With thousands of rules to keep track of, it’s no wonder so many student struggle to get APA formatting correct.  But, I want to share a secret with you – many professors don’t know most of the APA rules.  It stands to reason then, that you get the most obvious elements of APA format correct, since these are what your professors are really looking for.  Read below to correct the most common APA formatting errors!

The Title Page

The title page is the first thing your professor should see when they look at your paper.  In many ways, professors view your title page as the first test of whether you’ve properly formatted your paper – for a couple of reasons:

  • Of all the APA formatting required in a typical college paper, the title page is one of the easiest things to get right.  If your paper is missing a title page, or it is not formatted correctly, it gives a bad first impression about the rest of your writing.
  • The title page has enough elements of APA formatting to make is just complicated enough for a student who is not paying attention to detail, to get wrong.
  • Students are often lured into using a title page template from their Microsoft Word or Pages program.  While these look nice and neat – they are not formatted according to APA standards.

How to Properly Format Your Title Page

In Text Citations

I have read hundreds of research papers that looked great!  Then, I get to the end and look at their references only to remember that they never actually cited anything in their papers.  Much like the title page, in text citations are pretty simple. Ninety percent of the time they look like this: (Author’s Last Name, Year of Publication).  For example, (Smith, 2009).  Pretty simple, right?  It’s the easiest elements of APA formatting that give off the best impression when used correctly, and the worst impression when used incorrectly – or not at all.

How to Use In Text Citations

Spacing and Indenting

Here’s a simple rule for spacing and indenting – Everything…that means everything in APA is double spaced.  Your title page, abstract, all of your writing, your references, and anything else you use will be double spaced.  The one exception that comes to mind are block quotes, which are quotes longer than 40 words – they are single spaced.  Everything else is double spaced.  The same rule applies for indenting.  The first line of each new paragraph is indented – every time.  The anomaly is, you guessed it, block quotes which are single spaced and every line is indents a half-inch.

More General Rules for Writing in APA Style


This will come as no surprise.  Currently, the most commonly searched for APA question on Google is how to format references in APA.  The issue is so complex, I took 5 months to write an entire book of examples about it!  There are a lot of questions about how to properly format a reference as well as the differences between a reference for a book versus a journal reference, and so forth.  If you have a question about how to best format a reference you are working with, check out the (ever-expanding) list of examples now available here.


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