APA Stylistics Formatting Basics: Tips and Tricks


Writing in APA style is much more than merely learning the system for citation or adhering to a particular page format. APA as well entails the APA stylistics that you follow, view point and word choice.

APA Stylistics: View point and Voice

When you write using APA format, you can adopt the first person view point when describing the methodology  you will apply (“I will apply qualitative approach..”) and if you want to refer to yourself and co-writer (We explored…”).

Apply the first person to describe methodology steps instead of personifying the paper. For instance, a study cannot “interpret”, though you and as the author can.

Generally, you ought to foreground the research instead of using researchers, (“present results show that…). Do no use the editorial “we”, supposing you use the “we”, ensure that it implies you and your other researchers.

Many commonly have this misconception that when you foreground the research you need to use a passive voice (“studies have been carried out…”).

However, this is not correct. Instead use pronouns in place of “studies” (“We carried outstudies …”).

APA style prefers that you use active voice (“I reviewed the literature…”). The active voice become more important when writing experimental reports, in which the subject undertaking the action has to be clearly recognized (for example, “we interviewed 10 participants”).

Clarity and Succinctness

Clarity and succinctness when writing are crucial in communicating research work in APA style. It allows you not to misrepresent the information of a study or create confusion among your reader with wordiness or needless long sentences.

Clarity is achieved by being specific instead of vague in explanations. Write accurate details to provide enough information to the readers to allow them follow how the study develops.

  • Example: It was foretold that single parenthood would predict behavior problems in young children.

This is a vague hypothesis, to clarify it, apply parallel structure to underline definite ideas:

“The first proposition stated that single parenthood would predict behavior problems in young children. The second proposition held that the effect would be higher among boys than girls. The last proposition stated that older boys would be more affected by single parenthood compared to younger girls”

For you to be more succinct, especially when writing the introduction or abstract, ensure that you avoid unnecessary words and abridge information as much as possible (check for handouts on additional information on conciseness).

  • Example: Aforementioned list of propositions could be rephrased concisely as: “The researchers wanted to investigate whether single parenthood would predict behavior problems among children, and they sought to know if the effect was higher among boys than girls especially when they studied two different age sets of boys”

When you seek a balance of clarity, which demands unpacking information provided, and being conciseness, which demands condensing the given information, it becomes challenging. Therefore you need to study past articles and reports to understand how you can accomplish this balance.

Word Choice

You have to be careful when selecting the words and terms to use in APA style. When writing a paper in social sciences subjects, regularly used words assume different meanings and could significantly affect the way your readers would interpret the findings or claims that you report. To enhance clarity, keep away from bias, and manage the way your readers will get the information. This is done by making some substitutions in words used:

  • Apply terms like “respondents” or “participants” (instead of “subjects”) to demonstrated how individuals took part in your study
  • Apply terms such as “community members” or “women” to present more information regarding who took part in the research.
  • Apply phrases such as “The findings indicates…” or “our research shows…..” instead of using words like “proof” since no single research can prove a concept or a theory.

As with the other stylistic suggestions here, you should study the discourse of your field to see what terminology is most often used.

Avoid Poetic Language

Writing in APA style is different from writing in a creative style that borrows from poetic expressions and uses figurative language. The use of these kinds of linguistic tools is not encouraged since it can detract you from communicating your information in a clear way.

It may as well appear as being forced in the paper when it you use it inappropriately to explain issues in your paper.

Accordingly, you ought to:

  • Reduce the level of figurative language you use in an APA paper, for example use of metaphors except if they are necessary in explaining a complex issue.
  • Do not use alliteration, rhyming schemes, or any other poetic tools traditional used in verses
  • Always use simple descriptive words and plan language that will not confuse your readers.

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