How to Set Up APA Format in Word: A Step-by-Step Guide

Setting up APA format in Microsoft Word might seem like a daunting task, but it’s actually quite simple once you know the steps. This guide will walk you through setting up your document with the correct margins, font, header, title page, and references page, so you can focus on writing a killer paper without worrying about formatting.

Step by Step Tutorial: How to Set Up APA Format in Word

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let’s cover what we’re aiming to achieve here. APA format is a style guide used mostly in the social sciences. It dictates how your paper should look, from the title page to the references section. By following these steps, you’ll ensure your paper is professional and adheres to the APA guidelines.

Step 1: Set the Margins

Open up a new document in Microsoft Word and set the margins to 1 inch on all sides.

Setting your margins correctly is crucial because it ensures that your paper has a professional look and meets APA guidelines. To set your margins in Word, go to the Layout tab, click on Margins, and select "Normal" (1 inch on all sides).

Step 2: Choose the Correct Font and Size

Change the font to Times New Roman and set the size to 12-point.

APA format requires the use of a standard, easily readable font. Times New Roman is the recommended choice. To change the font in Word, click on the Home tab, and in the Font group, select Times New Roman from the drop-down menu. Then, set the size to 12-point.

Step 3: Add a Running Head and Page Numbers

Insert a header that includes a running head and page numbers aligned to the right.

The running head is a shortened version of your paper’s title, and it appears on every page, including the title page. To add it in Word, double-click the top of the page to enter the header area, type "Running head: YOUR TITLE HERE," and then insert page numbers by clicking on the Insert tab and selecting "Page Number."

Step 4: Create a Title Page

Make a title page that includes the title of your paper, your name, and your institution.

The title page is the first impression of your paper, so make sure it’s formatted correctly. Center the text and place the title about one-third of the way down the page. Below the title, add your name and affiliation, also centered. Remember to keep the running head on this page as well.

Step 5: Set Up the Main Body of Your Paper

Begin typing the main body of your paper, ensuring it’s double-spaced and has a left-aligned title before the text begins.

The main body is where you’ll spend the majority of your time, so getting the format right is important. Make sure to double-space your text by clicking on the Home tab, then the Paragraph group, and setting Line Spacing to 2.0. Don’t forget to include a title at the top of the first page of your main body, and remember, no bold or underlining.

Step 6: Create a References Page

At the end of your document, add a page titled "References" and list your sources in alphabetical order.

The references page is where you give credit to the sources you used in your paper. Title the page "References" and center it at the top. Then, list your sources in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. Remember to use a hanging indent for each reference.

After completing these steps, your paper will be formatted in APA style. You’ll be ready to impress your professor with a polished, professional-looking document.

Tips for Setting Up APA Format in Word

  • Always double-check with the most recent APA manual or your instructor for any updates or changes to the APA guidelines.
  • Use the "Styles" feature in Word to quickly format headings and subheadings according to APA style.
  • Don’t forget to include an abstract if it’s required for your paper. It should be on its own page right after the title page.
  • When in doubt, consult with your university’s writing center or look for online resources dedicated to APA formatting.
  • Remember to review your paper for any formatting errors before submitting it.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the running head in APA format?

The running head is a shortened version of your paper’s title that appears at the top of every page. It should be no more than 50 characters, including spaces.

How do I create a hanging indent for my references?

To create a hanging indent in Word, highlight your references, go to the Home tab, click on the small arrow in the Paragraph group, and under Indentation, select "Hanging" from the drop-down menu.

Is it necessary to include the words "Running head" on every page?

No, you only need to include the words "Running head" on the title page. On subsequent pages, just include the shortened title.

Can I use a different font instead of Times New Roman?

While Times New Roman is the preferred font for APA, you can use other fonts as long as they are legible and professional-looking. Always check with your instructor for their preference.

Should the abstract be included in the word count?

Yes, the abstract counts towards the overall word count of your paper.


  1. Set 1-inch margins on all sides.
  2. Use Times New Roman, 12-point font.
  3. Add a running head and page numbers in the header.
  4. Create a properly formatted title page.
  5. Double-space and left-align the main body’s title.
  6. Include a references page with a hanging indent.


Setting up APA format in Word is a fundamental skill for students in the social sciences. While it might seem like a lot to remember, once you’ve gone through the process a few times, it will become second nature. Plus, getting the format right from the start allows you to focus on the more important aspect of your paper—writing great content. So, take the time to get familiar with these steps, use the tips provided, and don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you need it. With a little practice, you’ll be an APA formatting pro in no time.

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