Asked • 09/15/19

What are the keys to formatting in APA correctly every time?

I am looking for an easier way to understand APA formatting of citations. Are there any secrets to it? Can you help me make sense of these rules, which seem to be arbitrary?

Kevin K.

I agree with Monica's comments and I add a few ideas. American Psychological Association (APA) style is one of many including Modern Language Association (MLA), Chicago Manual of Style, and Turabian. All styles may be found in various journals and publications. The styles establish publication standards for academic journals, books, and other publications based upon the discipline and audience. Many students are confused by the difference between MLA and APA. MLA is used primarily in the arts where creative and expansive writing are encouraged as opposed to APA used in the social sciences that encourage concise and precise writing. Consequently, APA style emphasizes "economy of expression." You mentioned the APA rules seem arbitrary and I feel your pain, but the rules actually serve many purposes. As Monica emphasized, source attribution is critical to avoid plagiarism and all publication styles emphasize methods of attribution. The APA style requires sources be identified with in-text citations that are accompanied by detailed references for each citation at the end of the manuscript. If you will use APA style as you continue your education, I suggest you purchase the APA Publication Manual (6th ed.) and use it (most academic writers have dog eared copies with many tabs and post-it notes). Another helpful tool is the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Check out the following YouTube video for information on Word settings for APA formatting: Your school or instructor may have an APA template for you to use so make sure you utilize available resources. There are some reference managers (Zotero, Mendeley) that help manage and format citations and references as well. Although these resources are helpful THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS. Style elements are not limited to formatting and proper references. Proper grammar, punctuation, and issues such as anthropomorphism are important to ensure quality writing as well. Cut-and-paste references only get you so far - especially since many that are supposed to be in APA style are close, but not 100% correct! You may need a knowledgeable tutor to help you learn the style and proofread papers as Monica suggested. Like anything else, it is a skill you must practice. Good luck! Dr. K


1 Expert Answer


Monica D. answered • 09/15/19

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