How to format APA headings in Word

APA headings can be formatted in Word three ways.

They are:

  • the really long way (use the Font and Paragraph tools from the Home tab to format each heading as you write )
  • the long way (use Format Painter in the Home tab to copy the format to each heading as you write)
  • the really smart way using Styles

Set up your APA headings styles in Word once and then:

  • format all your headings APA style with one click.
  • format all the headings in your future APA style academic papers with one click.

All your headings in APA style will always be available for your academic writing.

The benefits are immense!

They are:

  • save a lot of time because you do not have to format each heading every time
  • make the format the same everywhere in the document (e.g. each heading is Times New Roman 12)
  • get the format correct the first time and it will be correct forever
  • make changes to the heading style once (e.g. change font size from 12 to 11) and all headings with that style will change automatically.

You will be more efficient, consistent, and accurate with your academic writing!

APA Headings

To use styles for your APA headings, you:

  • create the style. You do this once only.
  • apply the style every time you write a heading.

See styles in word if you are unsure on how to create styles.

APA Level 1 Heading Format

The APA format for the Level 1 Heading is:

  • Centered
  • Bold
  • Double spaced
  • Font type and size
    APA style seventh edition has a choice of font types and sizes - see font types (opens in new window)
    APA style sixth edition prefers Times New Roman font size 12
  • No automatic hyphenation.

To format the APA Level 1 heading:

  1. Open the Create New Style Formatting dialogue box.
  2. Complete the Properties section as follows (see Figure 1):
    • Name - enter the name for the style, for example, APA Level 1 Heading
    • Style type - select Paragraph from the drop down list
    • Style based on - select (no style)
    • Style for following paragraph - select Normal.
  3. Complete the Formatting section as follows (see Figure 1):
    • Select the font type, for example, Times New Roman
    • Select the font size, for example, 12
    • Select Bold (B button)
    • Select Center (i.e. the Center icon).
  4. Complete the following at the bottom (see Figure 1):
    • Add to the Styles Gallery (if not already checked)
    • Select "New document based on this template" so that this style is available for future APA style documents
      OR

      Select "Only in this document" if this style is only for this document.
  5. Click on the Format button.
Create New Style by entering the APA format requiredFigure 1: Create a new APA formatted style
  1. Click on Paragraph.
  2. Complete the following in Indents and Spacing (see Figure 2):
    • Alignment - Select Centered if not already selected.
    • Outline level - Select Level 1 from the drop-down menu.
      The level is used in the Outline View.
      The level is used in creating a Table of Contents. APA style does not require a Table of Contents, but your instructor may ask for one.
    • Select Double Line spacing.
Format text properties in the APA styleFigure 2: Adding APA formatting to the style
  1. Complete the following in Line and Page Breaks (see Figure 3):
    • Select Widow/Orphan control if not already selected.
    • Select Page break before if you want Level 1 Headings to start on a new page.
      APA style does not require this. However, it is common practice.
    • Select Don't hyphenate.
    • Click OK.
Insert page break before the Level 1 APA headingFigure 3: Adding page break before the APA Level 1 Heading style.
  1. Click on OK to close the open windows.

APA Level 2 Heading Format

The APA  Level 2 Heading  format is:

  • Left aligned
  • Bold
  • Double spaced
  • Font type and size
    APA style seventh edition has a choice of font types and sizes - see font types (opens in new window)
    APA style sixth edition prefers Times New Roman font size 12
  • Do not automatically hyphenate words

The process is nearly the same as for creating the Level 1 heading style above.

The differences are:

  1. Give the new style a name, for example, Level 2 Heading (see Figure 1).
  2. Select Left in the Alignment Box.
  3. Select Level 2 for the Outline Level (see Figure 2).
  4. DO NOT select Page break before (see Figure 3).

APA Level 3 Heading Format

The APA Level 3 Heading is different in the sixth and seventh editions.

APA seventh edition:

The format is:

  • Left aligned
  • Bold italic
  • Double spaced
  • Font type and size
    APA style seventh edition has a choice of font types and sizes - see font types (opens in new window)
  • Do not automatically hyphenate

The process is nearly the same as for creating the Level 1 Heading style above.

The differences are:

  1. Give the new style a name, for example, Level 3 Heading (see Figure 1).
  2. Select Bold and Italic.
  3. Select Left in the Alignment Box.
  4. Select Level 3 for the Outline Level (see Figure 2).
  5. DO NOT select Page break before (see Figure 3).

APA sixth edition

The format is:

  • Indented by 1/2 in (1.27 cm) and is in the first line of the paragraph
  • Bold 
  • Double spaced
  • Font type and size
    APA style sixth edition prefers Times New Roman font size 12
  • Do not automatically hyphenate

Create the Level 3 Heading style:

  1. Enter the text (including the text that will become the heading) in the paragraph with the first line indented.
  2. Select the Level 3 heading text.
  3. Open the Create New Style window (see Figure 1).
  1. Fill in the following in the Properties area (see Figure 1):
    • the name you want for the style, for example, APA Level 3 Heading
    • Linked (Paragraph and Characters) for the style type
      Note This is very important and different to Heading 1 and 2 setup.
    • no style for the based style
    • Normal for the following style
  2. Fill in the following in the Formatting area:
    • Times New Roman for the font type
    • 12 for the font size
    • Bold (select the Bold button)
    • Left (select the Left icon)
  3. Check the following at the bottom:
    • Add to the Styles Gallery (if not already checked)
    • Only in this document OR New document based on this template
  4. Click on the Format button.
  5. Click on paragraph
  6. From Indents and Spacing (see Figure 2):
    • Select Left for the alignment if not already there.
    • Select Level 3 for the Outline level.
      The level is used in the Outline View.
      The level is used in creating a Table of Contents. APA style does not require a Table of Contents, but your instructor may ask for one.
    • Select Double Line spacing

How to use styles to format APA headings

To type a heading in the APA heading style:

  1. Click on the new style you created in the gallery (see Figure 4).
  2. Enter your heading.

If you have already typed the heading but not in the APA heading style:

  1.  Place the cursor inside the heading.
  2. Click on the style in the gallery.

If the style you created is not in the gallery:

  1. Click on the arrow in the bottom right hand corner of the Styles group.
  2. Click on the APA heading style that you created previously.
Apply the APA Level 1 Heading style that has been createdFigure 4: Select the created APA Heading style

Summary

Now, you have successfully created styles for APA headings.

The advantages are:

  • You can format the headings APA style in your current and future academic writing very quickly, accurately and consistently.
  • You have learnt a Word skill that will be very useful for future writing, in both academia and business.

There are other ways of creating APA  heading styles in Word, for example, you could modify an existing style.

References - APA headings

American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association

American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1037/0000165-000

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