APA Writing Style and APA Format for Dummies

APA Writing Style and APA Format for Dummies

What does APA stand for? How do I format my paper in APA style? If you’re looking for answers to these questions, you’ve come to the right place. This article will discuss what APA writing style is and how to use it properly when writing academic papers. We’ll also provide some helpful tips and resources to make the process a little easier for you. So let’s get started!

What Does APA Stand For?

The term APA stands for American Psychological Association. The organization prepared the standard writing style and format that is used by students, researchers, and professionals in the field of psychology.

The APA style was first developed in 1929 as a way to standardize scientific writing. The format is now used in various disciplines, including education, business, and the social sciences. It is a style that is most commonly used in the United States.

The APA writing style is governed by two main sets of rules: the APA Publication Manual and the APA Style Guide. These two resources provide guidelines for what should be included in an APA paper and how it should be formatted.

The Publication Manual is the authoritative source on APA style, and the Style Guide provides detailed instructions on how to format an APA paper.

APA Format for Dummies

There are two main parts to the APA writing style: in-text citations and reference list entries.

  • In-text citations are brief references that are placed within the text of your paper, typically within parentheses.
  • Reference list entries are total citations that are listed at the end of your paper.

Both in-text citations and reference list entries follow a specific format that includes the following elements:

  • Author(s)
  • Year of publication
  • Title of work
  • Publisher

The specifics of how these elements are formatted depend on whether you’re citing a book, article, or other sources.

Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when formatting your citations and reference list entries:

  • All text should be double-spaced, except block quotes.
  • All margins should be one inch.
  • The first line of each paragraph should be indented one-half inch from the left margin.
  • The title of your paper should be centered on the first page, and the title should be in all capital letters.
  • Subheadings should be used to organize your writing into sections.
  • They should be left-aligned and in all capital letters.

Suppose you have any questions about the APA writing style. In that case, there are some resources you can consult, including the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association and the APA Style Guide to Electronic References.

When in doubt, always consult your professor or a librarian for help.

APA Style Sections

An APA paper has four main sections: the title page, abstract, main body, and references. Those can further be segmented as follow:

1. Title Page

The title page should include the title of your paper, your name, and your institutional affiliation.

2. Abstract

The abstract is a summary of what will be discussed in your paper. It should be between 150 and 250 words and written in a single paragraph.

3. Main Body

The main body of your paper will include an introduction, method section, results section, and discussion section.

  • Introduction: The introduction will introduce your topic and provide the reader with background information.
  • Method: This section will describe the research method that you conducted for this paper.
  • Results:  This section will present the results of your research.
  • Discussion: This section will discuss the implications of your results.

4. References

The references section will include all the sources you cited throughout your paper.

The appendix is where to add supporting information, such as charts, tables, and graphs. It comes after the citations.

APA format for dummies can seem overwhelming at first. However, by understanding the sections of an APA paper and what information goes in each, you can quickly learn how to write in APA style.

Specifics of APA Style

If you are writing a paper in APA style, you will need to adhere to the guidelines set forth by the American Psychological Association. These guidelines include some specific styles.

1. Running head

Running head is a shortened version of your paper’s title, and it should appear in the header of each page. Start it from the upper left-hand corner of the page.

2. Title page

The title page of your paper should include the title of your article, your name, and the name of your institution.

3. Page numbers

You need to use page numbers starting from the title page. Display the page numbers on the upper right side of each page.

4. Abstract page

The abstract should be on its own page, and it should include a summary of your paper.

5. Headings

You should use headings throughout your paper to organize it. For example, there are five different heading levels.

6. In-text citation

When you are citing sources in the text of your paper, you will need to use a parenthetical citation. This includes the author’s last name and the year of publication.

7. References page

You will need to provide a reference list at the end of your paper. Your references page should include all of the sources that you used in your paper. The paragraph indents for the reference page are different; you need to use hanging indents.

8. Font

The font you use should be Times New Roman, and it should be 12 points.

9. Line spacing

Your paper should be double-spaced.

10. Margins

Your paper should have one-inch margins on all sides.

11. Paragraph indents

The first line of each paragraph should be indented. This is applicable throughout the paper except on the reference page.

Now that you know the basics of APA style, you can start working on your paper. Remember to follow the guidelines, and you will be able to write an excellent essay in APA style.

APA Citation Formatting Basics

APA citation style can be tricky if you don’t understand the differences between sources. Here are some basics to get you started.

You can use information from the following sources and provide citations:

  • Books
  • Magazines
  • Websites

When you are citing a source, you will want to include the following information:

  • The author’s last name
  • The date of publication
  • The title of the work
  • The page number (if you are citing a specific section)
  • The URL (if you are citing a website)

Here is an example of how to cite a book in APA format:

Last name, First initial. (Publication year). Title of book. City of publication: Publisher.

For example:

Doe, J. (2018). The title of the book. New York, NY: Publisher name.

If you cite a specific section of the book, you will want to include the page number in parentheses. Write the volume abbreviated as “Vol.” followed by the volume number and page number. Add a period after it. For example:

Doe, J. (2018). The title of the book. New York, NY: Publisher name. (Vol. 2, p. 3).

If you are citing a website, you will want to include the URL at the end of the citation. Here is an example of how to cite a webpage in APA format:

Last name, First name. (Year, Month Date Published). Article title or page title. Site Name. URL

Biswas, Kalpataru. (2022, April 17). 10 Must-have Interpersonal Communication Skills for Career Success. Positive Worklife. https://positiveworklife.com/interpersonal-communication-skills-definition-importance-elements-10-must-have-skills/

There can be many other cases and variations of the citation format. For more information, please check the APA guide.

Common Mistakes in Using the APA Style

Here are a few of the most common mistakes for writing in APA style:

1. Not using proper headings and subheadings: 

Headings and subheadings are used to organize your paper and make it easy to read. There are different levels of headings, and each group has a specific format.

2. Not citing your sources:

All sources you use in your paper must be cited, including sources you found on the internet. Include the author’s name, publication date, and page number for each source.

3. Not using the correct font and page layout: 

APA papers should be written in 12-point Times New Roman font, double spaced, with one-inch margins. The title page should include a running head (a shortened version of the paper’s title) and the page number.

4. Not proofreading: 

Always proofread your paper before you submit it. Check for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. Make sure that your writing flows well and that all of your ideas are clearly expressed.

If you follow these simple tips, you’ll be sure to write an excellent paper in APA style!


What is APA?

APA stands for the American Psychological Association, an organization that focuses on psychology. They have created a set of rules and guidelines for writing used by many colleges and universities in the United States.

How is APA style different?

There are a few key ways that the APA style differs from other writing styles.
First, APA uses a “running head” at the top of each page. This is a short version of your paper’s title that should be no more than 50 characters long.
Second, APA papers always use 12-point Times New Roman font and are double-spaced.
Finally, each page (including the title page) should have a page number in the top right corner.

Is APA style applicable for freelance writers?

APA style is often used in academic writing, but what about freelance writers? The truth is that many freelance writers will never need to use the APA style. However, there are some situations where knowing how to format your paper in APA can be helpful. If you’re writing for a publication that requires APA style, then, of course, you’ll need to use it. But even if you’re not, familiarizing yourself with the basics of APA style can help you create a more professional-looking document.

Related Articles:


Many academic institutions across the globe use the APA writing style. It’s essential to understand and follow the guidelines when writing in this style. The article describes what APA is, the basics of formatting, and some common mistakes people make when using the APA style.

2 responses to “APA Writing Style and APA Format for Dummies”