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APA 7 Resource Center: Style


Style Recommendations

Bias-Free Language

In general, avoid false hierarchies in your writing and compare groups with care. Bias occurs when authors use one group (often their own group) as the standard against which others are judged [ex. using the word "normal" insinuates other research and writing is "abnormal"].

When writing about people, take these identities into consideration:

  • Age - for example, persons 12 years and younger can be identified as "infant" "child" "girl" "boy"

  • Disability - for example, use person-first and identity-first language such as "a person with paraplegia" instead of "a paraplegic"

  • Gender - for example, refer to all people by the name they use to refer to themselves, which may be different from their legal name or the name on their birth certificate

  • Racial and Ethnic Identity - for example, refer to people of African origin as "Black" or "African American" instead of "Negro" and "Afro-American," which are outdated and inappropriate

  • Sexual Orientation - for example, use identity-first language such as "bisexual people" instead of "gays," which is ambiguous

  • Socioeconomic Status - for example, when referring to “low-income participants” or “high-income participants,” classify whether reported incomes take into account household size, or provide information about the relation between household incomes and federal poverty guidelines

If you are unsure how to identify someone, APA 7 introduces the singular and gender-free noun "they" to represent a person.

For more information and examples, see the APA Style Blog on Bias-free Language.


APA allows lists, which help readers understand a set of related points in a paper. Lists should be use sparingly.

You can format a list in three ways, but note the different formatting for each:

Using numbers:

  1. Item or sentence 1
  2. Item or sentence 2
  3. Item or sentence 3 

Using bullet points:

  • Item or sentence 1
  • Item or sentence 2
  • Item or sentence 3

Using letters:

Replace the number or bullet with (a), (b), (c), etc.

For more information see APA Style on Lists.

Tables and Figures

APA has several recommendations for formatting tables and figures in your paper, helping to make sure they are attractive and accessible. 


Tables should have the following components:

  • Table number above the table in bold font. (for example: Table 1). If you have more than one table they should be numbered consecutively.
  • Table title (below the table number), capitalized in italics
  • Tables should have headings for each column
  • Note beneath the table content, used only if necessary to describe contents

For more information see APA Style on Tables.


Figures, or images, are similar. They should have:

  • Figure number in bold (again, if you have multiple figures they should be numbered 
  • Figure title capitalized in italics
  • The key or legend, if present
  • Note beneath the figure, used only if necessary to describe contents

For more information see APA Style on Figures.

Capitalization and Abbreviations


APA Style is considered a "down" style, also know as sentence case, meaning words are lowercase unless there are specific guidelines.

For example you should always capitalize:

  • The first word of a sentence
  • Proper nouns / names
  • Diseases, disorders, therapies
  • Job titles and positions
  • Titles of works

For more information see APA Style on Capitalization.



Abbreviations are shortened forms of words or phrases, and should be used sparingly. Additionally, periods should not be used in abbreviations (CDC not C.D.C., for example). 

Use abbreviations when:

  • The abbreviation is conventional and your readers are likely to be familiar with it
  • Significant space can be saved
    • You can always type the complete form the first time and add the abbreviations in parentheses, then use the abbreviation in all following instances.  For example:  "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says ... "
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