This is an excellent place to find answers to the APA questions that bug you. The list of 20 Biggies is the most often missed items in student papers.  The other items are those often missed as well.

APA Biggies

bulletGo to the Biggie List
bulletNumbered lists
bulletReference Lists
bulletDirect Quotes
bulletCommas, periods, and quotation marks
bulletHanging Indents
bulletGender Pronouns
bulletTrademarks and similar


    Numbered Lists

APA has some rules about using numbered lists--they are found on pp. 116-117 of the APA Manual.  Basically they say that if a listing is in a series in a sentence then to use letters and parentheses---like this: (a) first item, (b) second item, and (c) last item. there  are some other nuances so the text should be consulted.

If the items are in a vertical listing like one would for doing a step by step instruction or itemized conclusions the following is used.

1. First conclusion.

2. Second conclusion.

3. Final conclusion.

Again there are some other nuances that need to be looked at in the book on pp. 116-117.

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Reference Lists

The idea of reference lists is important to good form.  The Reference Listing should appear on a separate page and should  be in alphabetical order.  It should be formatted according to the APA style which has rules about use of capitals see examples in the Reference Section of the APA Manual beginning on p. 215 and also with regards to hanging indents (see FAQs)

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Direct Quotes

In using direct quotes, the APA style is to list a specific page number if referring to a printed document...see p. 118 of the APA Manual.  If the quotation is from an electronic source then the Manual suggests using the paragraph and the symbol .  This is further discussed on p. 120.  It is also noted in the Manual that sometimes it is not possible to use either of these--see p. 120+ on how to handle these.


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The are not considered appropriate for formal papers.  They include words such as "can't,"  "I'll," "doesn't," and "it's."  Avoid them in formal writing.  Write out the complete words as "can not," "I will," "does not," and "it is."


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Commas, periods, and quotation marks

One of the more common errors is where to place commas and periods with regards to quotation marks.  The rule is that they are ALWAYS placed inside the marks.  If I were to quote a series like "this," "that," and "another." This is the proper way to place the marks. With other punctuation marks they are in or out depending on the meaning.

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Gender Pronouns

The use of generic gender pronouns like he and she should not be used unless the specific sex of the person is known.  Likewise the he/she or s/he is awkward and should be avoided.  APA suggests rewriting to avoid the need for this.  See p. 66+.


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Trademarks and Similar

When referring to a specific and trademarked name follow the trademark owner's convention.  For example PowerPoint is spelled together because this is the way that Microsoft does it.  If you like you may use the symbol or .  This is formed, in Windows machines, by pressing and holding the ALT key while typing the following sequence from the keypad -- 0174 or 0153 respectively (note that you must use the keypad not the number keys above the letters. See the page called FAQ  for all the ALT codes.



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