What Is the Difference Between APA & MLA (with Examples)

Uniformity is preferred in the academic world because it enables faster communication. As a result, in order to obtain full credit, you must use a variety of writing styles. In this article, we’ll compare and contrast the APA and MLA writing styles, as well as how to use them.

What Is the Distinction Between the APA and MLA Citation Formats?

Humanity subjects like history and literature recommend using Modern Language Association (MLA) format. For social science-oriented topics such as psychology, criminology, and others, the American Psychological Association (APA) format is recommended.

These are citation styles or the preferred way to cite your source in your paper for your perspective. Proper citation is essential because it restricts plagiarism, which is an academic crime. The rules for citing in MLA and APA formats are compared below and examples. Stick to these rules strictly and thoroughly to avoid losing marks and guarantee a professional paper.

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The Bibliography

When composing your bibliography, organize the list of authors and editors who were cited in your paper.

  • It is more commonly referred to as: Work Cited in MLA format.
  • In APA format, it is known as References.

To link these citations to what’s in your paper, include a brief citation in parentheses beside your sourced content.

Making a Bibliography and Sorting Entries

The formatting of your entries differs between APA and MLA. The MLA format requires you to alphabetize your authors and titles.

Illustration: Dedicated to Bobby Jameson.

The Joy of Letting Go.

Hi, How Are You?.

The APA style dictates that you arrange your authors alphabetically but chronologically in their work.

Citation of Multiple Works by the Same Author

The MLA style cites the same author’s works by first listening to all of the works alphabetically and then acknowledging the author’s name only once.

Every listing of the author’s other work begins with three hyphens, a period, a space, the title’s name, and a period.

Illustration: Jones, Duncan. Dedicated to Bobby Jameson. 1984

—. The Joy of Letting Go. 1969

—. Hi, How Are You?. 1999

The works are listed chronologically (according to their publication date) in the APA format, and the author’s name appears in all listings of that author’s information.

Illustration: Jones, D. (1969) The Joy of Letting Go.

Jones, D. (1984) Dedicated to Bobby Jameson.

Jones, D. (1999) Hi, How Are You?.

Article Titles

  • Quotation marks should surround all article titles in MLA format, and all important words should be capitalized.
  • In APA format, only capitalize the first word. It is not necessary to use quotation marks for titles.

In-text Parenthesis

  • When citing your main document in MLA format, the author’s last name and page number are in parentheses.
  • When referencing in APA format, use the following method in parentheses: the author’s last name, a comma, the year of publication, a comma, a “p.”, and the page number.

Samples of Citations

Here are some more samples of how APA and MLA citation styles vary.

When Using a Book Citation

Follow this format when writing your MLA book citation:

  • begin with the author’s Last Name, then their First Name;
  • highlight the title of the book in italics;
  • the city of publication, the publisher’s name, and the year it was published;
  • the Publication Channel;
  • additional citations (if citing multiple books);
  • and any other relevant information.

Example of MLA Citation: Jones, Duncan. The Joy of Letting Go. Scottsdale, AZ, Penguin Books, 1969. Print.

This format must be used in your APA book citation:

  • the author’s surname, as well as the initials of their first and middle names;
  • the year of publication in parentheses;
  • the book’s title in italics;
  • the city and state where it was authored, a colon, and the author’s name.

Example of APA Citation: Jones, Duncan. Jones, D. (1969) The Joy of Letting Go. Scottsdale, AZ: Penguin Books.

How to Cite an APA Paper?

To cite your article in MLA format, follow this procedure:

  • the author’s surname and first name;
  • the article title enclosed by quotation marks;
  • the Journal Title should be in italics;
  • the quantity;
  • the release number;
  • the Date;
  • the Page(s);
  • the Website’s Title;
  • the doi number (if available; if not, use a URL/permalink);
  • the day, month, and year that the article was obtained.

An Example of an MLA Citation: Jones, Duncan. Wilmshurst, Peter. “Diving and oxygen.” BMJ. 317. 7164. https://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/10/27/diving-and-oxygen. doi: 10.1136/bmj.317.7164.996. 27 October 2011.

To cite your article in APA format, follow these guidelines:

  • the author’s surname and first initial;
  • the year of publication in parentheses;
  • the title and subtitle of the article;
  • write the Journal Title in italics;
  • the volume;
  • the release number should be in parentheses;
  • the number of Page(s);
  • the doi number.

An Example of APA Citation: Wilmshurst, P. (1998). Diving and oxygen. BMJ. 317 (7164): 996–9. doi: 10.1136/bmj.317.7164.996.

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What Is the Difference Between APA and MLA: A Table Comparison?

The table below compares and contrasts the APA and MLA formats.

  APA>/strong> MLA
Spacing/Font/Margins Double-spacing;

Citations are formatted with a hanging indent

Times New Roman 12

1″ margins


A hanging indent is used for citations

Times New Roman 12

1″ margins

Title page

First page


(Although universities may

require specialized title page)

A title page is required:

Behavioral Psychology Theories

Loretta M. Brassell

California State University

On the first page, a header is needed, accompanied by a centered title at the beginning of the essay:

Loretta M. Brassell

Professor Terry Mason

Psychology 101

25 June 2016

Bibliography Name References

Shotton, M. A. (1989). Computer addiction? A study of computer dependency. London, England: Taylor & Francis.

Works Cited

Mathy, Jean-Philippe. French Resistance: The French-American Culture Wars. Minnesota UP, 2000.

Order of citations Authors are listed alphabetically.

Works are arranged chronologically

Authors and works are listed alphabetically
Section headings The paper is organized using headings and subheadings There is no use of headings or subheadings
Direct in-text citation (Burrell, 2017, p.16) (Burrell 16)
Indirect in-text citation (Burrell, 2017) According to Moran, this is a controversial case (16).
Running headers The paper’s title is written on flush left on each page, and the page number appears to flush right.

On title page:


On all other pages: THEORIES OF DEVELOPMENT 4

The publisher’s name and page number are written at the flush right on each page:

Connor 3

Short quotations According to Vonnegut (1982), ” If you scrawl your thoughts in any way, your readers will undoubtedly believe that you don’t care about them. ” (p. 150). Arendt writes that “to identify the first justification for war, we must look to Roman antiquity. . .”(13)
Long quotations/Long quote rule Quotes of four lines or more are blocked, indicating they have indented two tabs.

Users of computers frequently disagree about which operating system is superior: PC or Mac. According to Oyler (2010), one operating system is not ideal for another, but one may be better suited to various applications than the other.

She elaborated by saying;


Macs are frequently the best choice for users who want to work with video or images. Macs are also very simple to use, appealing to computer amateurs. On the other hand, PCs perform the best when it comes to running Microsoft Office Suite. As a result, students may soon realize that a PC is their best option because it can run Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. (Oyler, 2010, p. 48)

Jones (2010), on the other hand, strongly disagrees with the statement that Macs work better with graphics compared to PCs, declaring that PCs can be adjusted to work as well as Macs.

Quotes of at least 40 words are indented by one tab.

Chinese-American historian Iris Chang gives the necessary statistics in an attempt to demonstrate the entire extent of the Nanking massacre:

According to one historian, if the dead from Nanking teamed up, they could stretch 200 miles from Nanking to the city of Hangchow. Their blood would be 1,000 tons, and their bodies would fill 250 railroad cars. If they were piled on top of each other, they would achieve the height of a seventy-four-story building. (Chang 5)

Subjects where citation style is common Social sciences – Psychology, Sociology, Social work; Medical Sciences – Nursing Humanities – English, Speech, Theater
Author names in citations The authors’ names are listed beginning with the last name followed by the first initial (Banner, B.) Author names are listed beginning with the last name, followed by first name (Banner, Bruce)
DOIs DOIs should be included in references list citations. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-8847.2007.00193.x DOIs are written in citations on the works cited list. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-8847.2007.00193.x

As shown above, there are substantial differences in minor citation details between the two formats. The rules (and illustrations, where appropriate) for formatting the text of your paper are listed below.


Each MLA and APA style has its method for spacing text throughout a paper. The rules are as follows:

  • MLA: Use double space when writing the header and body text
  • APA: Title page and body text should be double-spaced

Font and Margins:

MLA and APA both agree on the use of fonts and margins.

  • MLA: 12-pt. font, 1” margins
  • APA: 12-pt. font, 1” margins

Parenthetical Citation:

When citing sources in the middle of a paper, use parenthetical citations.

  • The following is the recommended method in MLA format: (Name[Space]Page Number) Alternatively: ABC is an XYZ, according to XXX (Page Number).

A Sample of MLA: According to Jones, Bobby Jameson did not make Techno music (169).

Follow these samples for APA:

  • paraphrased concept: (Name [Comma] Year)

APA Example: (Jones, 1984)

  • direct quote: (Name[Comma]Year[Comma} p. #) or: According to XXX (Year), ABC is an XYZ

Example: (Jones, 1984, 169)


According to Jones (1984), Bobby Jameson is not a Techno musician.

Brief Quotations:

Short quotations are defined as those that are three lines or less in length. The MLA and APA formats areas outlined if you need to quote an author in your paper:

  • The MLA format and an example: Author Name specifies that Topic is capable of “quotation” (page number).

Instance: Jones says that the joy of letting go can “thrill you in more ways than one” (25).

  • For the APA format, the following formula and example are used: The author’s name (year), as well as the Topic, can be “quoted.” (p. #).

Example: According to Jones (1969), the joy of letting go can “thrill you in more ways than one” (p. 25).

Lengthy Quotations:

When it comes to including long quotations, APA and MLA styles take opposing approaches.

  • MLA: If you’re citing more than four lines, use the format below and space the quoted text by one inch:

Instance: Jones talks about the joy of letting go:

Letting go is an idea that acknowledges the ephemeral nature of existence, both yours and mine. The past, like the future, does not exist in the physical sense. The past is our existing chemical (material) state, while the latter is an unpredictability — all in constant motion. The poetry of this poem assumes that accepting change is helpful. We can see the benefits of this all around us in nature. (56)

  • APA: For quotations of 40 words or over, indent the quoted text 12 inches, also known as creating a blockquote:

Example: Jones (1969) discusses the joy of letting go:

Letting go is a principle that acknowledges the ephemeral nature of existence, both yours and mine. The past, like the future, does not exist in the physical sense. The aforementioned is our present chemical (material) state, whereas the latter is an unpredictability — all in constant motion. The poetry of this poem assumes that accepting change is beneficial. We can see the benefits of this all around us in nature. (p. 56)

Title Page / First Page Header:

The two approaches to starting a paper are diametrically opposed. Should a title page be used, or should the first page have a header?

The MLA keeps referring to the first page of a document as the First Page, so there is no need for a Title Page. You must provide a header on the first page. Then, at the beginning of your essay, include a centered title.

  • Name
  • Lecturer/Professor
  • Subject
  • Date

Example: Joseph Biersehn

Professor Tom Hong

Progress Theory

31 February 2020

The APA format calls for a separate Title Page, which should appear like this:

  • Title
  • Author’s Name
  • University

Sample: Hypotheses of Progress

Joseph Biersehn

Brigham Young University

Which is preferable, MLA or APA?

Elementary and secondary school teachers prefer MLA format. MLA is simpler for them to teach because it is not intended for advanced subjects requiring extensive scientific research.

Most students will not come across APA until they join a college or university since it is so advanced and scholarly. Students use the APA format for topics like hypothesizing, testing and reporting.

Experts at universities and other institutions that deal with referencing care whether you use MLA or APA since it speeds up their grading or research process.


Effective communication is critical in the academic world. Academics identify one another depending on how well others follow the rules, like a proper citation. This is why understanding the various formats and styles for citing sources for your claims is essential. The more you comprehend these styles, the more advanced and credible your papers will be, enabling you to pursue more ambitious academic and professional goals.