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APA Style (7th ed.) Formatting Checklist

If you're reviewing your APA Style 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. To see examples of the 10 items listed in this checklist, please refer to the Annotated Student Sample Paper by the American Psychological Association.

1.  Running head

In previous editions of the APA Style manual, the running head was a required piece of formatting in the page header. In the 7th edition of the manual, the running head is "required only for manuscripts being submitted for publication. Running heads are not required for student papers unless the instructor or institution requests them [emphasis added]" (American Psychological Association [APA], 2020, p. 37). If you are submitting a manuscript for publication, please refer to the "Running Head" section in Page Header for more information.

2.  Page numbering

The APA Style rules direct authors to start page numbering at "1" on the title page in the top right corner of the page, flush right (APA, 2020, p. 44). The page numbers should continue in that position to the last page of the document. As a student author, you may encounter instructors who prefer that page numbering starts at "2" on the second page of text, which is an academic convention. This convention for starting page numbers is particularly common in major research project, theses, and dissertations that have a set title page with required formatting. If you're unsure of what approach to take in your document, please check with your instructor for their preference. 

3.  Essay title appears at the top of the first page of text

In addition to appearing on the title page, the title of the essay should also appear at the top of the first full page of text and should be centred, in title case, and bolded (APA, 2020, p. 39). See page two in the Annotated Student Sample Paper for an example of this formatting. The title of the document should be considered a section label, not a section heading (APA, 2020, p. 49). 

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 heading 'Introduction' is not needed. Do not begin a paper with an 'Introduction' heading" (APA, 2020, p. 47). The first section heading after the introductory paragraph or section should be a Level 1 heading (APA, 2020, p. 47).

5.  Use double line spacing throughout the text

Use double line spacing throughout the text, including "the title page, abstract, text, headings, block quotations, reference list, table and figure notes, and appendices" (APA, 2020, p. 45); extra lines should not be inserted before or after section headings or between paragraphs (APA, 2020, p. 45). For exceptions to double line spacing, please see Line Spacing.

Check the spacing settings in your word processing program to set line spacing to double spacing without any extra spaces before or after each line:


6.  Margins

Set all margins to 1 in. or 2.54 cm (APA, 2020, p. 45). If different margins are required due to publication requirements (e.g., a thesis or dissertation that will be published in print), please follow the publisher's requirements. 

7.  Paragraph formatting

Paragraphs should be left aligned with a ragged right edge, and the first line of every paragraph should be indented 0.5 in.or 1.27 cm (APA, 2020, p. 45). If you're working in Microsoft Word, use the Paragraph settings to set up the left alignment and an automatic indent of the first line:


8.  Punctuation after quotations

When a quotation ends a sentence, the period after a short quotation of 39 words or fewer appears after the citation (APA, 2020, p. 271). The period after a block quotation of 40 words or more appears before the citation (APA, 2020, p. 172). 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, n.d., Levels of Heading section). Level 1 headings should be centred, bolded, and in title case (APA, 2020, p. 48). Level 2 headings should be flush left, bolded, and in title case (APA, 2020, p. 48). Level 3 headings should be flush left, bolded, in title case, and italicized (APA, 2020, p. 48). See below for examples:

Level 1 Heading

Level 2 Heading

Level 3 Heading

See What Are the APA Rules for Section Headings? for more information. If you're using Microsoft Word's automatic table of contents function, use Styles to format section headings so the headings will appear in the table of contents. See Customize or Create New Styles and Insert a Table of Contents.

10.  References page

The references should begin on a new page (APA, 2020, p. 303). The page should be titled “References”, and the title, which is a section label, not a section heading, should be centred and bolded (APA, 2020, p. 303). All references should be double spaced with a 0.5 in or 1.27 cm hanging indent (APA, 2020, p. 303):


To see sample references with this formatting, please see the references in the Annotated Student Sample Paper by the American Psychological Association. See How Should I Format my References in APA Style? for more information.

For much more information on the APA Style rules, please visit APA Style on the Writing Centre website. To search for answers to specific questions, please try searching WriteAnswers by keyword(s). You can access WriteAnswers by visiting or by looking for the blue “Ask us” button on most of the Writing Centre’s web pages. WriteAnswers will automatically provide suggested questions and answers, and if you’re asking an APA Style question, it’s likely that you’ll find the answer you need, including examples to follow, as the knowledge base has extensive APA-related answers. You can also see the most recent or popular answers, as well as look up topics to see what information is already available.

Other resources:

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

Theresa Bell
Manager, Blended Learning Success

(Originally published December 19, 2019; updated March 3, 2021)


American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Headings. 

American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.).