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Academic Writing Style – APA and MLA Set the Standards

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As we all know, school (at any level) is a place where the ability to write reasonably well is very important if one is to succeed. This would explain why thousands of visitors to this site are seeking information and templates to help them with their academic writing projects such as book reports, term papers, essays, and research papers.

Once one reaches the college or university level, it is not good enough to write a paper in just any old format that one chooses. At that level, students are almost always required to use certain accepted international standards for formatting and referencing sources in a paper. Even at the high school level, many teachers now require the use of one of the well-known writing style standards.

At universities and colleges in most Western countries, one of two major international writing style standards are used as follows:

1. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association
The APA’s Publication Manual covers all aspects of the writing and publishing process including organizing, writing, formatting, keying, and submitting a manuscript for publication. It provides detailed guidance on editorial style as well as on the appropriate standards for publishing research in accordance with ethical principles of scientific publishing.

2. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers
The MLA documentation style covers all aspects of scholarly writing, beginning with the mechanics of writing and publishing, through the basics of writing style, to guidelines for the preparation of theses and dissertations. Although the MLA guidelines cover all aspects of writing and publishing a paper, MLA documentation style places special emphasis on the proper citing of sources of information in one’s written work, and how to properly and consistently cite them throughout a paper or manuscript.

Both of these style documents are lengthy technical manuals designed to cover every possible situation that one could encounter when writing a paper. To assist those who would rather not wade through hundreds of pages that may not be relevant to them, I have broken down and summarized the APA and MLA Rules for the Preparation of Manuscripts into three distinct sections as follows:

1. Overall Paper Format Rules (APA and MLA)
2. Rules For In-Text Citation of Sources (APA and MLA)
3. Compiling and Formatting the Reference List (APA and MLA)

You can access a summary of the APA Rules at this page:

The MLA Rules are summarized on this page:

Each of the above pages contains links to actual sample pages of the formats being discussed.


14 thoughts on “Academic Writing Style – APA and MLA Set the Standards

  1. Thanks so much for all your help. Through the years I have read, saved, applied and enjoyed all your help with writing skills.
    God bless you and your family.


  2. I have bookmarked the APA and MLA protocols.

    thank you..

  3. Hi
    Your posts are always useful. I wait for them every month.
    Thanks for your effort and time.

  4. Thanks once again for your beautiful posts. It has always helped me a lot. I will wait eagerly for your next post.

  5. Dear Shaun,
    Not much story about my lovely country Indonesia this time, though I think, we have experienced the same forest fires, lately.
    I am always interested in ‘Your writing helps,’ and may I learn about; at least to compare to what I’ve done in my school era here. As I have been studying English Literature, major in Translation (English – Indonesian Language: vv.), at the end of my study, I BELIEVE I have to make a final report on this, and would make your writings as references. I wish you enjoy your life all the times, and may God bless you and your family forever. See you Shaun, I’m glad you are in a very good health. Ashari.

  6. Dear Shaun

    Thank you for always including me in all your posts. Interesting reading and apologies if I have not been online lately, we are currently busy preparing for the end of the exams. I am residing in the beautiful city being Cape Town in South Africa. We have equisite beaches, Table Mountain, Robben Island and I am sure that some of your readers have been flocking to Cape Town to see these equisite beaches or Table Mountain. God bless you in all your current and future endeavours

  7. Dear Shaun,
    Great to see your points again. It’s also good to share your experience of life with us as well. We can figure out what’s going on over there.
    As I was reading the text, I came up with two questions, which are as follows:
    1- is there any structural difference in the following sentences, where once we see “on page” and in another “at page”.
    “You can access a summary of the APA Rules at this page”:
    “The MLA Rules are summarized on this page”:
    2- my second question is about using “above” and “below” as modifier adjective in the following sentence:
    “Each of the above pages contains links”
    Are we allowed to use them in this way? Or as I heard before we should use them as adverbs at the beginning or end of a sentence as you can see in the following examples?
    “Below, you can find more information about …”
    “I found the sites above very useful, not the above sites or below sites”.

    As usual I really appreciate receiving your comments on that.
    All the best and enjoy the rest of summer holidays.

  8. Dear Shaun,

    Thank you very much for your tips for academic writing. I have to practice with your tips. I am also busy on my research work.

    I feel great about your happy life at Montreal.

    Yog Maya

  9. Thank you very much for your tips. They helped a lot. Enjoy the games and God bless you.

  10. I have started reading your blog few years back. It has been wonderful experience with you. I have learned many new pattern of writing style. Thanks a lot. Enjoy well

  11. Shaun,
    It would also be helpful if you stated the disciplines that would generally require MLA or APA formats for papers. Also please note that MLA eighth edition has added the now 2016 Changes to their eighth edition. Very interesting and another new way to learn about citing sources in MLA format and more new things to memorize. MLA made the changes to standardize citing sources for various mediums. It appears as though once one gets used to the new way it will be easier, especially for students. The website of the Online Writing Lab (OwL) at Purdue University has accurate and very helpful information on the new version of MLA’s in-text citations and the works cited page as well as some very important changes to the writing of the paper.

  12. Shaun, excuse the error. I stated that MLA had added the new changes to their eighth edition. Actually it is Diana Hacker’s a Writer’s Reference that has added the 2016 MLA changes to the eighth edition. Hacker is another good source for MLA, APA and even Chicago for students to use when having to write a paper in one of those formats.

  13. Thanks Helaine. All good info. I often refer to the Purdue OWL website. I also have my trusty copy (slightly dated) of Diana Hacker’s style guide right here. Yes, Chicago Style is another major standard used by some organizations and institutions. In general, though, APA and MLA predominate that area as far as I know.

  14. Dear Shaun,
    I think your document is always useful for me. I have learned a lot from your website. Many thanks!

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