What is the Difference between the APA vs MLA Formats?

Throughout your college experience, you will have to make the choice between APA vs MLA style formats when writing papers. Your professors will assign various writing assignments from term papers and essays, to research papers to assess your writing and analytical skills. A successful paper requires you to perform research, craft an argument, and cite references to support your statements. When citing these references, you will likely need to follow the guidelines of one of the two leading formatting styles: APA vs MLA.

To APA vs. MLA, That Is the QuestionTo APA vs. MLA, That Is the Question

Fortunately, selecting between the APA format and the MLA format styles is probably the least stressful aspect of writing a paper. Often your professor will dictate the writing format with the assignment. If your professor doesn’t, the focus of the paper often does. The APA (American Psychological Association) format is primarily assigned to writing in the fields social sciences: psychology, sociology, nursing, social work, criminology, and business where more timely sources are more important than older works. The MLA (Modern Language Association) is the format of choice for the humanities: literature, language, history, philosophy, the arts, and religion; classic sources are as relevant as a modern works if not more so. If you’re not sure

Five Differences between the APA and MLA FormatsFive Differences between the APA and MLA Formats

While this isn’t an exhaustive list of differences, it will highlight some of the ways these two writing format styles differ. The American Psychological Association and the Modern Language Association update their guidelines periodically, so the examples listed below are subject to change. Unfortunately, this can create additional research on your part just to make sure you are formatting your paper in compliance with the latest revisions of the guidelines.

1. Authors, Editors and Compilers
The MLA format references all authors, editors and compilers cited within the paper using a brief credit in parenthetical citations with a complete description in the Works Cited list. If the person named is the author, you simply include their name. However, if the person cited is an editor or a compiler, you follow their name by a comma and the abbreviation “ed.” or “comp.” respectively. When using the APA format, you include the names of authors, editors and compilers in a References list instead of a bibliography. The proper format for their names is last name, first initial, middle initial.

2. Order of Entries in Bibliographic List
The order of entries using the MLA format is alphabetical by author, then alphabetical by title. The APA style requires all references listed alphabetically by author, then chronologically by work.

3. Multiple Works by Same Author
When listing multiple works by the same author using the MLA format, you will list the works alphabetically, but only the first listing contains the author’s name. All remaining entries will start with three hyphens, a period, a space, the name of the title followed by a period. The three hyphens represent the name(s) in the preceding entry. When listing multiple works by the same author using the APA format, you will list the works chronologically and repeat the name for all entries.

4. Article Titles
The MLA style has all article titles referenced in quotation marks with all major words capitalized. In contrast, the APA format does not contain article titles in quotation marks and only capitalizes the first word.

5. In-text Parenthesis
The format for the MLA style when using in-text parenthesis for citing works is (Name space page number), as in (Plaut 40), whereas the APA format guideline is (Name comma year comma p. #), as in (Plaut, 1991, p. 40). The differences in these two styles are mainly related to APA’s focus on timely sources as opposed to MLA’s focus on the classics.

Formatting Made Easy

Ask yourself, “What is the best use of my time … focusing on the quality of my content or the proper format for margins, indents, underlines, and citing references?” Researching the latest formatting guidelines and applying them correctly to your paper can be tedious and time consuming. Plus, it is deflating to know you’ve flexed your writing and analytical skills only to lose points for errors in formatting. If you want the peace of mind knowing your paper adheres to the proper formatting guidelines, consider using formatting template software. These templates allow you to adhere to the guidelines of the APA versus MLA styles with just a few clicks so you can apply your talents to the quality of your writing.

David Plaut is the founder of Reference Point Software (RPS). RPS offers a complete suite of easy-to-use formatting template products featuring MLA and APA style templates, freeing up time to focus on substance while ensuring formatting accuracy. For more information, log onto http://www.referencepointsoftware.com/ or write to:
info @ referencepointsoftware.com

Reference Point Software is not associated with, endorsed by, or affiliated with the American Psychological Association (APA) or with the Modern Language Association (MLA).

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