Monday, March 19, 2012

Citation Smackdown: MLA versus APA

There seems to be some disagreement among the disciplines as to what citation style is superior: MLA versus APA. Some of the spineless "pacifists" who wish to remain outside of the argument simply state that they serve their own purposes, like MLA for literary analysis and APA for scientific research. I say "nay" to that. An emphatic "nay!" While it's true that they do serve certain disciplines more easily than others, ultimately there has to be one that reigns supreme over the other. MLA and APA can't share kingship (or queenship).

You might be saying, "They both do in-text citations and bibliographies, so why does it matter?" Just because they both do it, doesn't mean they do it clearly or concisely. Others of you might be saying, "Well, I use Chicago style." Well, get out. This isn't meant for you.

First, let's look at MLA. It's sleek, it's simple. You don't get bogged down by the information. Check it:
According to Whitmore, the book "took liberties with the life of Bruce Campbell" (93).
The citation is non-intrusive. Here all we have is a page number in parentheses after the author is already mentioned. Any further information can be found on that back page called "Work Cited." But how does APA do it?
According to Whitmore (1997), the book "took liberties with the life of Bruce Campbell" (p. 93).
Ugly. Grotesque. More numbers than there ought to be. And the "p." before the page number? Is that necessary? I think not. While in some cases it might be convenient for the reader to find the cited work's year of publication in the sentence their reading, the parenthetical year can kill the rhythm of a work. Yeah, the reader's not necessarily supposed to read the year, but they still do it in their heads. I do it in my head. I'm still doing it in my head. 1997. Argh.

Parenthetical citation-wise, I think MLA has the upperhand. But then again, I'm just talking about a fake article written about a fake book about Bruce Campbell. What if I had online sources dealing with the same issue?

If it's MLA, I sure hope it's a Tweet.

I kid. According to the Purdue OWL, there are a few online sources that you can clearly cite utilizing MLA format. Its scope, however, is a bit limited. APA, on the other hand, blows MLA out of the water by having specific citation styles for wikis, audio and video podcasts, computer software, online interviews, etc. Sure, APA doesn't outright tell you the proper way to cite a Tweet on Twitter, but by golly it'll tell you how to do so for an "interactive map," whatever that might be.

While I do have particular affection for MLA, compared to APA it does seem a bit behind in the times as far as the intarwebz goes. Maybe in the 8th edition of the MLA manual it'll step it up and tell me how to cite my Facebook statuses.

They deserve it.

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