How to Format an Essay in the APA Style

Title/Cover Page, Page Numbering and Running Head 

When applying the APA essay format the title page of the paper should include the following:

  • A short version of the writer’s title, aligned to the left-hand margin. This title should be capitalized with the label ‘Running head’ included.

  • The page number aligned to the right-hand margin.

  • The writer’s full title in the center.

  • The writer’s name and the college they are affiliated to in double-spacing and centered beneath the title.

Page numbering in an APA format essay should be displayed on every page – this includes the title/cover page, the abstract if one is required and the reference pages – in the top right-hand corner. On each subsequent page, the short version of the title should also appear, minus the ‘Running head’ label.

Where a tutor does not require a title page, then the writer should include their name, the name of their class, their tutor’s name and the essay’s date in double-spaced lines in the upper, left-hand side of  page one. The writer’s title should be centered on the next line, again in double-spacing. The essay can then begin in earnest on the following double-spaced line. If in doubt, you might find it beneficial to refer to an APA essay example for guidance.

Use MS Word 2007 to Format Running Heads and Page Numbers

You may find it difficult to keep control of the formatting if you do it manually. MS Word has a Header feature that can be used to add a running head and page numbers. By following the steps described below in this APA format essay example, the header will be displayed differently on the title page than on all the following pages.

  1. Double click in an area near the top of the first page to open the Header toolbar.

  2. Look for the option ‘Different First Page’ and click it.

  3. Select ‘Page Numbers’ followed by ‘Top of Page.’ Then, to enter the required page number, choose ‘Page Number 3.’

  4. Type the words ‘Running Head’ and, in capitals, the short version of the writer’s title – this should be around two or perhaps three words. Use the tab key as required until the running head in your APA style essay is aligned to the left-hand side.

  5. On the next (second) page, move your cursor to the header box.

  6. Look for ‘Page Numbers,’ and select this option. Now, select ‘Page Number 3’ to enter the page number.

  7. Enter the short version of the title in capitals, minus the words ‘Running Head.’ Use the tab key as required to align the title to the left-hand side.

  8. You will see an X (colored red) in the top right-hand corner of the Header toolbar. Click this to close the Header feature.

Font Size/Style: Use 12pt Times New Roman.

Spacing (Lines): The whole document should be displayed in double spacing.

Page Margins: In an APA essay, you should leave a one-inch margin on each side of the page with the right-hand margin left unaligned. If you are using MS Word version 2007, you can set/change your margins by going to the ‘Page Layout’ menu and choosing ‘Margins.’

Indentation: The first line of every paragraph should be intended by half an inch. You can do this with one press of the tab key.

Section/Paragraph Headings: If your instructor or tutor requires it, you may need to use headings to emphasize each new section or paragraph. Some papers will have several obligatory sections such as Discussion, Results/Findings, Methodology and maybe others. You should use bold typeface to highlight headings and subheadings. As you will see from any good APA sample essay, all words in the header should be capitalized except for articles, conjunctions and prepositions (e.g. the, a, an, but, and, or, on, in, to and so on) except in cases where these are the first words of a section title or section subtitle.

Referencing: With the APA essay format, where sources are cited you will need to include a reference page or pages.