Difference Between APA & MLA Formats

The American Psychological Association (APA) and the Modern Language Association (MLA) have each set forth style guides which represent the two leading formatting styles used for formal citation. APA formatting is used to guide writing in fields such as business, nursing, social work, psychology, criminology and sociology, and MLA formatting is generally used for academic writing in such settings as high schools, universities and graduate programs. There are many differences in format requirements between the two styles.

Parenthetical Citation

Parenthetical citation is the citation that appears within a work which gives credit to the original source. In MLA style, the format requires the author's name and the page number where the cited piece can be found. In addition to these two pieces of information, APA style also requires the date of publication.

Authors and Editors

MLA style requires that the full names of authors and editors be written on a Works Cited of Bibliography page. However, if there are more than 3 authors or editors, MLA requires only the first three to be included and the others to be referred to as "et al." APA style requires the full last name and only the first initial, but it also requires that all authors and editors be listed in this format no matter how many there are.


MLA style requires that the first letter in every major word in the title of a cited piece be capitalized. In contrast, APA style only requires that the first letter of the first word of the title be written in caps.

Publisher and Publication Location

When referring to the publisher of a cited work, MLA style allows for an abbreviated version of the publisher's name. APA, on the other hand, requires that the full name of the publisher be spelled out in the citation. When citing the location of publication, MLA requires the name of the city, while APA asks for an abbreviated version of the state name when the city of publication is an obscure one.


A Works Cited or Bibliography list in MLA style must be formatted such that the first line of each entry is flush with the left margin of the page, and all subsequent lines in the same entry are indented. APA style is opposite this in that it requires the first line of each entry to be indented and subsequent lines of the same entry to be flush with the left margin of the page.


MLA format specifies that the first page number of a citation should be listed and the subsequent pages referred to with a + sign. APA format requires that the first and each additional page of the cited resource be listed.


The date of publication is cited at the end of the reference in MLA format. However, in APA style, the date is listed following the name of the author.