What Is The Apa Writing Style?

Learn how the APA writing style got established, what it is and how you can incorporate this editorial style into your writings.

If you majored in English or Journalism in college or ever had to edit a manuscript, chances are you are intimately familiar with the American Psychological Association or APA Style. Many people are confused about the APA style and automatically think it is a writing style, when, in fact, it is an editorial style. This style consists of guidelines that a publisher or writer follows to accurately and clearly present the written material. This style was established by the APA and used in all of its publications. Many other publishers working in behavioral and social science quickly followed suit and adapted this APA style. At a basic level, APA style covers correct use of punctuation, but it also covers the proper use of section headings and the presentation of statistical data, as well. Here are a few examples of how the APA style is used in publications, specifically references.


If you have written an article and have a list of references, one of the most difficult things to do is figure out the format of those references. Does the author's name get listed first or the name of the book? If you use only one chapter of a book, do you simply reference the entire book or that specific chapter? What if there are multiple authors?

If you have used only one chapter of a book as a reference, use the following format.

Higgens, F., & Wiggens, J. (1945). The anatomy of the human brain: Functions and

abnormalities. In J.R. Molly (Ed.), (this next part should be in italics) Alzheimer's disease in the younger generations (end italics here) (pp. 245-287). Atlanta: Dalton.

The author gets listed with his/her last name first, and if there are multiple authors, they get listed in alphabetical order. The initial of the first name is all that is necessary. Each section of the reference is ended with a period. The date of the book's publication comes next, followed by the name of the book itself. The "Ed" in the parenthesis simply means that the person listed is the editor. This is followed by the name of the chapter in italics, the pages the chapter is contained on, the city of publication and the publisher. Also, any of the lines that follow the first line are usually indented. Within your own written article, you would reference this book chapter with the following: (Higgens & Wiggens, 1945).

If you cite a magazine article, you would use the following format.

World, W.L.(2004, January 14). Saving for education: Is the 529 Plan right for me? (the following is in italics) Forbes, 214, (end the italics) 118-124.

In this case, the author is listed first, followed by the year and date of that specific magazine's publication. Follow this up with the name of the article. In italics, list the name of the magazine and the volume number. Finally, put the page number/s of the referenced article. Within the text of your article, you would reference this magazine article with the following: (World, 2004).

These are just a few examples of how to incorporate APA style into your own article. For a complete listing of how to accurately use the APA style, pick up a copy of The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. This is the official reference book for APA style that can be purchased at major bookstores or borrowed from your local public or college library.

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