A Quick Guide To APA Writing Style

A quick reference guide for students who wish to write a paper in the APA format. It is geared toward those with a word processing program.


APA is an abbreviation for the American Psychological Association and is a standardized coding practice for referencing quoted material and statistics that have previously appeared in published books, newspaper articles, magazines or even on the Internet. If you're writing a term paper for high school or college, penning a non-fiction book or writing an article for publication in a trade magazine, APA is probably one of the tools you will use to properly acknowledge author and publisher credits. Here's a brief overview of how it works.

The names of authors, titles and publishing houses used for your research are always single spaced and written in initial caps as well as in the same font and size as the rest of the material. The only exception to this rule are references to Internet websites; these are all typed in lower case letters per the following example: hollywoodlitsales.com. A line space is used to separate each of the entries.

The listings of cited references are always alphabetical and start with the author's last name followed by a comma and first name initial. If there are two or more authors in a given work, the last name which first appears in the alphabet will be listed first. Example: Barnstaple, M. and Parsnip, W. In the absence of an author name or in the case of an anthology where there are too many names to list, the title of the publication is used instead.

The first line of a bibliography entry is at the left margin. Subsequent lines of the same entry are indented five spaces. To make this easy, all you have to do is go to the ruler toolbar at the top of your computer screen and set a hanging indent. This is accomplished by leaving the top margin arrow where it is and moving the bottom margin arrow in five spaces.

Following the author's name, place a period. The next thing you will type is the publication date in parentheses followed by a period. For a book, this will be the year. Example: (1942). If the source is a magazine or periodical, you will use the month and year or the month, date and year. May, June and July should be spelled out; the other nine months are abbreviated.

The next thing you will list is the title of your source material. If it's a book, the title should be written in italics or underlined, followed by a period. If it's an item in a magazine, the title of the article itself should be in quotation marks and followed by the name of the magazine in italics and followed by a period.

The last thing you need to list in your entry is the volume number and page numbers if you are citing material from a magazine or newspaper. The volume number is abbreviated as Vol. Page numbers are abbreviated as p. If you're citing a book, page numbers are not listed at all.

Many people, of course, are now using the Internet as a reference site. Just because it's not in print, however, doesn't mean that you can use the material without giving credit. To properly cite an electronic publication, you will follow the same style that you would for a traditional magazine with the exception of including the retrieval date and the website link. For example:

Beeswax, F. (2005). How to Make Your Own Candles. American Pioneer News. Retrieved May 3, 2005 from The Homespun Helper. Website: homespunhelper.com.

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