The Essay Format (APA)

  • APA Essay Format (7th ed.) | Essay Writing | The Nature of Writing

Introduction

Formatting your essay has gotten a lot easier with the 7th edition of the APA style guide. No longer do students have to provide a running head or an abstract (unless your instructor asks for it). The result is a more streamlined essay format, so that with just a little bit of attention to the details you can be off to the races!

Note: All detailed instructions refer to Microsoft Word. If you’re using a different word processor, you may have to look for an equivalent setting.

The Basics

Essay Components

An APA paper has three parts:

  1. The Title Page
  2. The Essay
  3. The Reference List

If your instructor would like an abstract, you can insert it after the title page. It’s best to separate each section with a page break (Insert > Page Break).

Font

You have some options when it comes to choosing a font. Here are some acceptable choices:

  • Sans-Serif font: Calibri (size 11), Arial (size 11)
  • Serif font: Times New Roman (size 12), Georgia (size 11)

Whichever one you choose, make sure you use it throughout your entire essay. Footnotes are typically in size 10 font, and for captions to tables and figures please use a font size between 8 and 14.

Margins

Since 2007, the default margin for any Word document has been 1 inch all around. Fortunately, APA format has the same requirement. If for some reason you need to fix the margins, go to Page Layout > Margins > Normal.

Spacing

All the text in your essay should be double-spaced. To make this change quickly, first press Ctrl + A to highlight all text and then press Home > Line and Paragraph Spacing (symbol) > 2.0. Make sure you also click on “Remove Space After Paragraph.” There’s no need to provide extra spaces between paragraphs or around headings.

Title Page

Let’s look at the basic layout of an APA title page:

An image showing a sample APA title page

Let’s break down what goes into making a great title page. The first thing you’ll want to do is add a page number in the top right hand corner (Insert > Page Number > Plain #3).

The title of your essay should be about 3-4 double-spaced lines from the top of the page. The text should be centered and in bold font. If your title is quite long, you can split it across two lines (in such cases press Enter after the colon if you’re using a subtitle). Make sure that you capitalize important words, but not prepositions and articles.

Double space all the text on your title page and add an extra space after the title. Then provide your name, the department, course, instructor, and date. Centre all this information and don’t use bold font. The date can be formatted in different ways, but the preference is to spell out the month in full.

If you have co-written an essay, list both authors on the same line, separated by “and.” For 3+ authors, separate the names with a comma and add “and” before the final name.

Abstract

For student papers, the abstract (max: 250 words) is entirely optional. However, if your instructor does require a summary of your paper, then place the abstract on its own page, right after the title page. Centre the word “Abstract” in bold font and left-align the actual summary. Use a single paragraph and don’t indent the first line.

Essay Start Page

Your essay really begins on the third page. Your title should be in bold font, centered, with key words capitalized:

Note too that (unlike in the abstract) the first line of each paragraph is indented one tab space.

References List

Finally, don’t forget to cite your sources:

For more details, please visit our page on formatting the reference list.

Section Headings

APA papers are often divided into sections. If you’d like to organize your material with headings, you can choose from a number of different headings. Start by using first level headings and use the others for sub-headings:

First Level Heading (Bold, Centered)

Second Level Heading (Bold, Left Aligned)

Third Level Heading (Bold Italic, Left Aligned)

Fourth Level Heading (Bold, Indented, Ending with a Period).

Fifth Level Heading (Bold Italic, Indented, Ending with a Period).

As you can see, you don’t have to use some complex numbering system (e.g., 3.2.1b) to organize your ideas. The formatting of the heading does the trick.

Finally, don’t add a sub-heading (e.g., Introduction) between the essay title and the first paragraph. Also, don’t forget to capitalize important words in each heading (what’s called title case).

APA Essay Template

Make your life a little easier by downloading one of our APA templates. Enjoy!

APA Essay Template (Without Abstract or Running Head)

APA Essay Template (With Optional Running Head and Abstract)