APA 7thE Manual

APA 7th Edition - There's a New Manual in Town

Just when you thought you figured out APA formatting, the American Psychological Association has published a new Manual, the 7th edition.  I was able to score an early copy in the Fall of 2019. Since then, I’ve identified a few changes that students and writers need to be aware of. 


APA format is extremely popular because of its applicability to multiple writing formats and its uniformity of writing style. The 7th Edition even makes this easier with some improvements and changes that make sense.  


Right off, the best change to the Manual is the spiral binding. Previous editions were softcover, which would never stay open on my desk. I use an alligator clip to hold it open! The tabs are super-great, and I just want to hug whomever said, “Let’s add tabs to the 7th Edition.” The tabs are not just on the edge, they are actually card stock dividers for some of the sections. In my 6th Edition, I use tons of sticky notes to mark important and frequently-referred-to sections, such as headings and specific types of citations. I’m sure this 7th Edition will have its share of little stickies, but I’m loving the dividers so far. 


There are a couple of changes to APA style to call out here. One of the items that I think is overdue is the recognition that the Manual is used by students, as many Universities require APA formatting including the ones where I teach. This brand-new orange/green/blue 7th edition actually has some recommendations for title pages for student papers. While this may sound like a small thing, students can take comfort in knowing that the required format will not (should not) change from instructor to instructor, school to school. 


Headings have long been a source of pain for students. I’ve seen quite some imaginative formatting for headings, from italics to blue font to ALL CAPS. Right inside the cover is a handy guide for heading levels. Wow! Now, all headings are to be written in title case, versus previously Levels 3, 4, and 5 were sentence case. This is the right move, making it a lot easier to remember, i.e, all are title case now. 

There is definitely a new Manual in town, and it’s a step in the right direction. 

One of the most talked-about changes is reverting back to one space after a period. APA 6th Edition insisted that we use two spaces, but I never enforced this with my students. I don’t think many (or any) knew that two spaces was the requirement anyway. I’m glad to see the change; it just makes sense and papers look neater to me with one space.


The Manual has also changed the requirement for “Retrieved from” for web sources listed on the Reference page. Adding “Retrieved from” never made sense to me, because we are retrieving from other sources as well. Right? What makes web sources so unique that we have to call out that we “retrieved” something from them? 


I think my favorite feature is the inside of the back cover. We now have a handy “Common References at a Glance” page that even includes formatting for two online sources – YouTube videos and government web pages. With so many of our knowledge sources online, this is a step in the right direction. Well, a baby step. I’ve long held the position that knowledge is knowledge, and there should be radical distinctions between formatting online vs. non-web sources. 


Chapter 5 is all about bias-free language. Bias-free language is not new to the APA Manual, but in this version it certainly is pulled into focus. Essentially, the idea here is to respect individuals and remove any bias when referring to people or groups of people.  The guidelines advise that we are to be sensitive to labels, and be conscious about how groups refer to themselves. This is my third (or maybe fourth) version of the Manual and I think they did a good job bringing the focus to a very important topic. 


The new APA 7th Edition may not be perfect, but it fine tunes some of the formatting and style presented in previous versions of the Manual. There is definitely a new Manual in town, and it’s a step in the right direction.