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Differences in the Footnotes in MLA & APA


One of the main differences between the MLA and APA style guidelines is their use of footnotes. Both formats discourage extensive footnotes, yet allow for them in certain situations, if supplemental notes are necessary for the document. The following differences between footnotes in MLA and APA are according to the 7th edition of the MLA Handbook and the 6th edition of the Publication Manual of the APA.

MLA: Bibliographic and Explanatory Notes

MLA format uses footnotes and endnotes for bibliographic notes, which refer to outside publications your readers may consult. For example:

  1. See Young, especially chapters 11 and 12, for insight on the continuing politics of memory and identity in America.

Additionally, explanatory notes, or content notes, may be necessary in your document when you need to refer to brief, supplementary information that may deviate from your main text. In this case, the footnote may look like:

  1. Young concisely summarizes this argument in 1993: "[T]he countermonument asks us to recognize that time and memory are interdependent, in dialectical flux."

APA: Content Notes

Like MLA format, APA uses bibliographic and explanatory footnotes sparingly to refer to outside publications, or to provide supplementary information for readers. The only difference is that, in APA style, the year of publication is included. For example:

  1. See Young (1993), especially chapters 11 and 12, for insight on the continuing politics of memory and identity in America.

APA: Copyright Notes

If you quote more than 500 words from a source in your main text, reproduce a graphic, chart or table from an outside source or otherwise think you may be violating "Fair Use" copyright laws, you need to obtain formal permission from the author and make a footnote showing this permission. For example:

  1. From The Texture of Memory (p. 47), J. E. Young, 1993, New Haven: Yale University Press. Copyright 1993 by Yale University. Reprinted with permission.

A copy of the permission letter should also be included at the end of the paper.

About the Author

Gale Marie Thompson's work has been published in "Denver Quarterly," "Los Angeles Review" and "Best New Poets 2012." Thompson holds a BA in English and creative writing from the College of Charleston, a MFA from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and is working on a PhD at the University of Georgia.

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