There are plenty of various essay writing styles. To be more precise, there are thousands of them. However, the two ones that are used most frequently are APA and MLA styles. So the researchers and students utilize them to cite their sources. Despite the fact these two famous academic writing styles are commonly used in many study institutions, there are many questions that arise about them. Here we are willing to talk about the main peculiarities and differences between these styles.

Differences between MLA and APA

         You might probably wonder why there are so many formatting styles existing if the ones that are commonly used are only APA and MLA styles. The main reason for it is a historical one.

         It depends upon the questions you want to answer if you decide which of the two formatting styles to use. Also, it might depend on the procedures and the way of completion of the essays.

         There are two main types of essays, depending on which you should make up your mind which formatting style to use. For instance, if you are writing your custom essay in humanities, you would better use MLA style. However, if you are writing about science, pick up APA formatting.

         The main target of the works in humanities is to find the pieces of evidence. In scientific books, however, you should see the most prominent laws used in various situations.

The main differences between APA and MLA

           No matter whether you are writing a paper or report, you should decide which of the formatting styles you should use. For instance, you might utilize APA for social sciences. If it comes to MLA, you might use it writing a paper on liberal arts or humanities.

Standard guidelines and history of APA

          APA is an abbreviation of the American Psychology Association. It creates rules for formatting books and journal article publications. The history of this association goes back to 1929 when it began to assist the authors in structuring their books. Also, this association helped to generate an original style of citations and references. Their main target was to give the reader the text with comprehensive work cited list, headlines, and avoid any kind of plagiarism. So you should use this style if you want to write a lab report, doc, or scientific paper. Moreover, the guidelines of this academic formatting style are often updated to avoid intolerant, racist, and sexist language.

         There are such standards of APA formatting style:

  • 1 inch for the margins;
  • Times New Roman 12;
  • lines that are double-spaced;
  • there is a number at every page at the upper right part and also a brief title of the work;
  • double-spacing of endnotes and footnotes;
  • in in-text citations, there are pages, publication year, and author. (Moran, 2017, p.16) and (Moran, 2017);
  • a student should compose a reference list in bibliographic order;
  • the names of authors are arranged in alphabetic order;
  • there is such a formula of author’s names: Lat name + First Initial + Middle initial;
  • if you are writing the periodicals titles, capitalize only the first word;
  • center the title;
  • for long essays, include the abstract.

Standard guidelines and history of MLA

         MLA is abbreviated as the Modern Language Association. It is commonly used for scientific works and research in humanities. If it comes to citations and references, this formatting style is more detailed. You should utilize it with the present tense of the verbs. MLA concentrates on the author’s names. Unlike APA, it treats ancient sources like new studies.  

         The standards of MLA include:

  • 1-inch for all the margins;
  • Times New Roman 12;
  • lines that are double-spaced;
  • a bibliographical list of the works cited;
  • alphabetical order for the results and authors;
  • there are one-name and page indirect in-text citations (Moran 16), and (According to Moran, this is a controversial case (16);
  • there is the only page in indirect quotations;
  • between citations, there is no additional line-break;
  • there is a page number with the author’s name at the upper right corner;
  • the article’s titles are enclosed in quotes; every single word must be capitalized.

APA & MLA similarities

         You should use the citation system, whether it is MLA or APA, to acknowledge that you are utilizing someone’s ideas to back up your claim. You should give credit to any data you use. The things that are necessary must be consistent. It is a must not switch from one formatting style to another one within the same document. Depending on the organization, publisher, and institution you are writing for, you should choose the proper formatting style.

         In both APA and MLA formatting styles, you should double-space the text. Also, you will have to include the citation page. There are parenthetical citations in each class. Meaning, the authority sound should be listed inside the parenthesis of the essay. For example, you should utilize the date and author’s name for APA and the page number and author’s name for MLA: According to Smith, MLA is such a useful system. (Smith 36). If it is APA: Walker believes APA is a perfect system for science. (Walker, 2015)

         Finally, the citation must be listed in alphabetical order in both the formatting systems. Writing citations, you should use a hanging indent in both the styles.

Which to select: APA or MLA?

         If you format the paper according to the APA style, it must consist of 4 sections: an abstract, title page, list of references, and body paragraphs. The abstract must be 150-250 words long. It should contain a summary of the essential points of the task, hypotheses, central questions, research topic, analysis, the section of methodology, and conclusion. There must be one double-spaced paragraph in the abstract.

         If you format the essay according to the MLA formatting style, there is no need to create the abstract and title page. Meaning, there will be only two main sections: the main body and the works cited page. 

The main difference between MLA and APA title page

         If you format papers according to APA, there must be page headers that are to be placed at the top of every page, including the title page. Place the numbers of pages on the right. Then you should put the title of the paper on the left. In the page title, there must be the title, author’s name, and the education establishment title.

         Composing the essay in MLA format, there must be a title on the initial page. Separate it from the paper’s title by double-spacing. Put the header on the left. It must consist of the name of the instructor, name of the author, date, and character of the course. Other titles on the rest of the pages should be on the right, including the number of the page and the last name of the author. 

The difference between APA and MLA in-text citations

         The approaches to in-text citing are different between these two formatting styles. The APA utilizes the author-date format when MLA uses author-page one. In the APA-formatted essay, there are the author’s last name and year of publication in parenthesis after the main text you are willing to cite.

         In an MLA-formatted article, there must be the author’s last name and the number of the page after the book mentioned. 

The difference of citation of the reference page

         In the APA-formatted papers, there must be a separate page named “References.” it must be placed at the end of the entire work. In the MLA task, there must be a similar page; however, it is called “Works cited.”

         In each of them, there must be a list of utilized sources. All of them must be arranged in alphabetical order according to the last name of the author that must be double-spaced.

         In APA format, when two works of the same author are cited, you should list them chronologically, beginning with the earliest one. So, you will have to mention the entries in alphabetical order accordingly to the title. You will have to use three hyphens on the place of the name of the author after the initial term of the mentioned author.

         Indent 5 spaces, beginning with the 2nd, follow the lines for every source, on the works cited page. In APA format, each source must be indented ½ inch, beginning with the 2nd line. 

Which is better APA or MLA?

         It all depends on the way you want to apply these formats. For instance, you should use MLA with working with fictional literature because the in-text citations explicitly refer to the data by mentioning a particular page. If you work with short publications, however, you would better use APA formatting style since it notes the year, so it lets tracking the research chronology.


         Check the task before you make up your mind whether to utilize MLA or APA. Probably, your professor mentioned the citation style. If not, you might select the one by yourself. Depending on the field of science, you should pick up the formatting style.

  • MLA is utilized for humanities: Politics, Law, Anthropology, Religion, Theatre, Arts, Philosophy, Language, Literature, and History;
  • APA is used for social sciences like Education, Business, Social Work, Criminology, Nursing, Sociology, and Psychology.