How to Format Apa Style in Microsoft Word?

Last Updated: Feb 6, 2024 by

If you are a student or academic, chances are you have heard of the American Psychological Association (APA) style. This style is commonly used for writing research papers, essays, and other academic documents. One of the most challenging aspects of using APA style is formatting your document correctly. In this article, we will guide you through the process of formatting APA style in Microsoft Word, including tips and shortcuts to make the process easier.

Why Is APA Style Formatting Important?

APA style formatting is essential for academic writing because it provides a standardized format for citing sources and presenting research. It also ensures consistency and clarity in your writing, making it easier for readers to understand and follow your arguments. Additionally, following APA style guidelines shows that you have a strong understanding of academic writing and can help you earn higher grades or get published in academic journals.

Proper Citation and References

One of the main reasons for using APA style formatting is to ensure proper citation and referencing of sources. In academic writing, it is crucial to give credit to the original authors of the information you use in your paper. APA style provides specific guidelines for citing sources in-text and creating a reference list at the end of your document. This not only gives credit to the original authors but also allows readers to find and verify the sources you have used.

Consistency and Clarity

APA style formatting also promotes consistency and clarity in your writing. By following the guidelines, you ensure that your paper has a uniform structure and format, making it easier for readers to follow your arguments. This includes using headings and subheadings, proper spacing and margins, and a consistent font and font size. Consistency in formatting also makes your paper look more professional and polished.

Academic Standards

Finally, APA style formatting is important because it is the standard for academic writing in many fields, including psychology, education, and social sciences. By following APA style, you are adhering to the academic standards of your field and showing that you are a competent and knowledgeable writer.

How to Format APA Style in Microsoft Word?

Now that we understand the importance of APA style formatting, let’s dive into the steps for formatting your document in Microsoft Word.

Setting Up Your Document

Before you start writing, it is essential to set up your document correctly. This includes setting the margins, spacing, and font. To do this, go to the “Page Layout” tab and click on “Margins.” Choose “Normal” from the drop-down menu. Next, click on “Line Spacing” and select “2.0” for double spacing. Finally, choose a standard font such as Times New Roman or Arial and set the font size to 12.

Creating Headings and Subheadings

APA style requires the use of headings and subheadings to organize your paper. To create a heading, use the “Heading 1” style from the “Styles” section in the “Home” tab. This will automatically format your heading according to APA guidelines, including bold and centered text. For subheadings, use the “Heading 2” style, which will format the text as bold and left-aligned.

In-Text Citations

In-text citations are used to give credit to the original authors of the information you use in your paper. APA style uses the author-date citation system, which means you include the author’s last name and the year of publication in parentheses after the information you have used. For example: (Smith, 2021). If you are directly quoting a source, you also need to include the page number, like this: (Smith, 2021, p. 10).

To insert an in-text citation in Microsoft Word, go to the “References” tab and click on “Insert Citation.” Choose “Add New Source” and fill in the required information, including the author’s name, publication date, and page number. Once you have added all your sources, you can easily insert in-text citations by clicking on “Insert Citation” and selecting the source you want to cite.

Creating a Reference List

At the end of your document, you need to include a reference list that lists all the sources you have cited in your paper. To create a reference list in APA style, go to the “References” tab and click on “Bibliography.” Choose “References” from the drop-down menu, and Microsoft Word will automatically format your reference list according to APA guidelines.

Using Word Shortcuts for APA Style Formatting

Formatting your document in APA style can be time-consuming, but there are some shortcuts you can use to make the process faster and easier.

Creating a Hanging Indent

A hanging indent is used in the reference list to indent the second and subsequent lines of each reference. To create a hanging indent in Microsoft Word, select the text you want to indent and go to the “Home” tab. Click on the small arrow in the bottom right corner of the “Paragraph” section. In the “Indents and Spacing” tab, under “Special,” choose “Hanging” from the drop-down menu.

Adding Page Numbers

APA style requires page numbers in the top right corner of each page. To add page numbers in Microsoft Word, go to the “Insert” tab and click on “Page Number.” Choose “Top of Page” and then “Plain Number 3.” This will automatically add page numbers to your document.

Using the Format Painter

The format painter is a useful tool for quickly copying formatting from one section of your document to another. To use it, select the text with the formatting you want to copy and click on the “Format Painter” button in the “Home” tab. Then, click on the text you want to apply the formatting to, and it will automatically be formatted the same way.

Tips for Formatting APA Style in Microsoft Word

Here are some additional tips to help you format your document in APA style using Microsoft Word.

Use the “Styles” Section

The “Styles” section in the “Home” tab is your best friend when it comes to formatting in APA style. This section contains all the styles you need, including headings, subheadings, and in-text citations. Using these styles will save you time and ensure that your document is formatted correctly.

Check Your Spacing and Margins

APA style requires double spacing and 1-inch margins on all sides. Make sure to check your document before submitting it to ensure that it meets these requirements.

Proofread Your Document

Finally, always proofread your document before submitting it. This will help you catch any formatting errors or typos that may have slipped through the cracks.


Formatting your document in APA style can be a daunting task, but with the right tools and shortcuts, it can be made easier. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can ensure that your document is formatted correctly and meets the requirements of APA style. Remember to use the “Styles” section, check your spacing and margins, and proofread your document before submitting it. With these tips, you can confidently format your document in APA style using Microsoft Word.

Gulrukh Ch

About the Author: Gulrukh Ch

Gulrukh Chaudhary, an accomplished digital marketer and technology writer with a passion for exploring the frontiers of innovation. Armed with a Master's degree in Information Technology, Gulrukh seamlessly blends her technical prowess with her creative flair, resulting in captivating insights into the world of emerging technologies. Discover more about her on her LinkedIn profile.