APA & MLA Formatting: For And Against
Choosing a formatting style and tailoring the information used when writing according to the chosen style's requirement is an irreplaceable step in academic paper writing. All writers, students, and scientists have to go through it to present high-quality writing. To create a one-size-fits-all way to give credit to someone or someone's work, many formatting styles have appeared over time through various organizations, such as the ones mentioned in the title. The key function of both styling guides (APA and MLA) is to create a standard for citing sources in academic papers.
Understanding the Disparities Between Both Styles
Weighing the advantages and disadvantages of formatting styles is a time-consuming process, and you must know that a lot of attention should actually be paid to understanding the differences. Because in reality, both offer considerable benefits for people, so it's necessary to compare everything to choose the right one. Besides, a student or researcher should carefully weigh their own unique situation rather than look for a blanket set of advantages or disadvantages to each format. Mainly because what may be considered advantageous for some may not be for someone else.
Thus some major issues to consider are;
- (a) program requirements,
- (b) discipline,
- (d) personal preference,
- (e) ease of use.
Depending on your instructor, department, or publisher, a specific standard may already be in place regarding which formatting style must be utilized. Secondly, simply looking at your subject or field of study can help you define what style will suit your paper in the best manner possible (please see below for more detailed information regarding each discipline). Take into account that you can already be accustomed to a particular style of formatting that is just natural to you. This may originate from your research and choice of authors or previous implementation of styling techniques.
Can Any Style Be Easier?
Finally, the most popular question about formatting styles students ask is: Which is easier? In general, anytime you have specific guidelines that tell you where to put a comma or a period, you can assume that each guide is detailed, and no style is really easier than another. But APA is geared toward the sciences. It may appear a little technical for those accustomed to writing for the humanities and literature-based disciplines- but this view is definitely subjective.
Advantages and disadvantages: sorting out the major distinctions
Another crucial step in evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of each format is to define the important things that set them apart. This element, above all, is a principal factor in determining which format will best suit your documentation needs.
Cover Or Title Page
Writing a paper in APA requires a title page, whereas MLA style doesn't require including it. Running head is one of the obligatory elements of the APA title page, but only if you write a paper on a professional level. Don't forget to indent the running head on both sides. In case you're writing your paper in MLA and want to add a title page, you must add your and your professor's name, the discipline name, due date, and paper title. The cover page for MLA isn't required by the style's rules but may be required by your professor.
Short References, Or In-Text Citations
APA follows an author-date system, whereas MLA prefers another approach: author-page number. Both require parenthesis for in-text citations though the author's name may be given inside a signal phrase. Likewise, MLA requires the first and last names for sources to be mentioned initially. In APA style, you need to mention only the last name.
Footnotes & Endnotes
We have already mentioned that MLA in-text citations require writers to use an author-page method: both are included in parentheses. Footnotes and endnotes aren't necessary for APA, but sometimes, explanations are needed or required so that these elements may be implemented. Noteworthy differences are that MLA formatting requires a sheet called 'Notes' before the Works Cited pages for its endnotes, and APA refers to this same page simply as 'Footnotes.'
Both styles prescribe adding page numbers in direct quotations though the definition of short and long quotations differ. Short quotations for MLA, for instance, are four lines or less, while with APA short quotations can consist of more than 50 words.
Due to the scientific nature of papers written in APA and reports, additional documents such as abstracts are required (but may not be upon your professor's request). MLA and APA usually don't require abstracts and appendices, but some papers sometimes contain them.
Writing according to discipline and purpose
For instructors preparing an assignment or for writers getting ready for publication, the subject matter, as well as the purpose of writing, will greatly impact any decisions to be made on formatting. Different disciplines offer different styles that cater to their specific needs and requirements. APA style, in general caters to psychology, humanities, and other disciplines: business, political science, nursing, linguistics, and so on. MLA is best for English, literature, history, and the humanities such as art, religion, philosophy, etc.
Subsequently, without using a specific discipline, you can also identify which style is most feasible for you simply by looking at your purpose in writing. For example, if your purpose is to inform others of your original research or to present a comprehensive literature review then the guidelines set forth by the APA are suitable for your needs.
*Also, this style allows for the inclusion of graphs and charts in the body of the paper which is very probable for business papers in which financial figures are needed as well as statistical documents that rely heavily on the presentation of data and figures.
Likewise, if the purpose of writing involves arguing something, analyzing a concept or theory, or perhaps substantiating a cause and effect relationship, then you may want to look at MLA styling for your formatting needs. Additionally, depending on the data that will be presented in your document APA style may be used for subjects that are traditionally formatted with MLA. If you're constructing a technical paper on language and rhetoric-APA may prove advantageous over MLA for this topic.
Final thoughts - Debating Key Disadvantages
Some people may find the structuring and styling requirements set forth by the American Psychological Association and Modern Language Association to be a bit burdensome at times. In general, both formatting styles can be very tedious and time-consuming. So when considering the real disadvantage of either style, perhaps the most significant concern for students and researchers is not the technicalities of each, but the overall limit of options and flexibility in styling guides.
Even considering many other options to choose from, APA and MLA are still the standard for most educational institutions and publishers (along with Chicago and Turabian). Since this is the case, despite their many drawbacks or unnecessary periods and parentheses, many people will cite this 'monopoly on styling guides' as the biggest disadvantage for both formats.