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Common Mistakes Made When Writing In APA Style

by James Powell

1. In APA style, do not use a slash (also called virgule, solidus, or shill) when a phrase would be clearer.

Each child handed the ball to her mother or guardian.
Each child handed the ball to her mother/guardian.

Do not use slashes for simple comparisons. Use a hyphen or short dash (en dash) instead.

Test–retest reliability
Test/retest reliability

Do not use a slash when you cannot choose between two or more similar words. Simply select one of the words, or rephrase the sentence to include both the words if all of them are apt. Otherwise, it may appear as though the writer is unable to make a choice of which word is apt in the context.

2. APA tables should have no vertical lines:

3. APA figure titles should appear below the figure.

Figure X. Variations in Tibetan toe patterns.

4. APA style uses parenthetical citations, so, in most cases, integrate important information into the text rather than relegating it to a footnote. If the information is not important, it can either be left out or placed in an appendix.

5. APA style advises to avoid using contractions (e.g., don't) in academic prose, although it is alright in narrative sections.

6. In APA style, em dashes—like these—set off an element added to amplify or to digress from the main clause and have no space before or after the dashes. They are longer than a hyphen or an en dash. An en dash is longer and thinner than a hyphen yet shorter than an em dash and is used between words of equal weight in a compound adjective (e.g., Chicago–London flight).

7. In APA style, ellipses—three spaced points (. . . )—are used within a sentence to indicate that the writer has omitted material from the original source. Use four points to indicate any omission between two sentences. Do not use ellipses points at the beginning or end of any quotation unless, to prevent misinterpretation, you need to emphasize that the quotation begins or ends in midsentence.

8. When writing in APA style, use italics for emphasis rather than bold.

9. When writing in APA style, while and since can both denote a temporal span, so should be avoided when you mean although or because, respectively.

10. In APA style, if you quote even one work form a source, you must cite it and provide the reference in the list of references. Also, every entry in your list of references should have a citation in your text.

11. In APA style, use the following format for a chapter in a book:

Smith, A. (2009). The cows of Hawai'i. In A. E. Newman & J. A. Prufrock (Eds.), Udder preferences: Collected musings of mamotrectus philosophicus (pp. 2-22). Parton, TX: Bovine Press.