MLA Writing Style vs APA Writing Style

MLA Writing Style vs APA Writing Style by Alexandria Haber

My paper is due! Which writing style should I use?

It happens to quite a few people in the wee hours of the morning just before assignments are due. Quotes are checked, sources verified, word limit exceeded, then, one comes to a screeching halt, “Papers should be formatted according to the MLA or APA style”. And so begins a frenzied computer research on the two writing styles.

MLA writing style

The MLA (Modern Language Association) requires that specific rules be followed for formatting manuscripts. It provides writers with a proper system to cite references, the usage of which enhances the writer’s credibility by listing outside sources in order to give recognition where it is due. One advantage of the MLA format is that it provides the user protection from possible accusation of plagiarism.

General Guidelines for MLA writing style

When preparing a paper using the MLA writing style, general format guidelines must be adhered to as well as the technical rules of citation and bibliography.

  • Assignments are to be typed on pages no larger that 8.5 x 11, double spaced, with either Times New Roman font, or Courier.
  • One space must be inserted between all punctuation marks.
  • Margins must be set to one inch on all sides of the paper.
  • All paragraphs must be indented one inch (one tab) from the left margin of the page.
  • Headers must be inserted on each page in the upper right hand corner displaying the page numbers of the essay consecutively (some instructors will ask that a student’s last name follow the page number on each page).
  • If endnotes are included in your work, they must be placed on the last page, right before your works cited page.

For a more detailed look at the rules regarding end notes, in-text citations or works cited (multiple authors, electronic sources, periodicals, etc.), there are resources available online and in print that will aid you with this writing style. Some excellent print titles for reference material are: MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers(6th edition), and MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (2nd edition). For those who have internet access, all MLA writing style rules can be found on a site built by the people at Owl at Purdue.

At all times, it is equally important to strictly follow your professor’s instructions on the use of long titles, the need to emphasize with underlines or italics and other personal choices. Careful attention must be paid to every detail so as to prevent loss of marks in the grading process.

APA writing style

APA (American Psychological Association) is a writing style that is generally used within the realm of the social sciences. As in the case of the MLA writing style, the APA has a list of general format guidelines as well as a list of rules pertaining to paragraph structure.

General Guidelines for APA writing style

All essays written in the APA writing style should be structured in accordance to the following guidelines:

Assignments must be typed double-spaced on 8.5 x 11 inch pages.

  • The title page must include bylines, titles, or running headers.
  • Page numbers must be included (similar to MLA) followed by 5 spaces, then an abridged version (2 words) of the paper’s title.
  • Some instructors require students to prepare an abstract which is a 75 to 100 word overview of the chosen topic highlighting the major points of discussion in the paper. It must be set up on its own page with the word “Abstract” centered at the top of the page, and placed right after the title page.
  • Headings are not specifically necessary but can be helpful in navigating through a paper. Every word of the heading must be capitalized with the exception of articles such as ‘the’, ‘a’, and ‘an’, and certain conjunctions such as ‘and’, and ‘but’.
  • Visuals such as tables and figures including graphs, charts, and drawings may be included; however, each must be labeled with an Arabic numeral i.e. Table 1, Table 2, etc.. Titles must be flush left, each inserted illustration must include its source.
  • Lists of all references must be included on its own page at the end of your written work. Each reference should be centered, starting at the top of the page (also double spaced) and listed in alphabetical order according to the authors last name, editor, or by the title of the work (excluding the words A, An, and The)

For a more detailed look at the rules of the APA writing style regarding references, in text citations, and footnotes or endnotes, please see Owl at Purdue.


About the Author:
Alexandria Haber writes both fiction and non-fiction for a variety of people and places. As a result, she has had the benefit of gaining a little bit of knowledge about a lot of different subjects. While researching this article on the hottest careers, she gained a new respect for the education industry. For more information on distance education you can visit: Online College Degrees Information