Difference Between APA and MLA

The academic environment holds a strict, stringent, and focused approach to represents work in terms of writing such as essays, research papers, science publications, etc.

Certain rules & regulations are laid along with specific citation styles that give a unified and structured system to represent the research work.

Among many APA and MLA are common and mostly used, both are quite similar because of which there exists a little confusion.

Choosing APA or MLA purely depends on the work or questions that one will be answering or representing through their research.


The main difference between APA and MLA is that APA stands for the American Psychology Association where rules for writing concerning journals, article publications, research papers, authors and books within the purview of natural science are created. MLA stands for Modern Language Association that is used in the field of humanities for scientific and literary research work.


The main idea behind the APA style is to provide a comprehensive style of writing with proper headlines and works cited list as references so that it becomes easy for the reader to read and realize.

What makes MLA different from APA are citations and references as work cited with verbs in the present tense.


Comparison Table Between APA and MLA (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of ComparisonAPAMLA
DefinitionAPA is writing and formatting style used in academics to write scholarly books and journal articles within the field of natural and behavioral science.MLA is writing and formatting style used in academics to write scholarly books and journal articles within the field of humanities and social science.
Page TitleIt’s mandatory to provide the Title on the page.No need to provide a separate title on the page.
Format of Work CitedLast name of the author, publication date, and source name.Last name of the author, source name and publication date.
CapitalizationThe title is written in italics with the first word of the title, subtitle, and proper noun in capital letter, everything else in lowercase.The title is underlined with all important words in capital format.
Source PageIt is referred to as “References”.It is referred to as “Works Cited”.
Date FormatThe date is followed by the author’s name and is in parentheses.The date is followed by the publisher’s name and is not in parentheses.
Headings/SubheadingsHeadings/Subheadings are used.Headings/Subheadings are not used.
Used InNatural Science such as Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Geology, Criminology, etc.Humanities & Social Science such as Psychology, Arts, Anthropology, Politics, Sociology, etc.
ExampleMorgan, D. (2016). Greek Theater. USA: Triti Group.Morgan, Dylanz. Greek Theater. Triti Group, 2016.


What is APA?

APA was originated from American Psychology Association guidelines where specific rules are created on how books, journals, articles, and publications will be written and formatted.

It provides a comprehensive structure of formatting to the authors to organize their research or writing work with a unique style mentioning citations and references.

The main concept or idea of APA style is to write the research article or paper or books in such a manner that it becomes easy to read and comprehend.

There exists a proper use of headings, sub-headings, and works cited list as references to give a nice structured style to the text.

It is widely used in the field of natural science such as biology, physics, chemistry, geology, criminology, etc. to write lab reports, scientific papers, documents, etc. The language is straight and easy.

Formatting Style of APA:

  1. Font & Size: Times New Roman with size 12.
  2. Space: Double-spaced lines.
  3. Margin: One-inch.
  4. Page number: On every page at the upper right side.
  5. Title Position: In Center.
  6. Abstract: Included for long papers.
  7. Reference List: As Bibliographic.
  8. In-text Citations: Last name of the Author, Publication date/year and source name.
  9. Headings/Subheadings: Included.
american psychology association

What is MLA?

MLA stands for the Modern Language Association that defines how literature and language research papers will be written or structured.

It is writing and formatting style that is used by authors to document their academic journals publishers, books, and scholarly articles.

Citations in MLA follow specific conventions that make it different from other writing styles.

Sources used are mentioned in the “Work-cited” list to give proper due credit.

It is widely used in humanities and social science such as Psychology, Arts, Anthropology, Politics, Sociology, etc.

Formatting Style of MLA:

  1. Font & Size: Times New Roman with size 12.
  2. Space: Double-spaced lines.
  3. Margin: One-inch.
  4. Page number: On every page at the upper right corner with the author’s name.
  5. Title Position: In Center with quotation marks.
  6. Abstract: Not included.
  7. Work cited List: As Bibliographical list.
  8. In-text Citations: Last name of the Author, Source name, and Publication date/year.
  9. Headings/Subheadings: Not included
modern language association

Main Differences Between APA and MLA

Every academic journal, article, book, or research paper, is written brilliantly in a specific format and style to give a unique value to the reader.

Typically, the subject area of the research decides what format will be used to write the paper.

Understanding the difference between APA and MLA style help the author to organize their write-up in a proper format and won’t distract the reader.

  1. In APA style, four sections are there i.e. page title, an abstract of the research, body paragraphs with headings/sub-headings, and list of references. Whereas, in MLA style, only two sections are there i.e. body in paragraph format and work cited pages. In MLA, page title and an abstract are not included.
  2. In APA style, an in-text citation is in author-date format, whereas in MLA style, in-text citations are author-page format.
  3. In APA, the author’s last name is mentioned with publishing date/year in parenthesis, whereas in MLA, the author’s name with the page number is cited.
  4. Page referred in APA are mentioned in the end in a single page as “References”, whereas in MLA it is mentioned are “Work-Cited”.
  5. APA format is used for social science like Sociology, Psychology, Nursing, Social Work, Criminology, Business, and Education, etc. Whereas MLA format is used for humanities like Literature, History, Language, Arts, Philosophy, Theatre, Religion, Law, Anthropology, Politics, etc.



Aim of every book, article, academic paper, journals, etc. is to convey the findings of the research or idea for which they are written. But if any text or content is written without any style or format, it lacks its spirit.

The style and format create a communicative strategy through which books or paper or content of any type speaks to and creates interest for the reader.

Therefore, writing style and formatting play a crucial role in structuring the content or text.

If one is clear about his/her concept on which research is based, then it won’t be difficult to select the correct writing style i.e. APA or MLA.

Thus, the first and foremost thing for the author is to identify the boundaries in which his/her research will operate.

Key Differences Between APA and MLA (PDF Format)

Download the key differences in .PDF format, to read or print them later:

Difference Between APA and MLA



  1. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED314761
  2. https://okknf.smcebi.edu.pl/orwi07756sdo/11-prof-karina-gutkowski/rxJXL4Lpg4f-the-essentials-of-mla-style-a-guide-to-documenta-doc.pdf
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the way we quote sources on the web is quite different from the standardized ways of quoting sources. ALA and MLA look great to me but I never rememberd the difference and used to get confused with them. you are doing great job by giving us answers to differences.

Piyush Yadav
Piyush Yadav
Reply to  amuzkot

the formatting is quite different in both ALA and MLA. But if you have used both types of formatting to quote sources then just by looking at them, you can tell whether it is ALA or MLA