Tips for Writing in APA Style

APA guidelines regulate the formatting for a piece of writing, but also determine the style of writing. Style deals with choices about language use as opposed to how words appear on the page. When writing in APA Style it is important to:

  1. Use the first person singular or plural point of view
    First person: “In this study, we examined the effects of sleep on memory.”
  2. Use active, not passive voice.
    Active: “Participants took a five-question survey to determine their perceived stress level.”
    Passive: “A five-question survey was taken by participants to determine individual perceived stress levels.”
  3. Present research in the foreground
    Research in foreground: “The results support our hypothesis that amygdala activation occurs when participants view emotionally-charged images.”
  4. Avoid offensive/biased/problematic language
    Respectful language: “Participants suffering from alcohol addiction reported higher levels of perceived stress.”
    Offensive/biased language: “Alcoholics reported higher levels of perceived stress.”
  5. Use discipline-specific terminology
    Discipline-specific terminology: “Participants suffering from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) reported reduced participation in activities they used to enjoy.”
    Layperson terminology: “People who were really, really sad said they didn’t do things they used to have fun doing anymore.”
  6. Use “clear, concise, and concrete” language (Paul Price)
    Clear, concise, and concrete: “The hippocampus was stimulated during memory retrieval”
    Confused: “The hippocampus was kind of turned on when people tried to think of things that they had learned before they were being tested.”
  7. Avoid poetic language
    Scientific language: “Participants suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder report feelings of despair.”
    Poetic language: “People with anxiety shared that they felt an impending sense of doom, like a tidal wave rushing to shore, and felt themselves spiraling, spiraling ever deeper into the abyss.”


Items 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 are supported by Professor Larry Rudiger’s course: Research Methods 1. 

Items 5 and 7 are from information found on the Purdue Owl APA Style Guide: 

Paiz, J.M., Angeli, E., Wagner, J., Lawrick, E., Moore, K., Anderson, M., Soderlund, L., Brizee, A., & Keck, R. (2013, March 1). APA Stylistics: Basics. Retrieved from: