Apa vs mla Simplified Differences (with examples) 2022

Modern Language Association (MLA) is a citation style that is mostly used in humanities like history, literature, citing paintings, books, among others. The American Psychological Association (APA) is another citation style that is mainly used in social sciences like psychology, criminology, and other technical reports.

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Proper citation of your work is essential in order to avoid cases of plagiarism. When writing your paper, you need to understand the difference in apa vs mla citation styles.

This is important when citing the sources of your viewpoint in order to add credibility to your writing. Below is a comparison of the two citation styles and the rules you need to follow to avoid losing marks.

Bibliography in apa and mla Format

When writing your paper, you need to provide a list of authors that you have cited in your work. How you present your list of authors will depend on whether you choose to use apa or mla format.

The two citations have different rules when arranging this list. Likewise, the author’s names used in the list are written differently in each format, and the lists are referred to differently.  For example

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  • MLA style calls the list of authors Works Cited.
  • APA style calls the list of authors References.

You can add some additional citations to make a connection to your writing. The mla vs apa has specific rules when organizing Bibliography entries.

Organizing bibliography authors and titles

The apa and mla citations have different rules in organizing the author’s names and titles in the bibliography section of your paper.

  • In the mla format, the author’s names and titles are arranged alphabetically
  • In the apa format, the author’s names are arranged alphabetically, but their work is arranged chronologically.

Authors and multiple works citation

When using the mla style for citation, you should state the author’s name only once and list all his or her works alphabetically. When listing the author’s work, you will use this formula: three hyphens, add a period, space, and the title, end with a period. Here is an example

Smith, John. Guide to Writing APA format. (1986)

— . How to Write MLA format. (1966).

— . Rules for Citation. (1998)

The apa style for citing an author’s multiple works requires you to list all the works according to the dates they were released. Also, the author’s name is included in all the listings.  The example below shows how to list multiple works using the apa format

Smith, J. (1966) How to Write MLA format.

Smith, J. (1986) Guide to Writing APA format.

Smith, J. (1998) Rules for Citation.

Citation style for titles

In mla vs apa the citation for titles uses different formats. In the mla style, you will use title case and quotation marks. The title case requires you to capitalize all the major words.

In the apa style, you will use sentence case, which means you only capitalize the first word. In this style, you will not use quotation marks.

In-Text citation

In the apa vs mla in-text citation, each style has a specific formula that you need to use

  • In the mla format, you put the author’s last name and page number inside the parentheses
  • The apa format uses parentheses where you cite the author’s last name, coma, year of published works, a “p.” and the page number.

1.     Book citation mla vs apa

When you are citing a book using the mla style, include the author’s last and first names, and the title of the book should be in italics. Also, include the city of publication, name of publisher followed by the year of publication. You can add other citations if needed and any other additional information.

MLA format example

Smith, John. Guide to Writing APA format. Scottsdale, AZ, UP, 2000.

When using the apa citation style, you will write the author’s last name, followed by the initials of the first and the middle name. You will also include the publishing year, the book title in italics, and city and state where the book was published, followed by a full colon and publisher’s name.

APA format example

Smith, J. (1986) Guide to Writing Apa Format. Scottsdale, AZ: Taylor & Francis Books.

2.     Article citation apa vs mla

The mla style of citing an article includes the author’s last name and first name. Also, add the article title in italics and quotation marks, the volume, and the release number. Add the date of publication, page, name of the database, and DOI number.

The apa format in citing an article includes the author’s last name and first name initials followed by the year of publication in parentheses. Write the title and subtitle of the article. The journal’s title should be in italics, volume, release number, and pages.

Comparison apa vs mla

Formatting using fonts and margins. Double spacing, hanging indent, and a font of 12 Times New Roman. 1 inch margin Double spacing, hanging indent, and a font of 12 Times New Roman. 1 inch margin
Title page Include a title page in your paper No title page is required
Bibliography The name of the list is called References


Smith, A (1986). Guide to citation. London England: Penguins Books.

The name of the list is called Cited Works


Smith, Anna. Guide to Citation: London, England. Format and Style 1986.

Organization of citation Authors are arranged alphabetically, and their works are arranged chronologically. Authors and their works are arranged alphabetically.
In-text citation (Smith, 2018, p. 18) (Smith 18)
Running headers On each page, include the title of the paper and flush left. Include page number and flush right. Include on each page the author’s name and page number and flush right
Where to use mla vs apa Use in social science subjects like psychology, sociology, or medical sciences like nursing. Use mostly in humanities in subjects like English, or art
Citing author’s names Write the last name of the author and the first initial in parentheses.

(Smith, A.)

List the first name and the last name of the author in parentheses (Smith, Anna)
Block quotes 40 words and more Use for 4 lines or more
DOIs Include in references Include in Works Cited

The apa vs mla citations have essential differences and rules that you need to apply to each style. Both styles also have some similarities. Below are mla and apa format examples and rules

The mla vs apa Format Examples

The apa vs mla styles have some similarities and essential differences in formatting. For example, when spacing your work in MLA and APA, here is what you need to remember.

  • In the mla format, use double spacing on your header and in the body of your text
  • In the apa format, use double spacing on your title page and in the body of your text

Another similarity is that both mla and apa formats use a font size of 12, Times New Roman, and 1 inch margin. The two formats also use parentheses in the citation, but each style is unique.

1.     Title page and first page

The MLA style uses the first page instead of a title page. Add a title at the center of the first page and a header before you can begin writing your paper. Use the following outline

  • Name of the author
  • Name of your instructor or professor
  • The subject of your paper
  • Date


John White

Professor Benson Hong

Negative Impact of Globalization in Developing Countries

31st January 2020

The apa style uses a title page that is separate from the rest of your writing. You will include the following on your title page.

  • The title of your paper
  • Author’s name
  • The name of your institution


Negative Impact of Globalization in Developing Countries

John Smith

London University

2.     Block Quotes

Block quotes are used in both formatting styles, and they have no quotation marks. The quotations are indented and set on a new line in the form of blocks.

When you use mla block quotes in your paper, the quotes should be more than four lines. In the apa formatting style, quotes that are 40 words and above should be formatted as a block. In both formats, you will add the in-text citation at the end of the quotes.

The Apa vs mla vs Chicago styles

The Chicago citation style is also known as the Turabian style. It is another citation style that is different from the apa and mla format. Chicago is mostly used in writing business, history papers, and fine arts.

When you use this style, you will be writing in the third person. The Turabian style has no headings or subheadings, and you also don’t have to include a title. Another key difference in apa vs mla vs Chicago is that the Chicago format does not have in-text citations. Instead, you will use footnotes or end notes.

When to use mla vs apa

To communicate efficiently in your paper, you need to know when to use apa vs. mla citations and follow the rules. Depending on the paper you are writing, whether it is in humanities or social sciences, you need to pick a style that will enable you to defend your point of view and earn marks.

Also use the appropriate citation formula. You need to follow the formatting rules in order to achieve your goal and get better grades. Following the right rules makes your paper credible.

Key takeaway

Academic writing thrives on the correct application of rules and formulas. Understanding the differences in apa vs mla will help you know which rule is appropriate for the paper you are writing.  The apa vs mla differences are significant, but there are some similarities between the two styles. In most cases, you will follow the citation style that your instructor or professor advises you to use. Make sure you understand the difference and the rules for you to achieve success.

Still stuck on how to write your paper using apa or mla format? Get help from trusted assignment website.

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