APA Style provides a foundation for effective scholarly communication because it helps writers present their ideas in a clear, precise, and inclusive manner.
APA Style originated in 1929, when a group of psychologists, anthropologists, and business managers convened and sought to establish a simple set of procedures, or style guidelines, that would codify the many components of scientific writing to increase the ease of reading comprehension. They published their guidelines as a seven-page article in Psychological Bulletin describing a “standard of procedure, to which exceptions would doubtless be necessary, but to which reference might be made in cases of doubt” (Bentley et al., 1929, p. 57).
Since then, the scope and length of the Publication Manual have grown in response to the needs of researchers, students, and educators across the social and behavioral sciences, health care, natural sciences, humanities, and more; however, the spirit of the original authors’ intentions remains.
Uniformity and consistency enable readers to (a) focus on the ideas being presented rather than formatting and (b) scan works quickly for key points, findings, and sources.
Style guidelines encourage authors to fully disclose essential information and allow readers to dispense with minor distractions, such as inconsistencies or omissions in punctuation, capitalization, in-text citations, references, and presentation of statistics.
When style works best, ideas flow logically, sources are credited appropriately, and papers are organized predictably and consistently. People are described using language that affirms their worth and dignity. Authors plan for ethical compliance and report critical details of their research protocol to allow readers to evaluate findings and other researchers to potentially replicate the studies. Tables and figures present data in an engaging, consistent manner.
Whether you use APA Style for a single class or throughout your career, we encourage you to recognize the benefits of a conscientious approach to writing.
Although the guidelines span many areas and take time and practice to learn, we hope that they provide a balance of directiveness and flexibility and will eventually become second nature.
APA Style covers the aspects of scholarly writing most pertinent to writing in psychology, nursing, business, communications, engineering, and related fields. It specifically addresses the preparation of draft manuscripts being submitted for publication in a journal and the preparation of student papers being submitted for a course assignment.
The Publication Manual does not cover general rules explained in widely available style books and examples of usage with little relevance to the behavioral and social sciences. Among the most helpful general guides to editorial style are Words Into Type (Skillin & Gay, 1974) and the Chicago Manual of Style (17th ed.; University of Chicago Press, 2017).
Style manuals agree more often than they disagree. Where they disagree, the Publication Manual, because it is based on the special requirements of psychology, takes precedence for APA publications.
Bentley, M., Peerenboom, C. A., Hodge, F. W., Passano, E. B., Warren, H. C., & Washburn, M. F. (1929). Instructions in regard to preparation of manuscript. Psychological Bulletin, 26(2), 57–63. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0071487
Skillin, M. E., & Gay, R. M. (1974). Words into type (3rd ed. rev.). Prentice Hall.
University of Chicago Press. (2017). Chicago manual of style (17th ed.).
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