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APA Versus MLA: What Style Guide Do You Use?

APA and MLA are the two most popular formats for academic papers. Consult your professor in order to know which one you have to use. This requirement is usually predetermined by the school or your specialization. However in some cases, the professor is the one who chooses the style. Be sure to also inquire about any additional requirements.

Main Rules and Uses: APA Format

This format was created by the American Psychological Association in 1929. It’s mostly used in the articles submitted to journals and other publications. This format can be described as being concise and to the point. It’s perfect for lab reports and scientific papers.

APA papers often use past tense, but only an active form for verbs. Passive voice is not prohibited per se, but you should avoid it if possible.

Main APA formatting rules:

  • Footnotes should be double-spaced. Use them sparingly, and always subscript them with numbers.
  • All titles must be centered and printed an inch below the top of the page.
  • Lines must be double-spaced.
  • Every page must have a header that consists of a shortened title (no more than 50 characters) and a page number.
  • The bibliographic list must be organized in alphabetical order, based on the authors’ last names.
  • In-text citations must be put in parentheses and include the authors’ names, years of publication, and page numbers.

Main Rules and Uses: MLA Format

Established by the Modern Language Association, this format is mainly used for humanities papers and literary research. Works in this style require more quotes than APA papers, and provide more details of the research.

MLA papers are mostly written in present tense.

Main MLA formatting rules:

  • In-text citations only include the authors’ names and page numbers.
  • There are no extra line breaks between citations. All lines are double-spaced.
  • Footnotes can be used to provide even non-essential information.
  • Margins in each document must be 1 inch on every side.
  • The first line of every paragraph must be indented (1.5 inch).
  • Every page must have a header placed half an inch below the top of the page. It must include the name of the paper and page number.
  • Ask your instructor whether or not you should place the number on the first page.

  • Use italics if you want to emphasize something. However, do not overdo it. This method should only be used in exceptional cases.
  • In the vast majority of cases, students are not required to make separate title pages for MLA papers. Discuss this with your professor for specific instructions.

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