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APA Style and Citation 6th ed: Word Choice

Find out how to cite your sources and format your paper using APA

APA Manual

The following page numbers refer to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). A copy is on reserve at the library.



  • The first word in a sentence, even if it would normally be lower case
  • Titles: capitalize every major word
  • Proper nouns, including:
    • brand name drugs (not generic names)
    • names of specific departments (Department of Graduate Studies)
    • nouns followed by numbers or letters (Day 2, Figure 3B)
      • but not nouns followed by a variable (trial n)



  • titles of:
    • books
    • journals
    • movies
    • TV shows
  • a new key term, but only the first time used
  • words and letters used as examples (the letter a)
  • variables/statistical symbols

Do NOT use italics for emphasis.

Word Choice Tips

Active vs. Passive Voice (p. 77)

We conducted the study instead of The study was conducted by us
We made mistakes instead of Mistakes were made
The dog bit the man instead of The man was bitten by the dog


Economy of Expression (p. 67)

Be succinct. Avoid wordiness and redundancy.

they were both alike one and the same in close proximity
completely unanimous just exactly period of time
summarize briefly the reason is because absolutely essential


Clarity (pp.68-69)

  • Avoid jargon (technical vocabulary, euphemisms)
  • Pronouns can be confusing
  • Avoid illogical comparisons, such as: Dogs are more likely to play with people than cats.
    • Does this mean that dogs are more likely to play with people than to play with cats, or that cats are less likely than dogs to play with people?


Bias (pp. 71-77)

Avoid bias. Avoid labeling people (the elderly, the schizophrenics, normal, etc.).


Tense (p. 78)

Use past tense when discussing another researcher's work.


Use words to express numbers under 10. Use numerals to express numbers 10 and above.

Also use numerals:

  • in your abstract
  • in measurements (5 cm)
  • in mathematical functions (multiplied by 5; 3 times as many; 5% of the sample)
  • when expressing time, dates, ages, scores, sums of money

Use words:

  • when numbers appear at the beginning of a sentence
  • in fractions (one fifth of the class)
  • for universally accepted usages (the Twelve Apostles)

Never use an apostrophe when expressing numbers in plural form (in the 1970s; 10s and 20s).

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