Last year, the American Psychological Association released the 7th edition of its iconic Publication Manual (aka the official guide to APA Style). Among professionals, grad students, and even undergraduate students, the APA manual is the most commonly used style guide, so the changes in the new edition are worth discussing in some detail. This post also breaks down the specific changes for both students and professionals.
The Singular "They" Is Now OK
Probably the headline change in the new edition is its official endorsement of the singular "they"—which means the APA has now joined a growing list of authorities to allow this usage. This will greatly simplify the syntax of third-person singular sentences about unspecified individuals, obviously. More importantly, it will make the style more inclusive with regard to the pronoun preferences of nonbinary and other individuals. All in all, this is certainly a welcome change.
New Title Pages
See below for more information on the student and professional title pages, but two changes apply to both: First, the article title is now in bold, both on the title page and on the first line of the paper (it previously was not in bold). Second, there is also now a blank line between the title and the author on the title page (there previously was no extra space).
New Subheading Styles
The new subheading styles should make complex papers simpler to read (and write!). Notably, the third-level heading style, which formerly was run into the following paragraph, is now set on its own line (left-aligned and with bold, italics, and title case). The fourth- and fifth-level heading styles are still run into the next paragraph, but they are now title case, which brings them in line with the other levels.
One Space After A Period
The previous version of the manual was a bit anachronistic in that it recommended two spaces after a period for manuscripts. The new edition dispenses with this rule, so now all APA-style documents should use one space after each period—which should please everyone in the English-speaking world, save a few typewriter enthusiasts.
Quote Marks Instead Of Italics For Linguistic Examples
To increase accessibility, italics are used less often in the new edition. Notably, linguistic examples (i.e., references to words or phrases) are now in quote marks rather than italics. Now, you'd write "this" rather than this. For similar reasons, the font requirements are now less strict.
New Rules for Figures and Tables
In the new edition, figure numbers and titles are now placed above the figure (rather than below it). The number is in bold, followed by the title, which is in italics and title case on a new line. This is the same style used for tables (in both the old and new manuals). Because figures and tables are now parallel, this edition will make it easier for writers to manage a mix of supplemental types.
In addition, figures and tables can now be placed in the text, after their first callouts. The old edition's rule, in which all figures and tables were placed in a separate section after the reference list, is also still a valid option. (The two options cannot be mixed, though; if any figures or tables are in the text, all of them must be.) Use whichever version your institution or journal prefers. If you are unsure, I'd recommend using the in-text option if your paper has few figures and tables but the end-of-text option if it has more.
Simpler Citations, Updated References
If you are citing works with 3 or more authors, you now just use the first author and "et al." in all cases (except when more information is needed to prevent ambiguity). This is much simpler than the previous version, in which all authors were listed in some cases but not in others. On the other hand, for reference entries, you now list up to 20 authors for a given work, rather than 7 in the 6th edition.
There are a few other reference list changes:
The new version now recommends formatting DOIs as URLs, without the label "DOI"; this ensures consistency across the two most common digital identifiers.
The issue number is always included for periodicals, and book entries no longer include the publication location.
There are new, clearer reference examples for various forms of new media (e.g., PowerPoint slides and social media.
The previous editions of the APA manual largely did not address the needs of students writing papers for coursework (rather than for publication). Despite this, the manual became increasingly widespread at that level. Reflecting this reality, the APA has added significant content targeted toward students in the 7th edition. Largely, this involves simplified formatting. Here are a few examples:
Student papers do not include a short title in the running header (they still have page numbering, though).
Students have a separate title page; it includes the course title, instructor name, and due date (but not the author affiliation or author note).
Students often have to write annotated bibliographies, but previous APA editions lacked any information on this type of document. The 7th edition provides the necessary formatting guidance.
The 7th edition now includes information on citing classroom sources such as lecture notes, thus filling a major gap in the previous edition.
The new edition offers guidance to distinguish between student and professional papers while also simplifying some of the requirements for professionals and providing additional useful information.
Professional papers still must have the short form of the title (in all caps) as a running head; however, the first page no longer has the phrase "Running head:" before the short title.
Professional title pages have updated guidelines for author bylines, particularly when there are multiple institutions among the authors. Superscript numbers are now used to clarify each author's affiliations—thus bringing APA into line with most other academic style guides.
The author note now includes more information, including ORCID identifiers for each author and a declaration of the authors' conflict of interest (or lack thereof).
The new edition includes extended guidance (an entire chapter!) on journal article reporting standards (JARS) for quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods research. The guidelines for the latter two types of research are entirely new.
There is new guidance for formatting quotations from research participants (which was another notable lack in the previous edition).
Finally, there is a new chapter that provides advice for helping early-career researchers understand and adapt to the publication process.
I hope this basic breakdown was helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me in the comments, via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or by chat (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. MT, Mon.-Fri.). And, of course, if you need a thorough APA review, I'd be happy to help—request a free quote today!