The APA format style: A comprehensive guide

APA stands for American Psychological Association. It is a citation guide that is most commonly used in essay writing, especially in the social science field.

Just like any other citation style, APA has a set of rules that a candidate may lose marks if they do not follow them. In this article, I am going to give you all the information on what you need to know while using this style.

First of all, before you begin writing anything on your Microsoft word document, you need to set all the styles that are applicable to the APA style. This way you will not have style issues when you’re done with your work.


 What is formatting? In this case, formatting is the process of making a layout in a document or a publication. It is the first step in every written work and you must ensure that your page has been set into the right format before starting your work.

It is a very crucial part of content writing that makes it outstanding and every piece of work written must be presented in a certain format.

In this article, I am going to show you how to format a page into APA style.

The margins.

Before beginning your work, you should set the margins to begin 1 inch from the left towards the right and 1 inch from the right towards the left of your Microsoft word document.

To do this:

Right-click anywhere on your computer and go to paragraphs then select indention and set it from there.

Alternatively, you can introduce a ruler by clicking view, then tick the ruler on the left, into the document and set it by dragging the arrows on it to set the margins.

Line spacing.

In this style, lines should be double-spaced.

To do this:

Right-click anywhere on your word document, go to ‘paragraphs’ then on the pop-up menu, set ‘line spacing’ as ‘double’.

This will ensure that every line in your work is double-spaced from each other.


In most documents, all texts are justified on the right side of the screen. Most computers and other writing tools such as tablets, desktops, and mobile phones have this setting as a default.

To set this:

Right-click anywhere on your screen and select ‘paragraph’. On the dashboard that will appear, just check and ensure that the ‘alignment’ section on the ‘indents and spacing’ indicate ‘justified’.

The first line in a paragraph

The first line in every paragraph should be set to 1.5 inches towards the right.

This is a very crucial part of the document because it gives a differentiation of whether the paragraph can be identified as a whole or a continuation of a paragraph.

To set this:

Right-click anywhere on your screen and select ‘paragraph’. Once at the dashboard of indents and spacing, go to ‘special’, and in the drop-down menu, select ‘first line’.

Click the ‘okay’ or ‘set as default’ option at the bottom to finish and apply the setting.

The running head.

In every document written under APA style, there should be a running head. On every page, the running head should be the same.

The running head should be a short (50 characters maximum), specific sentence that is generated from the main title of your document.

It is important to note that, the word “running head” should only appear on the first page of the document, and on the rest of the pages, the selected title should appear without the text ‘running head’.

Furthermore, the text used as the running head should be common on every page of your document. One crucial fact to note is that the running head is different from the header in terms of structure.

To set this:

Click on the ‘insert’ tab at the top of your screen and head over to ‘header’. Select the option to use and type your header. When done, double-click on your document, and your running head will appear.

Numbering your pages

In every document done with APA style, numbering is a must. You will notice that for every document that is of academic or non-academic purposes, numbering is very important as it allows the reader or the instructor to navigate through your document with ease.

To set this:

Go to ‘insert’ and select ‘page number’. Choose the option that suits your work and click to automatically insert page numbers on your document.

Headings and subheadings

 In using APA style, all the headings and subheadings that appear throughout your document should be bolded and have the first character of each word in uppercase and the other characters in lowercase.

There should not be an instance where all words are completely in either uppercase or lowercase.

To set this:

You can write the whole sentence, highlight and choose from the ‘Aa’ option that appears in the home section. Select ‘capitalize each word’.

When making it bold, in the same highlighted sentence, right-click and click on ‘B’ in the pop-up options.


To back up your ideas, facts, or any arguments in your work, you need to cite the source of information that you have included in your document. 

The in-text citation is a very important part of writing. If you do not produce a source for the information that you have provided, anyone can term your work untrue.

In-text citing requires information such as source type, author(s), and year and page numbers. The citation will vary depending on the information provided as well as the type of source that you are using to back up your information.

To set this:

Place the cursor after the information that you want to cite. Click on references at the top bar of your computer screen. Select ‘insert citation’ then ‘add new source’.

You will have a slot that has been customized for you to just add the information required. Once you are done adding information, click ‘okay’ and your citation will automatically appear in your document.

Below are important tips to note while citing your work in APA style.

The references.

The list of references always appears at the end of the document. It is the list of all the sources that you have cited in your work.

This list will give all the details of the sources in full.

How to add references:

At the end of your work, create a new page and let the cursor be on that page.

Click on ‘references at the top bar and click on ‘bibliography’. Once you are there, select ‘References’, and all your cited work will automatically be inserted at the new page you created.

Note the following while creating a reference list.

-Unlike MLA style, APA style require that the title of the reference list be indicated as ‘References’.

-Your reference list should always appear in alphabetical order, that is, in A-Z order.

-Ensure that your list is in the right order and justification. The easy way to do this is by highlighting the whole list and clicking ‘Ctrl +J’ to justify.

-Your reference list should appear on its own page at the bottom/ last part of your work.

-Ensure that the citation and referencing of your work is done under the APA style guiding principles unless otherwise stated by your supervisor.

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