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How to Convert an MLA Citation to APA


The Modern Language Association (MLA) and American Psychological Association (APA) cite references in distinct ways, but they generally contain the same identifying information. If you must convert your MLA-formatted citations to follow APA guidelines, you merely need to edit and rearrange some of the information you already have listed. When you amend your MLA “Works Cited” page to make it an APA “References List,” you should maintain the hanging indentation and double-spacing.

In-Text Citations

Both MLA and APA encourage writers to cite an author conversationally in the primary text whenever possible. In MLA, page numbers, enclosed in parentheses, follow the referenced statement. To convert this type of in-text citation to an APA citation, remove the page numbers and enclosing parentheses. Leave a space after the author’s last name, then insert an open parenthesis. Add the year of publication, followed by a close parenthesis. Leave a space, then continue the sentence. For example: “Smythe (2013) notes that Smiths live on all six inhabited continents.” Alternatively, you can cite both the author’s name and other identifying information parenthetically at the end of the referenced sentence. Remove the page numbers from an MLA parenthetical citation, and replace them with the year of publication. Insert a comma immediately after the author’s name. In APA style, like MLA, parenthetical citations should precede the punctuation that concludes the attributed content. For example: “Smiths live on all six continents (Smith & Smythe, 2013).”

APA References

All APA references, like MLA citations, begin with the author's name. Leave the author’s name inverted, but abbreviate the first name with the first letter and a period. If there is a second author, replace the word “and” between the authors’ names with an ampersand. Invert the second author’s name, and abbreviate his first name. Leave a space. Add an open parenthesis after the period. Enter the year of publication, followed by a close parenthesis and period. For example: Smith, J. & Smythe, K. (2013).

Referencing Books

MLA style lists book titles in title case, in which all of the title words are capitalized except for articles. Conversely, APA style places books titles in sentence case, in which the only capitalized words are the first word, the first word after a colon (if any) and proper nouns. Put the book title in sentence case. Keep it italicized, and keep the period at the end. Insert a comma after the city of publication. Leave a space, then add the two-letter abbreviation for the state. The colon should immediately follow the state abbreviation. Remove the original date entry and the “Print” medium entry. Replace the comma that follows the publisher with a period to end the citation. For example: Smith, J. & Smythe, K. (2013). Smiths and Smythes around the world (italicized). Philadelphia, PA: Franklin Family Press.

Referencing Periodicals

If you are citing an article from a periodical, remove the quotation marks from the article title, and put it in sentence case. Leave the periodical title in italicized title case. Insert a comma immediately after the periodical title. Then, remove the period that separates the volume and edition numbers, if they are in your citation. Enclose the edition number in parentheses. Italicize the volume number but not the edition number. Add a comma immediately after the close parenthesis. Remove the original date entry and the “Print” medium entry. Leave the period at the end of the page number entry to complete the citation. If you accessed the article or periodical online, leave a space after the period that ends the page number range, then add the phrase “Retrieved from” followed by the Web address. For example: Smith, J. & Smythe, K. (2013). Smiths and Smythes around the world. The American Journal of Genealogy and Families (italicized), 17(3), 118-126. Retrieved from http://genandfam.org/17/3/smithsmythe/ (The journal volume number, "17", should be italicized)

About the Author

Grace Riley has been a writer and photographer since 2005, with work appearing in magazines and newspapers such as the "Arkansas Democrat-Gazette." She has also worked as a school teacher and in public relations and polling analysis for political campaigns. Riley holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in American studies, political science and history, all from the University of Arkansas.

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