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Writing An Editorial Essay In Apa

APA editorial style

The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed., 2010) prescribes a specific editorial style for APA-formatted papers; some common aspects are described below. For all the specifics of how to format a document in APA style, consult the Publication Manual or this annotated sample APA paper (best used in combination with the Publication Manual). Departments sometimes have different regulations for dissertations than the APA manual; check with your department to find out its requirements. To learn more about APA documentation, consult the Center for Writing’s APA Documentation Style quicktips.

General structural guidelines

For more on these structural guidelines, consult chapter two of the Publication Manual.

Double-space the entire document, and use 1-inch margins on all sides (top, bottom, left, and right).

Begin the paper with a title page.

  • Centered on the title page are the title, the author’s name and institution, and an Author Note (see the Manual, section 2.03, for more on author notes). Some instructors also like the instructor’s name, course name, and date to be included. If you are writing for a course, check your syllabus and assignment sheet to determine specific instructor preferences.

Label the sections of the paper.

  • After the title page, the prescribed order of sections within a paper is Abstract, Introduction, Method, Results, Discussion, References, and Appendices and supplementary materials. (Most papers have some of these sections, but not all of them.)
  • The title page, Abstract, Introduction, References, and Appendix (if included in the paper) each begin on a separate page. For a description of what each of the other sections includes, consult the Publication Manual, sections 2.04–2.13.
  • Include a page header at the top of each page, with the title text on the left and a page number on the right. For the title page, include the words "Running head" before a shortened version of the title in capital letters; for all subsequent pages, remove the words "Running head," but keep the shortened version of the title in capital letters. All pages, including the title page, should be numbered on the top right.

    Paper title
    Reducing Homophobia in Public School Settings: Meta-analysis of Thirty School Districts

    Header on top left of title page

    Header on top left of all subsequent pages

Follow standard punctuation rules.

  • One exception is that the comma before the conjunction (and or or) in a series is required, whereas in other styles this comma is optional.

    inconsistent with APA style guidelines
    The subject completed a questionnaire, was interviewed and participated in two focus groups.

    consistent with APA style guidelines
    The subject completed a questionnaire, was interviewed, and participated in two focus groups.

General stylistic guidelines

APA writing style is intended to improve the clarity and conciseness of wording and maintain a standard throughout all APA-related writing. For more on APA writing style, see chapter three of the Publication Manual.

  • Present information in a logical order.
  • Avoid creative writing; aim for clear and logical communication.
  • Use the past tense (e.g., investigated) to describe other researchers’ published work and to report your results; use the present perfect tense (e.g., have investigated) “to express a past action or condition that did not occur at a specific, definite time or to describe an action beginning in the past and continuing to the present” (American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 78).
  • The APA Publication Manual (2010) recommends choosing the active voice unless “you want to focus on the object or recipient of the action rather than on the actor” (p. 77).
  • Choose words carefully: be aware of colloquial expressions, words with multiple meanings, and unclear comparisons.
  • When describing actions you took, use first person rather than the third person.

    inconsistent with APA style guidelines
    The author reviewed the literature.

    consistent with APA style guidelines
    I reviewed the literature.

Use of unbiased language

In order to maintain clarity and writing free from bias, APA requires authors to be specific, clear, and fair in their treatment of people in their writing.

  • Use gender-neutral terms unless the gender is relevant to the content. Avoid using the terms he/she and s/he or alternating between he and she.

    inconsistent with APA style guidelines
    A person with depression often has trouble sleeping; he also has a change in eating habits.

    consistent with APA style guidelines
    People with depression often have trouble sleeping; they also have a change in eating habits.

  • Use appropriate labels for racial and ethnic identities, be aware of what group members’ preferences are, and be specific when applicable. For instance, if all the subjects are either Ojibwe or Cree, stating this is more accurate than calling them all Native Americans.
  • Use person-first language.

    inconsistent with APA style guidelines
    a schizophrenic

    consistent with APA style guidelines
    a person with schizophrenia

  • Use appropriate labels when referring to sexual orientation: the terms lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals or bisexual women and men are preferred to the term homosexuals.


To help the reader, it is recommended to include headings throughout the paper. Each level has a different heading format.

  • Level 1: Centered, boldface, upper- and lowercase letters for all words

Literature Review

  • Level 2: Left justified, boldface, upper- and lowercase letters for all words

Literature Review

Proponents of Emotional Intelligence

Opponents of Emotional Intelligence

  • Level 3: Indented, boldface, first word uppercase and the rest lowercase; heading ends with a period, with the text starting on the same line immediately after the period

Literature Review

Proponents of Emotional Intelligence

Theories prior to 1950. Text text text text

Theories after 1950. Text text text text

If you need more than three levels, consult the Publication Manual, section 3.03, or see the APA Style Blog entry on this topic.

APA Stylistics: Basics


APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. This resource, revised according to the 6th edition, second printing of the APA manual, offers examples for the general format of APA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the reference page. For more information, please consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (6th ed., 2nd printing).

Contributors: Joshua M. Paiz, Elizabeth Angeli, Jodi Wagner, Elena Lawrick, Kristen Moore, Michael Anderson, Lars Soderlund, Allen Brizee, Russell Keck
Last Edited: 2015-09-10 01:04:41

Writing in APA is more than simply learning the formula for citations or following a certain page layout. APA also includes the stylistics of your writing, from point of view to word choice.

Point of View and Voice

When writing in APA Style, you can use the first person point of view when discussing your research steps ("I studied ...") and when referring to yourself and your co-authors ("We examined the literature ..."). Use first person to discuss research steps rather than anthropomorphising the work. For example, a study cannot "control" or "interpret"; you and your co-authors, however, can.

In general, you should foreground the research and not the researchers ("The results indicate ... "). Avoid using the editorial "we"; if you use "we" in your writing, be sure that "we" refers to you and your fellow researchers.

It is a common misconception that foregrounding the research requires using the passive voice ("Experiments have been conducted ..."). This is inaccurate. Rather, you would use pronouns in place of "experiments" ("We conducted experiments ...").

APA Style encourages using the active voice ("We interpreted the results ..."). The active voice is particularly important in experimental reports, where the subject performing the action should be clearly identified (e.g. "We interviewed ..." vs. "The participants responded ...").

Consult the OWL handout for more on the distinction between passive and active voice.

Clarity and Conciseness

Clarity and conciseness in writing are important when conveying research in APA Style. You don't want to misrepresent the details of a study or confuse your readers with wordiness or unnecessarily complex sentences.

For clarity, be specific rather than vague in descriptions and explanations. Unpack details accurately to provide adequate information to your readers so they can follow the development of your study.

Example: "It was predicted that marital conflict would predict behavior problems in school-aged children."

To clarify this vague hypothesis, use parallel structure to outline specific ideas:

"The first hypothesis stated that marital conflict would predict behavior problems in school-aged children. The second hypothesis stated that the effect would be stronger for girls than for boys. The third hypothesis stated that older girls would be more affected by marital conflict than younger girls."

To be more concise, particularly in introductory material or abstracts, you should pare out unnecessary words and condense information when you can (see the OWL handout on Conciseness in academic writing for suggestions).

Example: The above list of hypotheses might be rephrased concisely as: "The authors wanted to investigate whether marital conflict would predict behavior problems in children and they wanted to know if the effect was greater for girls than for boys, particularly when they examined two different age groups of girls."

Balancing the need for clarity, which can require unpacking information, and the need for conciseness, which requires condensing information, is a challenge. Study published articles and reports in your field for examples of how to achieve this balance.

Word Choice

You should even be careful in selecting certain words or terms. Within the social sciences, commonly used words take on different meanings and can have a significant effect on how your readers interpret your reported findings or claims. To increase clarity, avoid bias, and control how your readers will receive your information, you should make certain substitutions:

  • Use terms like "participants" or "respondents" (rather than "subjects") to indicate how individuals were involved in your research
  • Use terms like "children" or "community members" to provide more detail about who was participating in the study
  • Use phrases like "The evidence suggests ..." or "Our study indicates ..." rather than referring to "proof" or "proves" because no single study can prove a theory or hypothesis

As with the other stylistic suggestions here, you should study the discourse of your field to see what terminology is most often used.

Avoiding Poetic Language

Writing papers in APA Style is unlike writing in more creative or literary styles that draw on poetic expressions and figurative language. Such linguistic devices can detract from conveying your information clearly and may come across to readers as forced when it is inappropriately used to explain an issue or your findings.

Therefore, you should:

  • minimize the amount of figurative language used in an APA paper, such as metaphors and analogies unless they are helpful in conveying a complex idea
  • avoid rhyming schemes, alliteration, or other poetic devices typically found in verse
  • use simple, descriptive adjectives and plain language that does not risk confusing your meaning