Comparing APA and MLA Academic Writing Styles

Author: Otis Anderson 5/27/2021

Using APA or MLA

The American Psychological Association (APA) and the Modern Language Association (MLA) are professional organizations that dictate documentation styles.

Both the APA and the MLA are comprised of professional members who help to sustain the vision and mission of their organizations. Many people refer to the style handbooks or manuals of these two popular associations for standardized writing guidelines to follow.

APA Style is for the Social Sciences

In 1929, a group of professionals, who were interested in simplifying the rules of scientific writing, developed the APA style. They sought to help writers by developing a basic set of writing guidelines for the behavioral and social sciences. Their dedicated efforts resulted in clear and consistent rules for documenting essays, term papers, journal articles, dissertations, and other forms of academic and professional writing.

Although most people recognize APA style for citation and referencing procedures, its main benefit is increased uniformity of text materials. For example, writers can easily format elements, including title pages, headings, tables, graphs, and figures. Because knowing how to write equates to knowing what to write, scientific writers heed APA style rules to improve the reading comprehension levels of their audiences.

MLA Style is for the Humanities

The MLA was founded in 1883 by professionals and educators who endeavored to form an organization for the advancement of the humanities. Focusing on the English language and literature, the MLA created a systematic technique for writing papers. Since all disciplines have different subjects of concentration, MLA saw the need for standardizing documentation conventions within the liberal arts.

Like the APA, the MLA specifies formatting guidelines for in-text citations to ensure proper documentation of scholarly sources. However, MLA style is also different because it excludes a title page and includes a works cited page, instead of references. MLA style is also concise, easy-to-use, and popular in North America and abroad.

Choosing the Right Style Manual is Easy

Style selection is based on the writer's end product and his or her field. For example, students in technical fields, such as math, science, and engineering, choose APA style for writing purposes devoted to the behavioral and social sciences. Writers, editors, students, and educators can find out more about this style in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th Edition), which is located in libraries, bookstores, and online.

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On the other hand, students in liberal arts courses are more likely to utilize MLA, since they are writing about subjects in the humanities. Professional writers also use the same rationale when selecting proper formats for their text materials. By consulting the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (7th Edition), writers learn how to not only effectively document their work and do efficient research in online and offline settings.

Avoid Plagiarism: Use APA or MLA Style

One of the best reasons to use APA or MLA style is to avoid plagiarism. Both styles protect the scholarly borrowing of information through extensive in-text citations, referencing, or works citing. People who consistently use either style decrease the likelihood of plagiarizing other literary works. Therefore, APA and MLA styles for scientific and academic writing reinforce the integrity of the educational community.


American Psychological Association. paid essay writers (accessed April 10, 2010).

Modern Language Association. online essay writer (accessed April 10, 2010).