Skip to main content
NYMC HSL Banner
Ask a Librarian

APA (7/e) Style Guide

A guide to help users create citations in APA (American Psychological Association) 7 style.

A Note on Mechanics of Style

Chapter 6 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Seventh Edition is dedicated to the mechanics of style, including: punctuation, spelling, capitalization, italics, abbreviations, numbers, metrication, statistical and mathematical copy, the presentation of equations, and lists. What is presented here is a brief overview on some of these topics based on the rules found in the manual. For more details and exceptions to the rules, be sure to reference the manual.

Mechanics of Style

For full information on punctuation, see sections 6.1-6.10 of the APA Publication Manual.

  • Use a single space after punctuation marks that end a sentence.
  • Use hyphens for compound words. If you are unsure of what spelling of a compound word to use, consult the Spelling tab.
  • Use an em dash to distinguish part of a sentence that either amplifies or digresses from the point.
    • Word usually converts two hyphens that are typed in together as an em dash. Otherwise, you can use the Insert Symbol function in Word to generate an em dash. The symbol can be found in the General Punctuation subset. 
  • Use an en dash for compound adjectives and numerical ranges.
    • You can use the Insert Symbol function in Word to generate an en dash. The symbol can be found in the General Punctuation subset.
  • Use parentheses to introduce abbreviations and to denote independent elements (e.g. see Table 1) and in-text citations.
  • Use square brackets to enclose material that's already in parentheses, confidence intervals, and form descriptions for certain types of work in a reference list.

For full information on spelling, see sections 6.11-6.12 of the APA Publication Manual.

NOTE: If the two sources conflict with one another, follow the spelling in the APA Dictionary of Psychology.

For full information on capitalization, see sections 6.13-6.21 of the APA Publication Manual.

  • Title Case: major words (i.e. nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prounouns, and all words of 4 letters or more) are capitalized; used for:
    • titles of works appearing in text
    • titles of texts or measures
    • all headings
    • the title of your paper and all its sections and subsections
    • table titles
    • figure titles
  • Sentence case: most words are lowercase; used for:
    • titles of works in the reference list
    • table column headings, entries, and notes
    • figure notes

For full information on abbreviations/acronyms, see sections 6.24-6.31 of the APA Publication Manual.

  • Use abbreviations sparingly. Consider:
    • Is the abbreviation conventional and/or more familiar than its full name?
    • Can you save a considerable amount of space and avoid repetition by using the abbreviation?
  • For the first use of an abbreviated term, write the full name of the term followed immediately by the abbreviation in parentheses.
  • For all subsequent uses of the term, use the abbreviation.
  • Do NOT switch between the full and abbreviated forms.

For full information on numbers, see sections 6.32-6.39 of the APA Publication Manual.

  • For 1-9, express the numbers using words.
  • For 10 and all numbers greater than 10, express the numbers using numerals.

A Note on Paper Elements & Format

Chapter 2 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Seventh Edition is dedicated to paper elements and format, including: paper sections (e.g. introduction, body, etc.), margins, font, line spacing, headings/sections, etc. What is presented here is a brief overview on some of these topics based on the rules found in the manual. For more details and exceptions to the rules, be sure to reference the manual.

Note that the title page and required elements of a paper differ between professional and student papers. The box below contains information on what pertains to student papers. However, before creating/formatting your document, be sure to consult with your professor in regards to what format is most appropriate for your assignments.

Paper Elements & Format

For full information on formatting, see sections 2.16-2.25 of the APA Publication Manual.

  • Use 1-inch margins on all sides.
  • Use the same font throughout your entire paper.
    • Use 11-point Calibri or 11-point Arial for a sans serif font. 
    • Use 12-point Times New Roman or 11-point Georgia for a serif font.
  • Double space all text.
  • Do not add extra spaces between paragraphs.
  • Page numbers should be in the upper, right hand corner of the page, beginning with the title page.
  • Indent the first line of every paragraph by 0.5 inches.

For full information on what elements belong in a student paper, see section 2.2 of the APA Publication Manual.

Student papers generally contain the following elements:

  • title page
  • page numbers
  • text
  • reference list

For full information on what belongs on the title page, see sections 2.3-2.10 of the APA Publication Manual.

A student title page should generally contain:

  • title
  • author name(s)
  • author affiliation(s)
  • course name and number
  • instructor name
  • assignment due date
  • page number

Student title pages do not generally contain the elements noted below unless specifically requested by the professor:

  • author note(s)
  • running head
  • abstract
  • keyword(s)

For full information on how to format headings, see section 2.27 of the APA Publication Manual.

  • There are five heading levels in APA, starting with level 1 and ending with level 5.
  • Each level is intended for use as subsections of the previous level.
  • Your introduction section does not need a heading.
  • Each new section begins with heading level 1.
  • Format each heading level as follows:

Table 2.3 Format for Five Levels of Heading in APA Style

Level Format
1

Centered, Bold, Title Case Heading

Text begins as a new paragraph.

2

Flush Left, Bold, Title Case Heading

Text begins as a new paragraph. 

3

Flush Left, Bold Italic, Title Case Heading

Text begins as a new paragraph.

4

Indented, Bold, Title Case Heading, Ending With a Period. Text begins on the same line and continues

as a regular paragraph.

5

Indented, Bold Italic, Title Case Heading, Ending With a Period. Text begins on the same line and

continues as a regular paragraph.

Note. From Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.), by American Psychological Association, 2020, p. 48 (https://doi.org/10.1037/0000165-000). Copyright 2020 by the American Psychological Association. 

For full information on how to format your reference list, see sections 2.12 and 9.43-9.42 of the APA Publication Manual.

The general format of a reference list follows some basic rules:

  • The reference list starts on a new page after the text and before any tables, figures, or appendices.
  • The list should be labeled References in bold and centered at the top of the page.
  • Double space all reference entries both within and between entries.
  • The first line of a reference should align with your left margin.  All subsequent lines of a reference should be indented 0.5 inches from the margin.
  • Order your references alphabetically by last name.

A Note on Building References

The Reference Elements section of Chapter 9 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Seventh Edition is dedicated to what should be included in a reference. Each entry in your reference list usually contains the following information, in this order: author(s), date of publication, title of work, and source where you can retrieve the work. What is presented here is a brief overview on some of these topics based on the rules found in the manual.  For more details and exceptions to the rules, be sure to reference the manual.

Building a Reference

For full information on formatting author names in your reference list, see sections 9.7-9.12 of the APA Publication Manual.

  • Authors are listed by surname and initial(s) (e.g. Watson, J. H.).
  • If there is more than one author, use commas to separate their names. 
  • For two to 20 authors, use an ampersand (&) before the last author.
  • If there are 20 or fewer authors, you must list out all of the authors.
  • If there are 21 or more authors, you must list out the first 19, add an ellipsis, and then list the last author's name.
  • If there is no author, move the title to the author position, before the date of publication.

For full information on formatting publication dates in you reference list, see sections 9.13-9.17 of the APA Publication Manual.

  • Dates are listed in parentheses followed by a period.
  • For books, use the date listed on the copyright page.
  • For journal articles, use the date of the volume.
  • For webpages and websites, make sure that the date applies specifically to the content you are using.
  • If a work has no date, list the date element as (n.d.). 

For full information on formatting titles in your reference list, see sections 9.18-9.22 of the APA Publication Manual.

  • Use sentence case capitalization for titles.
  • For references that have additional title/identifying information (e.g. edition, volume, etc.), place any additional information in parentheses after the title of the reference. Separate multiple pieces of information with commas.
  • If your reference doesn't have a title, put a description of the work in square brackets in the title section.

For full information on formatting source information in your reference list, see sections 9.23-9.37 of the APA Publication Manual.

  • For books, include the publisher's name as well as any applicable DOIs or URLs.
  • For journal articles, include the journal's information (i.e. title, volume, issue, and page or article numbers) as well as any applicable DOIs or URLs.
  • For social media posts, include the site name and the URL.
  • For websites and webpages, include the website name and the URL.
  • If your reference doesn't have a source, you can't include it in the reference list.

NOTE: If your reference contains a URL, make sure that the URL works and that it points directly to the reference.