APA 7: A quick user’s guide to the updated manual

No one was more excited than I was when APA announced that they’d be releasing a 7th edition Fall 2019. As my students know, I love the simple beauty of a well-formatted APA manuscript (not the least of which because the dread font Calibri was forbidden—more about that later). As I read the 7th edition this holiday break, curled up by the fire, I thought it might be useful to post an overview of the changes for those who are *ahem* less inclined to read the APA manual from cover to cover with zest and zeal. However, I post this overview of 7th edition changes with a caveat—the first best source for APA formatting is always APA—not me, not the Purdue OWL, and not the 6th edition. Becoming intimately familiar with the APA 7th edition text will never steer you wrong. (Except when it does, so expect an updated 7th edition someday before the 8th edition is released.)

Now, before I get to the good stuff, I want to set a few additional disclaimers. 1. This post should not be seen as overall commentary, positive or negative, on the changes from the APA 6th edition. Indeed, I applaud some updates (e.g., guidelines for more inclusive language), while I rue others (e.g., Calibri will still not be accepted in my classroom as a part of my ongoing, one-sided battle with the proprietary Microsoft font. Other sans serif fonts as specified by the manual will be accepted). Second, a great place to start is always the sample manuscripts that can be found in the 7th edition on page 50. Finally, I am describing here those changes that I think are most relevant to me and my students, which means this list cannot be seen as an all-inclusive list of changes mandated in the 7th edition. As always, your first best source is the APA 7th manual itself. Please do not hesitate to point out any errors I make in this post (but do it constructively, mmkay?). We good? Good. Let’s get to it.

First, the 7th edition has made several changes to the organization of the manuscript itself. APA is no longer requiring that the running head on the first page is preceded by the words “Running head:”. Instead, your running head should be the same on every page of your manuscript, which will likely be the first 50 characters of the title in ALL CAPS. Next, while in the past APA required tables and figures to be in the “Tables” or “Figures” section at the end of the manuscript, now they can be embedded in the manuscript or found at the end of the manuscript (a note here for my students, except in your dissertation, which you’ll find instructions for at the graduate school website, I want figures and tables to be at the end of the manuscript, never embedded in the document itself). Further, APA has standardized the titles of tables and figures to be the same. See more about formatting tables and figures on page 195 and examples starting on page 210 (tables) and 234 (figures). Finally, APA 7 has changed the formatting of headings and subheadings. Specific instructions are on page 48 (because of WordPress formatting, I can’t provide a good example here. In sum, the order is 1) Centered, Bold, Title Case; 2) Flush, Left, Bold, Title case; 3) Flush, Left, Bold Italic, Title Case; 4) Indented, Bold, Title case, ends with a period; 5) Indented, Bold Italic, Title case, ends with a period. Hint: The changes start with 3rd level headings.

Second, APA has posted clear guidelines on inclusive language, specifically endorsing “they” instead of gendered and binary pronouns (page 120). As always, use gender when referring to gender and gendered constructs (i.e., woman not female; the “woman scientist” or “women scientists”). Next, APA provided more specific guidance on bias free language (see chapter 5, page 131). These changes mandate that descriptive language be used instead of nouns when describing groups of people and individuals (e.g., persons with disabilities instead of the disabled). Much to my relief, APA also includes clear guidance on how to use “we”—basically, do not use it unless the specificity of who “we” is referring to is clear—so instead of “we know that” say “higher education instructors know that.”

Third, APA 7 has finally stated unequivocally that there should be one space after periods. Pro-tip, if this is a hard habit to break, you can use the find and replace function in Word to replace any wayward two spaces after a period with one space. Now, much to my chagrin, APA 7 has expanded the list of acceptable fonts from Times New Roman and Arial fonts to include sans serif fonts including Calibri. As I mentioned above, my students should avoid Calibri, but y’all can let your conscience be your guide. You still cannot, however, submit a manuscript in Papyrus. Further, of particular importance to those doing linguistic analysis, like discourse analysis, linguistic examples should be indicated by quotes, not italics.

Fourth, APA 7 includes new guidance for reference formatting and in-text citations (Chapter 8, page 253). First, sources with three or more authors should be referred to in-text using the (Author 1 last name et al., date) in all cases except where it would create confusion, such as when the et al. names are different for references published the same year. Next, in your reference list, doi’s should always be included, and they should be formatted as a hyperlink: http://doi.org/(full doi number). Finally, chapter 10, starting on page 313, includes an almost complete list of reference examples. The most notable changes are the removal of the requirement for book reference entries to include the publisher location. There is also now a section on how to cite digital media sources, like Twitter, the full details of which you can read about in the manual (Pages 342 and 348). Finally, when including website addresses, “Retrieved from” is no longer required unless it is important to specify the date it was retrieved, which is important for sources that can be edited or deleted (e.g., tweets, websites).

Some things that stayed the same (included because these are the most common errors I see). Manuscripts should be double-spaced, 1-inch margins, in font size 11 or 12. The Oxford comma is still a thing. Use it. The bane of my existence is Microsoft’s default auto-formatting template, especially automatic first line indent, which makes the first sentence after block quotes always wrong. You can change your default template to default to Times New Roman, double space, no auto indent, and margins (so that you never accidentally forget and turn in a paper in Calibri).

As you can see, the changes in the 7th edition do not require excessive effort, so there should not be extraordinary angst about implementing these changes (unless, of course, if you are inexplicably wedded to using biased language, which I cannot address here). There is also some additional guidance that impact content more than formatting that I do not cover in this post. Those updates include instructions on differences in describing research methodologies (see chapter 1, starting on page 4, with fuller explanations and guidance in Chapter 3). Next, APA also includes the expected and expanded sections on replicability (mandating access to data sets, page 13) and instructions for retractions. You can find those full instructions also on page 13. Altogether, APA has suggested that we should started using the 7th edition in 2020, which I believe is upon us.

All page numbers are from the APA 7th Edition Manual published October 2019.