The Difference between MLA and APA Style Formatting

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Paper Editing Services 150x150 The Difference between MLA and APA Style FormattingModern Language Association (MLA) and the American Psychological Association (APA) are common style guides used for writing academic papers. Where MLA is primarily used in the liberal arts, and humanities; APA is used within social sciences (e.g. psychology, education, sociology).

Before you begin writing your college paper, your professor will advise you of the style that is required. In addition, they may require additional preferences (e.g, a different style to the cover page). Pay attention to these requirements because instructors will remove grade points if a student does not follow the formatting for approved grammatical and citation requirements.

It is recommended (strongly) that students study and learn the requirements of the style early on in their education career and keep updated as different editions are released by MLA (currently 3rd edition) and APA (currently 6th edition). Having a good knowledge of the style will assist the student write more efficiently. A good tip is to keep a copy of the style book next to your computer to use as a reference as you write. Highlight the most commonly used punctuation and other information with a highlighter and post-it notes, because the answer surely will come up again.

Both APA apastyle and MLA have Websites and search engines that can help if you have a tough style problem. Also, most colleges have Writing Centers or online tutorials to help you with ensuring that your use of the style guidelines in your academic paper are perfect.

Here are some major differences in the two styles.

Reference Examples:

APA Style
Jelfs, A., Richardson, J., & Price, L. (2009). Student and tutor perceptions of effective tutoring in distance education. Distance Education, 30(3), 419-441. doi:10.1080/01587910903236551.

Mellers, B.A. (2000). Choice and the relative pressure of consequences. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 910-924.

MLA Style
Jelfs, Anne, John T. E. Richardson, and Linda Price. “Student and tutor perceptions of effective tutoring in distance education.” Distance Education 30.3 (2009): 419-441. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 16 Feb. 2010.

Palmer, William J. Dickens and New Historicism. New York: St. Martin’s, 1997. Print.

In-text citation examples:

APA Style
This is the citation format when there is a quote: According to Black (2009), “all clowns scare children to death” (p.3).

MLA Style
According to Kenneth Black, “all clowns scare children to death” (3).

Other Comparisons



Spacing Double space, 12 pt font Double space, 12 pt font
Spacing after punctuation One space One space
“and” or “&” Uses “and” in all cases “&” used in citations
Margins 1 inch on all sides 1 inch on all sides
Numbers Write one, five, twenty-one, one hundred, sixteen hundred, but write 8½, 301, and 5,820. Spell out numbers when used as the first word in the sentence and nine and lower
Page numbers Top right Top right
Footnotes Two types – bibliographic notes and content notes Four types – author, content copyright, permission and table notes

Professional Editing
There is another option if you need help with academic writing, especially when you are writing a thesis or submitting a paper for publication. Many editors, like the editors at, specialize in academic writing and will offer to edit a paper based on word count or pages and the type of editing required. Academic editing will cost more than a standard edit. These editors are professionals who have a lot of experience editing papers in different style formats. They can provide expertise for the difficult editing issues such as footnotes and endnotes, charts and tables, and citing references.

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Heather Todd

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Ms. Todd is an award-winning, full-time professional editor, published writer and marketing consultant whose passion is to help others create a letter-perfect presentation in their writing. Recognized as an always up-to-date leading authority on ALL current editing standards, Ms. Todd is a wealth of knowledge for editors and writers worldwide. Her expertise includes, but is not limited to: • Fiction & Non-Fiction Book Editing • Thesis & Dissertation Editing • Corporate Documents & Business Editing • On-Line Writing Services • Speech Writing Ms. Todd is an independent contractor who provides advisory and consulting services worldwide to numerous corporations, a small sampling of such businesses include: • • •

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