Writing tip: APA Style formatting checklist

Theresa Bell

If you're reviewing your APA formatting before you submit your document for grading or publication, see below for 10 common problem areas. Please note that there may be differing expectations based on the document type and audience (e.g., course essay, dissertation, journal article); if you are unsure of what formatting is expected in your document, check with your instructor, program head, or journal editor before you submit the document.

1.       Running head

The running head should be left-justified in the header (Lee, 2010, para. 3). On the title page, the running head includes an identifier: “Running head: TITLE OF DOCUMENT IN 50 CHARACTERS” (para. 4); on subsequent pages, only the running head appears: “TITLE OF DOCUMENT IN 50 CHARACTERS” (para. 4). See What is a running head in APA style? for more information.

2.       Page numbering

Page numbers should be Arabic numerals (e.g., "1" not "page 1" or "page 1 of 8") and should continue sequentially to the last page of the document (American Psychological Association [APA], 2010, p. 229). Page numbers should be right-aligned in the header (Lee, 2010, para. 3); see the page numbers in the Sample One-Experiment Paper for an example of this formatting. Academic title pages don’t usually show a page number, though the page is included in the overall page count, which means page 2 is the first page to show a number. See What are the APA rules regarding page numbers? for more information.

3.       Title of document appears at the top of the first page of text

In addition to appearing on the title page, the document title should also appear at the top of the first full page of text and should be centred and in title case but not bolded (as shown on page 2 of the Sample One-Experiment Paper). The title of the document should not be considered a section heading (Lee, 2009, para. 2). For an example, please see page 2 of the Sample One-Experiment Paper.

4.       The introductory paragraph or section should not be labelled

Since the first paragraph or section of a document is assumed to be the introduction, the APA Style rules discourage providing an “Introduction” label (APA, 2010, p. 63). See Should I provide an "Introduction" section heading in my essay (APA Style)? for more information.

5.       Use double line-spacing throughout the text

Use double line-spacing throughout the text, including section headings, block quotations, and references (APA, 2010, p. 229). Also, check to ensure that your line-spacing is set to double-spacing without any extra spaces before or after each line:


See Can I use single line-spacing in my paper if I'm following the APA style rules? for more information.

6.       Margins

Unless directed otherwise, set all margins to one inch or 2.54 centimetres (APA, 2010, p. 229). See How wide should the margins of my paper be as per the APA style rules?.

7.       Paragraph formatting

Paragraphs should be left-aligned, and the first line of every paragraph should be indented 0.5 inches or 1.27 centimetres (APA, 2010, p. 229):

See How should I format my paragraphs if I'm using the APA Style rules? for more information.

8.       Punctuation after quotations

When a quotation ends a sentence, the period after an in-line quotation (i.e., 39 words or fewer) appears after the citation (APA, 2010, p. 171). The period after a block quotation (i.e., 40 words or more) appears before the citation (p. 171). See Where does the period go after a quotation in APA style? for more information.

9.       Section headings

Section headings should not be labelled with letters or numbers (APA, 2010, p. 63). Level 1 headings should be centred, bolded, and in title case (p. 62). Level 2 headings should be left-aligned, bolded, and in title case (p. 62). Level 3 headings should be indented 0.5 inches or 1.27 centimetres, bolded, in sentence case, and finish with a period (p. 62). See What are the APA rules for section headings? for more information.

10.   References page

The references should begin on a new page (APA, 2010, p. 230). The page should be titled “References” (p. 230), and the title should be centred but not bolded (as shown on page 9 in the Sample One-Experiment Paper). All references should be double-spaced with a 0.5 inch or 1.27 centimetres hanging indent (p. 180):

See How should I format my references in APA style? for more information.

Other resources:

If you have any questions about this writing tip, please contact the Writing Centre.


American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author. 

Lee, C. (2009, July 12). Five essential tips for APA Style headings [Blog post comment]. Retrieved from http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2009/07/five-essential-tips-for-apa-style-headings.html#comment-6a01157041f4e3970b0115710841eb970c

Lee, C. (2010, November 11). Running head format for APA Style papers [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2010/11/running-head-format-for-apa-style-papers-.html