APA Format (Style)
Summary of Rules


A large number of people who visit my writing help websites are looking for help with formatting and adding citations to their academic and/or professional papers. Many of those folks are required to use the standards of the American Psychological Association (APA).

In its more than 270 pages, The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association covers literally thousands of technical details related to the writing and publishing of papers, and should be consulted if that level of detail is required.

Nevertheless, there are a number of overall rules and general guidelines, which are normally sufficient for the preparation of most APA format papers at the undergraduate level. I have divided and summarized those below in three distinct sections:

  1. Overall APA Paper Format Rules

  2. APA Rules For In-Text Citation of Sources

  3. Compiling and Formatting the APA Reference List

Each of the above sections below contains a link to an actual sample pages of of the format being discussed.

Overall Paper Format - APA

  • The paper should be typed and double-spaced, on standard 8 ½” x 11”, 20-pound white paper.

  • All four outside margins should be set at 1 inch.

  • As many as applicable of the following sections should appear in the paper, each one beginning on a separate page: abstract, text, references, appendices, author identification notes, footnotes, tables, figure captions, figures. Each section should have a running header on the first line of the page, flush left.

  • The manuscript title on the first page should begin about 1/3 of the way down the page. The title block on that page should include: full title (one or more lines), writer's name, course name and number, instructor's name, and the date - all centered on double-spaced lines

  • A running header with consecutive page numbering should appear flush left in the upper left-hand corner of each page, including the manuscript title page. This running header will appear one-half inch from the top of the page, and should contain a short version of the manuscript title, followed by the page number, flush to the right margin.

To see examples of various APA Title Pages click here.

In-Text Citation of Sources - APA

  • In general, APA in-text documentation format uses the author-date style of citation, with the author's name, followed by the year of publication, cited within the body text of an article. The complete details on the source document are included in the "References" list at the end of the paper.

  • Normally, an in-text citation will be introduced with a "signal phrase" that includes the author’s last name, followed by the year of publication in parentheses. The page number in the source document, preceded by a "p.", should appear in parentheses immediately after the quotation. Example: As Smith (1998) observed, "There was only one way to go after that" (p. 97).

  • In cases when the author's name is not in the signal phrase, enclose the author's last name, the year, and the page number, in parentheses at the end of the quotation. Example: (Smith, 1998, p. 263).

  • If the work cited has two authors, name both authors in the signal phrase and in parentheses at the end of the quotation. For the latter, separate their names with the "&" symbol. Example: (Hartwick & Rogers, 1999).

  • For more than two authors, identify all of the authors in the introductory signal phrase or in the parentheses the first time they are named. Example: (Brendan, Donaldson, Smith, & Warden, 1995). Later citations of the same work can use the first author's name followed by "et al." Example: (Brendan et al., 1995).

  • If the author is an organization with a long cumbersome name, use the entire name in the body text the first time it is used, with the acronym for the organization enclosed in parentheses, followed by the year. Example: (American Society of Strategic Planners [ASSP], 1997). For later citations of the same work, use the acronym followed by the year. Example: (ASSP, 1997).

  • For citations of Internet resources, refer to the special page that I have set up about this right here.

To see a sample APA Inside Page click here.

Reference List - APA

  • A list of all sources cited in the paper must be included at the end of the paper. This list is entitled "References" and must begin on a separate page after the last page of text. This heading should be centered on the page.

  • The reference list will arranged in alphabetical order, by author's last name. If there is more than one work by the same author, place the entries in order of publication date, from oldest to most recent. (i.e. list 1991 references before 1995 references for the same author).

  • The first line of each entry in the list of references is typed flush to the left margin. Subsequent lines for the same entry are indented one-half inch. All lines are double-spaced with no extra spaces between entries.

  • All author's names in the references list are to use the inverted form; with last name first. Initials should be used for the author's first name. For two or more authors, separate the names by commas and use "&" instead of "and" for the last name mentioned.

  • For the references list, use the last name of the author; do not use "et al" there.

  • When an author appears as both a sole author, and as the first author of a group, list the single author entry first.


  • If no author name is available for a publication, alphabetize the entry by the title of the work, and use a shortened version of the title in parenthetical "in-text" citations in the body of the text.

  • For the title of the work being cited, use underlining or italics, not both. They are equivalent in this case. Whichever convention is chosen must be used throughout the essay for all titles cited.

  • When referencing BOOKS, capitalize the first word and all proper nouns contained in the title and sub-title. Do not use all capitals.

  • When citing ARTICLES capitalize the first word and all proper nouns in the title. Do not put titles of articles in quotations.

  • When referencing PERIODICALS such as magazine articles or articles in scholarly journals, list the volume number in arabic numerals, and underline it. Do not use "vol." before the number, and do not use "p." or "pp." for the page numbers. (These can be used when referencing newspaper articles or works in anthologies).

To see a sample APA Reference Page click here.


APA Software

StyleEase for APA Style is powerful software that automatically formats your APA paper for you. From title page to bibliography, StyleEase does it all, right from the MS-Word toolbar. Handles simple papers to major dissertations with equal ease. If your paper is due soon, StyleEase will save the day.
StyleEase for APA Style

Other APA Resources

If you feel that the above summarized rules and guidelines are too general in nature for you, links to a number of online sites with more detailed APA format information and examples are listed here.


Disclaimer: This site is not affiliated with either the Modern Language Association of America (MLA) or the American Psychological Association (APA). The information and links posted above were gathered through a variety of publicly available sources, and have been assembled here for the convenience of users. Accordingly, Writinghelp-central.com does not accept any liability for the information posted above.



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