Top Seven Common User Errors in APA Style 7th Edition

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Everyone likes lists. The 100 greatest movies of all time. The top ten gourmet meals in under twenty minutes as selected by gourmet chefs. And now that the 7th edition of APA Style’s Publication Manual has been out for over a year, the recurring errors people are making transitioning to the 7th edition have surfaced and seem ready-made for their own list. And now for drama: The top seven APA Style 7th edition user errors . . . 

Number 7: The word “References” is not bolded on the list of references. Prior to the 7th edition, bolding was not required, though many did so anyway. Now that APA Style requires the word “References” to be bolded, many are forgetting. It seems that just as soon as folks learned not to bold the word “References,” APA Style changed the requirement. In any case, in the 7th edition, the word “References” is now bolded at the top of the references list. 

Number 6: Including the running head with the title in ALL CAPS. Old habits die hard as the saying goes, and as much as the running head caused frustration and headaches in the 6th edition, it is still finding its way on student papers in the 7th edition (and still with the errors found in the 6th edition to boot!). In the 7th edition, APA Style makes a distinction between student papers and professional papers. A student paper only needs to have the page number in the upper right-hand corner of every page–and that’s it! Nothing else. No TITLE IN ALL CAPS. Just the page number in the upper right-hand corner. 

Number 5: The inclusion of “Retrieved from” prior to a URL on the list of references. In the 6th edition of APA Style, the words “Retrieved from” preceded a URL for a source listed on the references. Now the words “Retrieved from” are not needed  because APA Style says it’s understood that if a URL is included, content would be retrieved from it. So in the 7th edition, all that is needed is the URL (or the DOI for that matter).

Number 4: Two spaces after a period rather than one. If you are confused about this new APA Style recommendation, you’re not alone. A little history about this change might put it in the context it deserves: The 5th edition of APA Style specified that one space be used after a period, but when the 6th edition came out in 2009, APA changed the requirement to two spaces. And now the 7th edition has returned back to the one-space-after-a-period recommendation. I say “recommendation” because in the new publication manual, APA writes that it recommends (emphasis on recommends) the use of one space after periods, but if an instructor or publisher has other requirements such as using two spaces after a period, to follow those guidelines. So is putting two spaces instead of one space after a period even an error? I guess it just depends. 

Number 3: Title pages that are a combination of the 6th and 7th editions. These hybrid title pages take different forms–some may have all the new information required on the title page in the 7th edition–title, author, affiliation, number and name of course, professor’s name, and due date–but then have the running head with the TITLE IN ALL CAPS as required in the 6th edition. Other times the header is correct for the 7th edition with only the page number in the upper right-hand corner, but then the information included on the title page follows the 6th edition, not the 7th edition. In the 7th edition, the title page of a student paper needs the page number in the upper right-hand corner of every page and then about one third of the way down from the top of the page, the title of the paper should appear in title case, centered, and bolded. Two double spaces after the title or four single spaces–that’s right, two doubles spaces or four single spaces–place the byline (if you’re counting lines, the byline would go on the fourth line). After the byline (the author’s name), include the school, course, instructor, and due date. 

Number 2: Title on the title page is not bolded. In the 7th edition of APA Style, the title of the paper should appear one third down from the top of the page, in title case, centered, and bolded. It’s the bolded part that many are forgetting as the title was not bolded in the 6th edition. But in the 7th edition, the title is indeed bolded. My theory is that so many people for whatever reason bolded the title under the 6th edition that the folks at APA thew up their collective hands and said, ok, you want to bold the title, in the 7th edition we’ll require the title to be bolded. Yet now that the requirement is to bold the title, many titles are not.  

And the number 1 APA Style 7th edition user error is not including two double spaces after the title on the title page. Yes, indeed, the extra double spacing after the title is causing a lot of problems. All APA Style wants is a little extra spacing so the title stands out more, so all one needs to do is type the title and then insert two double spaces, placing the byline on the fourth line under the title. I suppose this user error holds the number one spot because writers are just so accustomed to grouping all the information on the title page together that they neglect to give the title the extra spacing that APA Style wants in the 7th edition. 

But worry not, for the Writing Center has a video that demonstrates exactly how to format a student title page. You can find that video and lots of other resources to help you address all matters that pertain to APA Style and writing in general on our Academic Success & Writing Resource Center & Blog which you can access and subscribe to at 

Until next week–

Kurtis Clements

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