The APA Manual began in 1929 as an article to discuss the form of journal manuscripts. By 1952 the guidelines were issued as a separate document called the Publication Manual. Today, the manual is in its sixth edition, and the APA format is a widely recognized standard for many forms of writing.

  • In most manuscripts, double-spacing is required throughout. When single-spacing would improve readability; however, it is encouraged. Single-spacing can be used for table titles, headings, figure captions, and footnotes.
  • In manuscripts for publication, figures, tables, and footnotes are usually placed at the end of the manuscript. Whenever possible; however, these materials should be incorporated at the appropriate point in the text as a convenience to readers.
  • Italics, bold, or other special fonts or styles may be used as indicated by the Publication Manual. Always be consistent!
  • The Reference list uses a hanging indent format.

Page Format

Essays should be on 8.5 x 11-inch paper with margins of 1 inch (top and bottom) and 1 or 1.25 inches on the sides. The size of the type should be a standard size (12 pt) and the typeface is usually Times New Roman. Your final essay may include the following sections, as applicable:

  • title page
  • a running head
  • title
  • byline and affiliation
  • abstract
  • body of text
  • references
  • appendixes
  • footnotes/endnotes
  • tables
  • figure captions
  • figures

The pages of your manuscript should be numbered consecutively, beginning with the title page, in the header (upper right corner of each page). On the cover page, the header (and page number) is not shown. References should begin on a separate page after the main text of the essay.


  • APA headings follow a hierarchy.
  • Do not begin a paper with the heading 'Introduction.'
Centered, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase (Level 1)
Flush left, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase (Level 2)
         Indented, boldface, lowercase paragraph, ending with a period. Your paragraph begins right here, in line with the heading. (Level 3)
         Indented, boldface, italicized, lowercase paragraph, ending with a period. Your paragraph begins right here, in line with the heading. (Level 4)
         Indented, italicized, lowercase paragraph, ending with a period. Your paragraph begins right here, in line with the heading. (Level 5)

Text Details

  • Indent the first line of paragraphs (0.5 inches); block quotes have a 0.5 inch margin on the left side.
  • Justification should be "off" (the right margin should be uneven).
  • If required, a Running Head can be used in the header on the left side. The page numbers are in the margin space, above the text, at the top right of the page.

Avoid Biased Language

  • In general, avoid anything that causes offense.
  • The term "gender" refers to culture and should be used when referring to men and women as social groups.
  • The term "sex" refers to biology and should be used when biological distinctions are emphasized, for example, "sex differences in hormone production."
  • Avoid gender stereotypes.

Be Sensitive to Labels

  • A person in a clinical study should be called a "patient," not a "case." Avoid equating people with their conditions, for example, do not say "schizophrenics," say "people diagnosed with schizophrenia." Use the term "sexual orientation," not "sexual preference." The phrase "gay men and lesbians" is currently preferred to the term "homosexuals."
  • In racial references, respect current usage. Currently, both the terms "Black" and "African American" are widely accepted, while "Negro" and "Afro-American" are not.
  • Capitalize Black and White when the words are used as proper nouns to refer to social groups. Do not use color words for other ethnic groups. The manual specifies that hyphens should not be used in multiword names such as Asian American or African American.
  • In general, call people what they want to be called, and do not contrast one group of people with another group called "normal" people. Write "we compared people with autism to people without autism" not "we contrasted autistics to normals." Do not use pejorative terms like "stroke victim" or "stroke sufferers." Use a more neutral terminology such as "people who have had a stroke." Avoid the terms "challenged" and "special" unless the population referred to prefers this terminology (for example, Special Olympics). As a rule, use the phrase "people with _______"
  • In referring to age, be specific about age ranges; avoid open-ended definitions like "under 16" or "over 65." Avoid the term elderly. Older person is preferred. Boy and Girl are acceptable referring to high school and younger. For persons 18 and older use men and women.

Additional resources