Make APA formatting easy with Word

Are you using  APA formatting for your academic writing?

Are you using Microsoft Word for your academic writing?

You will save time (and reduce frustration) if you use Word in the best way for your academic writing in the APA format.

The purpose of this website is to show you how to use Word to format your academic writing in the APA style.

A (very) brief description of APA

APA is an academic writing style developed and maintained by the American Psychological Association.

APA sixth edition was released in 2009.

APA seventh edition was released in 2019.

Currently (2020) both editions are widely used in universities, colleges and schools. The seventh edition will eventually replace the sixth edition.

APA style will tell you how to format the:

  • header
  • page numbers
  • headings and subheadings
  • in-text citations
  • reference list

and many other aspects of academic writing.

 APA formatting of your work will:

  • increase your chances of success  because your academic writing will be better. It will be clearer, more concise and presented more logically.
  • make you more productive. Once you have learnt the style, you will know how to format a heading, where to put the page number and so on.

Your instructor and/or institution can vary the APA guidelines. For example, they may require a Table of Contents which is not part of the APA guidelines.

Using Word for APA formatting

APA paper format

The  margins (left, right, top, bottom) should be 1 inch (2.54 centimetres) according to the APA style. 

Word will have these as the default (to check, click on the Insert tab, Margins in the Page Setup group - the Normal setting should be selected). This will be suitable for most academic papers and you will not have to make any changes.

You may have to make changes if your paper (usually a thesis or dissertation) is to be  printed and bound. See how to set up APA margins for bound documents.

APA paper elements

  • title (or cover page)
    This is the first page of your academic paper.
    The contents of the title page differ between student and professional papers in the APA seventh edition.
    See how to format the APA title page in Word.

  • running head
    The running head is a shortened title that appears in the header of each page.
    The requirements differ between the APA sixth and seventh editions, and between student and professional papers in the seventh edition.
    See how to format the APA running head in Word.
  • page numbers
    Page numbers are required on every page with the Title page being number 1.
    Page numbers are right aligned in the header.
    Page numbers also need to be formatted correctly in citations and references.
    See how to format APA page numbers in Word.

  • abstract
    The abstract is a short concise (250 words or less) summary of your academic paper.
    An abstract is required in the APA sixth edition and the professional paper in the APA seventh edition.
    The format of the abstract is slightly different to the paragraph format used in the main text of the paper.
  • See how to format the APA abstract in Word.

  • headings
    Headings (and subheadings) define the structure of your academic paper.
    A reader can look at the headings and subheadings to understand the topics and logical flow of the paper.
    See how to format APA headings in Word.

  • paragraphs
    Paragraphs are the bulk of your academic paper.
    There could be many paragraphs, all of which need to be formatted APA style.
    See how to format each APA paragraph quickly, efficiently, accurately and consistently.

  • citations - acknowledges sources of information

  • footnotes - in the footer section of each page

  • reference list - details of sources of information

  • bibliography - reference list entries plus a short description

  • tables - presentation of data

  • figures - information presented as images

  • quotations - direct copy of text, figures, tables from other sources

Extra (non-APA requirements)

The following are not mentioned in the APA style guide but are often included:

  • table of contents - not part of APA style but often included
  • list of figures - not part of APA style but often included
  • list of tables - not part of APA style but often included

Special characters

You may need to use special characters in your academic writing.

A few special characters (e.g. @, #, $, %, &, +, -, *, /) are found on your keyboard.

Other special characters can be found within Word. The "em () dash" and "en () dash" are common special characters used.

Word provides many other special characters (e.g. Σ, Ω, β, π, Ù, €) that can be used.

Word also provides a lot of mathematical symbols, standard equations and lets you build your own equations.

You can even number your equations so they appear automatically in a list of equations - much the same as a List of Tables or Figures.

Word has a lot of features to help you with special characters and mathematical and scientific characters. You will save a lot of time if you know how to use these features.

Summary - APA formatting

You can use Word in one of two ways to write your academic text:

  • inefficiently or
  • efficiently.

Using the Word functions described above will:

  • save you time (the longer your academic writing, the more time you will save) and
  • help you conform to APA formatting standards.

Your reputation will be enhanced because:

  • the quality of your work should be greater (less time spent of formatting and more time spent on content)
  • your writing will look "academic".

Take some time to learn and use these Word features. You will be repaid many times in your professional career.

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