As you move through your college journey, academic style guides will likely threaten to throw you through a loop. With every paper you complete, you must pore through the style guides to verify that you followed all their rules exactly as written. Otherwise, you could get marked down considerably for mistakes in formatting, despite writing a winning paper.
To keep that from happening, your best defense is learning just what makes each style guide different. You can start by using this guide on the difference between MLA and APA formats, and then learn how academic editing can help you avoid missteps along the way.
APA and MLA style guides apply to different academic fields. Created by the American Psychological Association, the APA style guide usually serves as the format of choice for social science courses. The MLA Handbook, on the other hand, was created by the Modern Language Association for the humanities.
So, the style guide you’ll use likely depends on which courses you’re taking at any given time. If you need to write papers for a psychology course, for example, then expect to see APA formatting requirements. Taking anthropology instead? Then, you’ll undoubtedly have to abide by the MLA Handbook.
For either guide, you’ll need to set one-inch margins, use a 12 point font, and double-space all your works. On top of that, expect to cite all your sources, of course, and then list them all in the references or works cited page at the end.
Only the APA style guide demands that you create a title page for your assignment. The title page should start with the title of your paper on the left of the header and page numbers on the right.
Then, you should repeat that header throughout the rest of your paper, including the references page. On the next page, write a 150 to 250-word abstract that sums up all the main points in your paper.
For MLA formatted papers, you just need to include a four-line header on the left, and then put the title at the top of your works. After that, you can go directly into the body of your paper, and then finish with a works cited page.
APA and MLA formats differ when it comes to block quote formatting as well. For APA papers, make any quote longer than 40 words a block quote. MLA is a little more complicated. If quoting prose, then anything past four lines needs to appear as a block quote. For verse, it’s three lines instead. Both formats require that you put the in-text citations after the period in the block quote.
When including your sources in your APA format paper, you’ll usually need to put the last name of the author and publishing date in parenthesis at the end of the sentence. If using the author’s name in the sentence, then put the date in parentheses right after their name instead.
For MLA papers, include the author’s last name and the page numbers in parentheses at the end of the sentence. If you use the author's name in your sentence instead, just put the page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence.
The APA style guide requires that you name your citation page ‘References.’ Then, for each in-text citation included in your paper, make a citation that lists the author, publishing date, title, publication, volume, page numbers, and web link.
On MLA papers, you’ll want to name the page ‘Works Cited’ instead. Then, list your citations as author, title, publication, volume, publication date, page numbers, and web link.
For both formats, you’ll need to list the author with their last name first. For APA, you can just use their first and middle initials, while MLA requires you to use their full first name and middle initial.
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