block quoting.

The general guideline of formatting for both is similar. In both styles you use:

  • 12 pt. Times New Roman Font
  • 1-inch margin
  • Double Spacing

Headers and Title Page

In APA style, a separate cover page is needed. In this, you list your full name, the title of your paper, and institution name. This should be double spaced and centered. In MLA, there is no need for a title page until your professor asks you to include it. Instead of a title page, you can add heading consisting of four lines on the first page. The heading should be double spaced and left-aligned. This should list your full name, instructor name, submission date, and course title. Your paper title should be present in the center under the heading.

Running Head

Both APA and MLA need a running head, that needs to present on every page. The running head in MLA formatting is your last name and must be right-aligned. On the other hand, the running head in APA is your paper title that is almost 50 characters. The running head should be in capital letter and aligned left whereas page number should be right-aligned.

Blockquote formatting

These are long quotations that are present on a new line and should be indented as a block. Remember! there should be no quotation marks. In APA, any quote that is longer than 40 words must be formatted as a blockquote. On the other hand, in MLA, the block quotes are used mainly for the quotes that are more than five lines of prose and three lines of verse. In both these styles, in-text citations are mainly added at the end of blockquote and after the period.

This complete guide will help you cite your essays in no time. However, if you still need further assistance, hiring an essay writing service is a better option.

Exclusive access to the "CollegeEssay" Learning Center. You’ll get weekly tips and tricks for improving your own writing and for achieving academic success through your writing.

about us

"CollegeEssay" is the #1 Ranked Online home for great academic writing, essays, research papers, and graduate theses.

Why us?
  • 100+ subject matter experts.
  • 100% original writing (zero plagiarism, ever).
  • Short deadline service.
  • Love our work or don’t pay (satisfaction guaranteed).
Paper Due? Why Suffer?
That's our Job