Tips on how to write in APA format for dummies

Tips on how to write in APA format for dummies

You have just started your school year, and you are expected to hand in a majority of your assignments in the APA format. You are, however, having difficulty in meeting these requirements since you have no idea how to cite inside the text or to format the reference page. You may also require help to confirm whether the format you have used is indeed the APA format. Luckily, I am going to give you easy tips on how to write in APA format for dummies.

Learning to use the APA format in your writing is very simple. Always remember:

  • The title page must have a running head.
  • In-text citations must include the surname and publication year.
  • The font should be Times New Romans, font size 12 unless instructed otherwise

How to format the title page

The title page of the APA format stands out because it has a running head.

  • You should write the words ‘Running head’ followed by a colon ‘:’ on the left-hand side of the header.
  • You should then write the topic of your assignment in capital letters for instance ‘THE CONSEQUENCES OF VIOLENT FILMS ON TEENAGERS.’ The header is a shortened version of the topic. It should have a maximum of 50 characters including punctuation and spacing.
  • Insert the page number at the right-hand side of the header.
  • The page should contain:

The above should be centered in the upper half of the title page.

  • The title should not exceed 12 words and you should avoid using abbreviations or unnecessary words. The title can also cover one or two lines depending on the topic.
  • The text for the entire paper should be double-spaced unless instructed otherwise.

Formatting the content

The subsequent pages following the title page should be formatted in the following ways:

  • Include the running head on the left side of the header. However, do not use the word ‘running head’ as you did on the title page. Use the header in the rest of the pages including the reference page.
  • The page number should also be on the right side of the header.
  • The content should have an ‘introduction’ ‘body’ and ‘conclusion.’ You do not need to write the words ‘introduction’ and ‘body.’ You should, however, include the topics and subtopics in the body (if any) to help guide the reader.

Use the following instructions when citing in the text:

  • Capitalize all proper nouns including initials: P. Humpster.
  • In text citations must include the surname and publication year:

(Humpster, 2016)

Humpster (2016)

  • Include the page number if available or if instructed by your teacher:

(Humpster, 2016, p. 77)

According to Humpster (2016), explain what the author states (p.77).

  • You should use ‘&’ when citing two to five authors:

(Humpster & Smith, 2016) or

Humpster and Smith (2016) argue that….

(Hofstader, Cooper, Dawson, & Wolowitz, 2016)

Hoftstader, Cooper, Dawson, and Wolowitz (2016) assert that…

  • Use the word ‘et al.’ when citing more than five authors

(Wolowitz et al., 2017) or

Wolowitz et al. (2017) support…

Formatting the reference page

  • Arrange the references in the reference page in alphabetical order by the last name of the first author for each entry.
  • Use hanging indentation in all the lines after the first line of each entry. The indent should be 0.5 inches from the left margin.
  • The author names are inverted i.e. provide the last name first
  • Maintain capitalization and punctuation used by journals in the title.

The basic format for APA references includes:


Author, A. (Publication year). Title: Capital letter for the subtitle. Location: Publisher

Humpster, D., & Cooper, S. (2016). Capitalism: Its effect on society. New Hampshire: Dragon Publishers.


Author, A (Publication year). Title. Journal Title, Volume (Issue – if any), page numbers.

Wolowitz, H. (2017). The consequences of violent movies on teenagers. Journal of Social Behavior, 2 (20), 6-30.

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