The two most commonly used writing styles are APA and MLA. They are broadly applied in academic writing, although students can attest to the difficulties they experience using the essay format prescriptions.  Understanding the differences between the two styles will help you both write your papers and handle your assignments with ease.

Despite their differences, both APA and MLA serve one function: acknowledge the sources via in-text citations and complete details for each source specified on the last page of your essay. Both of the systems provide guidelines for the overall essay format: title page, reference page, and content formatting. MLA is widely used in the Humanities (especially, languages and literature, liberal arts, etc.). APA is mainly associated with the social sciences (psychology, social work, etc.). Thus, the two systems have both similarities and differences.

Essay Layout

Both essay formats prescribe to use double spaced lines arrangement, 12-point Times New Roman font, with the right-ragged margin and 1-inch wide margins on all the sides. The APA format comprises 3 parts: title page, main body, and references. In contrast, MLA format does not have a title page put separately and thus consists of 2 parts: the main body and works cited page. You also need to pay attention to the differences in headings, capitalization and punctuation of the entries (as well as in-text citations), and the line position (justified, left- or right-aligned) among others.

Title Page and Headers

APA style includes a separate cover page that indicates the title of your essay, your name, and institutional affiliation. In the header, you need to use page numbers at the top right corner, and the title of your paper condensed to no more than 5 words, all typed using Caps Lock key and presided with the phrase, “Running head:” (which appears only on the first page of your paper) in accordance with the APA essay format requirements. In contrast, MLA does not have a separate cover page, although the first page indicates student’s name, instructor’s name, the course title and the date in the upper left corner of the paper. The header contains page numbers and student’s last name that have to be applied throughout the paper.

Reference Page and In-Text Citations

Mind the difference: the last page in the APA style is called the “References” whereas in MLA it is called a “Works Cited” page. Both APA and MLA require listing sources in the order alphabetized by the last name. In MLA essay format, the details of each entry are capitalized in contrast to APA that has specific rules depending on the source details. You need to pay attention to the font variables, indent, punctuation and other prescriptions for each of the entry depending on the origin of the source: a book, magazine, online source,

Remember, proper essay format has to be maintained to give credit to the authors whose input you are using when writing your paper. In-text citations in APA are often referred to as author-date, whereas the MLA will alert the readers by indicating the author’s last name and page number along with the cited material.