March 14, 2018

How to Write Grade Numbers in APA Style

author pictureby Chelsea Lee

If you write about students in elementary, middle, or high school, then you’ve had to consider how to write grade numbers: eighth grade? 8th grade? Grade 8? Which is right? Should there be a hyphen?

In APA Style, the rules for presenting numbers apply to the presentation of grade numbers. This post will explain the most common formats.

Grade + a Numeral

When the word grade is followed by a numeral, always capitalize grade and use a numeral for the grade number.

Grade 1 Grade 3 Grade 5 Grade 9
Grade 10 Grade 11 Grade 12  


Ordinal Number + Grade

When writing a grade in its ordinal form, use words for Grades 1–9 and numerals for Grades 10, 11, and 12.

first grade third grade fifth grade

ninth grade

10th grade

11th grade

12th grade


However, if an ordinal number 10 or above starts a sentence, then use words.

Twelfth-grade students received diplomas at graduation.

Also, if you are writing four or more grades in the same sentence, then use numerals for all of them.

Students in 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th, and 10th grades


Hyphens With Grade Numbers

Use a hyphen with a grade number when the ordinal form is used as a compound adjective before a noun. Otherwise, do not use a hyphen with a grade number.

The first-grade students went on a field trip. The first graders…

If several ordinal grades are presented in a series of compound adjectives, then use hyphens with each.

The sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students go to a middle school.


Grade Names Without Numbers

Lowercase nonnumerical words referring to grades or groups of grades (except for the in pre-K and K–12). Also note that compounds written with the word school do not use a hyphen (e.g., high school students), because these terms are written as open compounds per Merriam-Webster's Dictionary.









elementary school students middle school students

high school students

elementary schoolers middle schoolers

high schoolers    

university students undergraduates


doctoral fellows


On the Value of Rephrasing

Sometimes these rules intersect in ways that may make a sentence look awkward; in the sentence below, it is correct to use a word for ninth and numerals for 10th and 11th, and although there is nothing wrong with this from an APA Style perspective, it may set off internal alarm bells for you.

Students in ninth, 10th, and 11th grades [this is correct]

Often the awkwardness can be resolved by rephrasing the sentence. Although this is not required, it may make you feel happier about your writing, and we are all for you feeling happy about your writing.

Students in Grades 9, 10, and 11 [this is also correct]

For more on numeral usage, see Sections 4.31–4.38 (pp. 111–114) of the sixth edition of the Publication Manual. If you have additional questions about how to write about grades in APA Style, leave a question in the comments section.


School bus

February 27, 2018

What’s in a Name? Authors With the Same Surname

Chelsea blog 2 by Chelsea Lee

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, right? Readers often ask us questions about how to handle repeated surnames in references. For example, how do you cite a work where some or all of the authors have the same last name? What if you want to cite separate works by people who have the same last name—how do you avoid making it seem like they are the same person? Read on to find out these answers.

Same Surname Within a Reference

Nothing special is required when a surname is repeated within a reference. Write the in-text citation and reference list entry normally.

Reference list entry: 

Sue, D., Sue, D. W., Sue, D., & Sue, S. (2015). Understanding abnormal behavior (11th ed.). Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.


In-text citation:

(Sue, Sue, Sue, & Sue, 2015)

Different First Authors Share a Surname But Have Different Initials

Now imagine a surname is repeated in different references. When the first authors of multiple references have the same surname but different initials, include initials for the first authors in the in-text citations. Never include initials for second or subsequent authors in in-text citations. The reference list entries are written normally.

In the example below, note that although all three examples have an author named Jackson, only D. Jackson and M. C. Jackson are cited with initials in the text because the other Jackson is not first author. 

Reference list entries:

Jackson, D. (2018). Aesthetics and the psychotherapist's office. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 74, 233–238.

Jackson, M. C., Counter, P., & Tree, J. J. (2017). Face working memory deficits in developmental prosopagnosia: Tests of encoding limits and updating processes. Neuropsychologia, 106, 60–70.

Nelson, B. D., Jackson, F., Amir, N., & Hajcak, G. (2017). Attention bias modification reduces neural correlates of response monitoring. Biological Psychology, 129, 103–110.


In-text citations:

(D. Jackson, 2018)

(M. C. Jackson, Counter, & Tree, 2017)

(Nelson, Jackson, Amir, & Hajcak, 2017)

Note: Include initials in the in-text citations only to help the reader tell apart different people. If the name of one person is presented inconsistently across works (e.g., sometimes a middle initial is present, sometimes it is missing), then reproduce the name as shown on the work in the reference list and write normal in-text citations without initials. See this post on inconsistent name formats for more.

Different First Authors Share a Surname and Initials

When the first authors of multiple references have the same surname and the same initials—but they are different people—then adding initials to the in-text citations won’t help readers tell the authors apart. So in this case (as addressed previously on the blog), include these authors’ full first names in the in-text citations. In the reference list entries, also include the full first names in square brackets after the initials. Never include bracketed names for second or subsequent authors in in-text citations or reference list entries.

Reference list entries:

Green, L. [Laura]. (2009). Morphology and literacy: Getting our heads in the game. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 40, 283–285.

Green, L. [Leonard], & Myerson, J. (2013). How many impulsivities? A discounting perspective. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 99, 3–13.


In-text citations:

(Laura Green, 2009)

(Leonard Green & Myerson, 2013)

For more on this topic, see the Publication Manual sections 6.14 and 6.27. Got more questions? Leave a comment below.



December 14, 2017

The Publication Manual Is Available as an E-book

image of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, sixth editionWe are thrilled to announce that the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association® (6th edition) is available in electronic format from two outlets:

RedShelf and

October 05, 2017

Widows and Orphans and Bears, Oh My!

David Becker

By David Becker

Dear APA Style Experts,

Is it okay for a heading to be alone at the very bottom of a page while the first paragraph of that section begins at the top of the next page? I checked page 62 in the Publication Manual where it talks about levels of heading, but I couldn’t find any answers to this question. Please help!

—Keith T.

Dear Keith,

Yes, in an APA Style manuscript, it’s perfectly fine to have a heading at the bottom of one page with the body of the section starting on the next page. In fact, you can see examples of this at the beginning of Sample Paper 2 (see pp. 54–55 in the sixth edition of the Publication Manual; the sample papers are also accessible online via our “Best of the APA Style Blog” post).

Lonely headings like these are sometimes called orphans in typesetting. An orphan can also mean the first line of a paragraph that’s left all alone at the bottom of a page. When the last line of a paragraph appears by itself at the top of the page, typesetters may refer to it as a widow. Widows, like orphans, are acceptable in APA Style manuscripts.

However, if you’re a student writing a class paper or a dissertation, your professor or university may have standards that differ from APA Style. They might prohibit widows and orphans. Universities have particularly precise criteria for dissertations and theses that often address widows and orphans—sometimes even specifying the minimum number of lines of text that can appear on the same page as a table. Your professor or a dissertation committee will be the ones evaluating your work, not APA, so their standards supersede those in the Publication Manual. You should therefore ask your professor or dissertation advisor about whether widows and orphans are acceptable.

You may be wondering why the Publication Manual doesn’t discuss widows and orphans. This is because the guidelines in the manual were designed with draft journal articles in mind. They don’t directly address issues that are more relevant to a final article’s appearance and composition, including widows and orphans, which are sorted out during typesetting. Publishers generally determine what their articles will look like when they go to print, so they establish their own typesetting standards. Although the Publication Manual doesn’t weigh in on these issues, section 8.06 (pp. 239–240) briefly addresses an author’s responsibilities during typesetting, which includes sending the manuscript files to the publisher in an acceptable format and double-checking the typeset page proofs for any errors.

Typesetter at Work

Although some aspects of a draft manuscript carry over into the typeset version—the reference list follows the same APA Style guidelines, for example—the appearance and composition of the article will change drastically. The font type and size, the margins, and the line spacing are all typically very different after typesetting. Some articles will also be formatted so that the text is split into two columns. And, the tables and figures that appear at the end of the manuscript will be embedded close to their first mention in the text. All this rearranging and redesigning means that what were once widows and orphans in a draft manuscript will likely be in completely different places in the final version. There’s no reason to be too concerned about these lonely lines of text during the draft stage if they will be reunited with their lost relatives during typesetting and appear together in the final article.

If you’re a student, your schoolwork won’t go through this whole process before it’s finalized. Your paper is considered “final” when you submit it to your professor. For example, a dissertation, once submitted, becomes the final, published version of record. Therefore, it’s important to consider the final appearance of your paper during the draft stage. Some formatting issues not covered in the Publication Manual will need to be addressed while you’re writing your paper. When in doubt, always check with your professor or university to see if they have their own preferred standards.

And, in case you were wondering, APA Style doesn’t have any guidelines concerning bears. I doubt your professor or university will have any either.

September 20, 2017

References Versus Citations

Timothy McAdooSlices-of-apples-juxtaposed-by-slices-of-oranges-183352038_997x1055by Timothy McAdoo

In the Publication Manual and in many, many blog posts here, we refer to both references and citations. If you are new to writing with APA Style, you might wonder “What’s the difference?” Like this apple and orange, they are created separately but work well together!



Small green apple onlyReferences appear at the end of a manuscript. They follow a whowhenwhatwhere format. For example:

McAdoo, T. (2017, September 20). References versus citations [Blog post]. Retrieved from

They appear (a) so you can give credit to your sources and (b) to provide a path for your readers to retrieve those sources and read them firsthand.



Small orange onlyCitations appear in the body of your paper and point your reader to your references. For that reason, we sometimes call them in-text citations. They are also sometimes called simply cites. Citations can appear in a paper in two ways:


  • parenthetically: (Becker, 2012; Lee, 2016; McAdoo, 2017) and
  • narratively: Becker (2012), Lee (2016), and McAdoo (2017) wrote blog posts about APA Style.

Include them in a paper to support claims you have made and/or to provide the sources for paraphrases and direct quotations.

As shown in the examples above, citations are almost always composed of an author surname or surnames and a date. The surname(s) that appear in a citation must exactly match those used in the reference. Likewise, the year in the citation matches the year shown in the reference. When the reference has a more precise date, the in-text citation includes the year only. For example, compare the reference and the in-text citation for a tweet. For more about creating in-text citations, see Writing In-Text Citations in APA Style.

Citations versus references

As noted above, most citations include author names; but, because some references have no author, their citations also have no author: When the reference includes no author, the citation includes the title (or a short version of the title). Also, many types of legal references do not include author names. To learn more about legal references and citations, see Introduction to APA Style Legal References.


September 06, 2017

Best of the APA Style Blog: 2017 Edition

Each fall we put together a “best of” post to highlight blog posts and pages that we think are helpful both for new students and to those who are familiar with APA Style. You can get the full story in our sixth edition Publication Manual(also available as an e-book) and our APA Style Guide to Electronic References, in addition to the pages linked below.

Getting Started

What is APA Style? 
Why is APA Style needed? 
Basics of APA Style Tutorial (free) 
FAQs about APA Style

Sample Papers

Sample Paper 1 
Sample Paper 2
Sample meta-analysis paper 
Sample published APA article


APA Style Basics Principles

How in-text citations work 
How reference list entries work 
How to handle missing information 
How to find the best example you need
   in the Publication Manual
"Cite what you see, cite what you use" 
How to avoid plagiarism

Grammar and spelling

The use of singular "they"
Punctuation Junction
 (what happens when punctuation marks collide)
Use of first person
Spelling tips 
Grammar tips

Student Resources

Citing a class or lecture
School intranet or Canvas/Blackboard class website materials
Classroom course packs and custom textbooks 
Research participant interview data 
Reference lists versus bibliographies 
MLA versus APA Style (in-text citations and the reference list)
Student Research Webinars From APA and Psi Chi


Understanding copyright status
Determining whether permission is needed to reproduce a table or figure
Securing permission
Writing the copyright permission statement for reproduced tables and figures
Attributing data in tables


References to Electronic Resources

Website references and in-text citations to websites
Citing multiple pages from the same website
Mobile apps
Social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Google+) pages and posts
Blog posts and blog comments 
Online-only journal articles
YouTube videos and TED Talks 
New DOI display guidelines

Other “How-To” Citation Help

Translated sources (vs. your own translation)
Secondary sources (sources you found in another source) and why to avoid them
illustrators and illustrated books
Legal references 
Paraphrased work

Paper Formatting

Direct quotes and Block quotations
Lists (letterednumbered, or bulleted
Running heads

Keywords (vs. key terms)
Hyperlink formatting



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Keep in Touch!

We hope that these resources will be helpful to you as you write using APA Style. If you are interested in receiving tips about APA Style as well as general writing advice, we encourage you to follow us on social media. You can find us (and tell your friends) on FacebookTwitter, and Google+.

June 15, 2017

Creating a Reference for a Work Published With a Typo in the Title

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

If there’s a typo in a quotation, you use [sic] to show the reader that the error is in the original source and that you’re faithfully quoting it just as it appeared.

But, what if there’s a mistake in an article’s title? Do you add [sic] to the reference? We recommend not doing that, because it may appear to be part of the reference title. Instead, we recommend using a footnote.

First, know that typos in titles of published journal articles and book chapters are rare. If you think you’ve found a typo, there are a three things to check first:

  1. Focused-businessman-is-reading-through--magnifying-glass-document-400Is it really a typo? Or is it a rhetorical device or an author’s creative license? For example, in a title like “It's More Than Reading, Writing and 'Rithmetic,” the author is aware of the misspelling, and you should not add a footnote. Likewise, you need not add a footnote if the title includes contractions or slang.

    Example article with an intentional misspelling (do not use [sic] or a footnote)
    DeAngelis, T. (2003). It's more than reading, writing and 'rithmetic. Monitor on Psychology, 34(9), 46–47.
  2. Did the typo appear in the published article? Or, is it a typo only in the database, web page, or other source where you found the title? That is, let’s say you discovered an article via a search of the PsycINFO database. If you notice a typo, first determine whether the article was published that way or whether that’s a mistake in the database record only. (If so, let us know, and we’ll correct the record!)

    To do so: First, find a PDF or a print copy of the article. Or, check the publisher’s website. Publishers often offer a free table of contents. If you can’t track down an original, you can always contact the publisher’s office.
  3. Was a correction published? If so, see our earlier post on how to cite a corrected journal article.

If the article title really included a typo, explain in a footnote, if you want to ensure that your readers know that the mistake is not yours.

Example article that published with a typo in the title (explain in a footnote)

Linn, L. (1968). Social identification and the seeking of pyschiatric1 care. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 38, 83–88.
1The published article includes this typo.


May 31, 2017

What’s in a Name? Names With Titles in Them

Chelsea blog 2 by Chelsea Lee

This post is part of a series on author names. Other posts in the series will be linked at the bottom of this post as they are published.

Typically APA Style reference list entries and in-text citations do not include the authors’ academic credentials or professional titles. For example, if a book is written by Samantha T. Smith, PhD, then the reference entry refers to Smith, S. T., and the in-text citation to Smith. Professional titles are also omitted from reference list entries and in-text citations. For example, for a Thomas the Train book written by the Reverend W. Awbry, the reference refers to Awbry, W., and the in-text citation will be to Awbry (1946).

Here are some common examples of academic credentials and professional titles to omit from references and citations (note this is not an exhaustive list—anything in a similar vein will count):

Academic degrees or
licenses to omit

Professional titles to omit

PhD, PsyD, EdD (any doctorate degree)

Reverend (Rev.)

MA, MS (any master’s degree)

Honorable (Hon.)

MD, RN, BSN (any medical degree or license)

President (or any governmental or administrative rank)

MBA (any business degree)

Dr. or Doctor

JD (any law degree)

Military ranks (General, Captain, Lieutenant, etc.)

MSW, LCSW, LPC (any social work or counseling degree or license)          


BA, BS (any bachelor’s degree)


Note that if you do want to mention an author’s academic credentials or professional title in the text because it is relevant to the discussion, you should use the format without periods (e.g., PhD, not Ph.D.; an exception is for abbreviations of a single word, such as Rev. for Reverend).

Exceptions for Religious Officials and Nobility

Exceptions to including the title in APA Style citations occur when the person’s title is in essence their name. For example, although Pope Francis was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he now writes using the name Pope Francis. Here is how to cite an encyclical letter by Pope Francis:

Pope Francis. (2013). Lumen fidei [The light of faith] [Encyclical letter]. Retrieved from

In text: (Pope Francis, 2013)

You should not abbreviate the Pope's name to Francis, P., because this would render it unintelligible to the reader.

And here is an example of how to cite a book by Prince Charles of Wales:

The Prince of Wales (with Juniper, T., & Skelly, I). (2010). Harmony: A new way of looking at our world. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

In text: (The Prince of Wales, 2010)


Note that the two authors who are credited after “with” on the cover are listed in parentheses in the reference list entry and are not cited in the in-text citation. (For more information on “with” authors, see page 184 of the Publication Manual, sixth bullet.)

Other Questions

Do you have more questions on author names in APA Style? See these other posts, or leave a comment below:


May 24, 2017

What’s in a Name? Authors With Only One Name

Chelsea blog 2 by Chelsea Lee

This post is part of a series on author names. Other posts in the series will be linked at the bottom of this post as they are published.

This post addresses how to cite authors who have only one name. These people include celebrities (like Madonna or [the artist formerly known as] Prince) as well as many people from Indonesia. To cite works by these people, provide the full name without abbreviation, because abbreviating the given name would render the name unintelligible. So for example, a work by Sukarno, the first president of Indonesia, would be cited as such:

Reference list:

Sukarno. (1965). Sukarno: An autobiography (C. Adams, Trans.). Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill.

In text: (Sukarno, 1965)

This category does not include people who are well-known by their first name alone but who actually publish under their full name—for example, although you might know who Oprah is from her first name alone, she has published books as Oprah Winfrey and so would be credited in the reference list as Winfrey, O., and would be credited as Winfrey (or Oprah Winfrey) in the text—but never as just “Oprah” unless she published under only that name with no surname. 

Other Questions

Do you have more questions on author names in APA Style? See these other posts, or leave a comment below:

Individuality-concept -birds-on-a-wire-503081960_1261x835

May 17, 2017

What’s in a Name? Cultural Variations in Name Order

Chelsea blog 2 by Chelsea Lee

This post is part of a series on author names. Other posts in the series will be linked at the bottom of this post as they are published.

Most people have one or more given names and a surname. However, the order of these names varies across cultures. This can create confusion when a writer is figuring out how to cite an author from a culture with different naming practices than the writer’s own.

To help you resolve questions regarding name order, do a little detective work.

  1. Look at how the author has been cited in other works and follow that presentation of the name.
  2. Authors usually use the default name order for the language in which they are publishing, so take your cues for name order from the language in which the article is written. For example, Yi-Chun Chang may publish as Yi-Chun Chang in an English journal but as Chang Yi-Chun in a Chinese journal. In either case, the APA Style format for the name is Chang, Y.-C., in the reference list entry and Chang (2016) in the in-text citation.
  3. Sometimes the surname is presented in all-capital letters on the source to distinguish it from the given name(s), for example, CHANG Yi-Chun or Yi-Chun CHANG. Do not retain the all-caps style for the reference; still write this name as Chang, Y.-C., in the reference list entry and as Chang (2016) in the text citation.

Other Questions

Do you have more questions on author names in APA Style? See these other posts, or leave a comment below:


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