How to Make an Essay with APA Standards?

The essay is an argumentative text in which it is intended to expose, defend, sustain or validate by means of arguments a personal or institutional opinion on a specific topic.

The essays, like all academic texts in areas such as social sciences, humanities and medicine, must follow certain requirements established by the American Psycological Association (APA), which establishes regulations ranging from the measurement of page margins to the way to quote or refer information from others and the way to indicate the documentary sources at the end of your text.

Following the indications and criteria defined by APA may seem difficult, but it is not, although it is true that it has a certain degree of complexity.

For that reason, the easiest way to follow the rules of APA is to have a good manual or guide-text that solves the particular doubts, but above all that it offers us the general notions.

The principle: the general format of the page

The first step to perform an assay according to the rules established by the APA situation manual is to give the appropriate format to the page, for this we recommend you to follow the following basic rules:

The size of the sheet should be 21.6cm X 27.9cm or 8.5 X 11 inches. This measure corresponds to the so-called letter or letter size, in English, as you can also find it in your word processor.

The margins (all: top, bottom, right and left) must measure 2.54 cm, that is, one inch.

Paragraphs should begin with a five space indentation. With the exception of the first paragraph of the essay and the initial paragraph of each of the sections; the same as the paragraph following the long quotations that are put in the nested paragraph (we explain that later).

The general size of the letter is 12 points and the preferred spacing is double spaced, but it can also have 1.5 line spacing.

Your essay should be aligned to the left, according to APA, although I recommend that it be justified (with left and right margins aligned), as it gives an impression of greater order and cleanliness.

All pages of your essay must be numbered in the bottom margin


The quotation is the fragment of text that is not of your authorship and that you refer with the purpose of using as argument for your essay or to strengthen some own argument.

When you use ideas or text fragments that another person has written, for intellectual honesty, you must refer that it is not yours and indicate who the original author of that quote is.

To that end, APA has a series of rules that allow those who know their writing model to identify which parts of the essay are your words and which are not; of those that are not yours.

It also has a series of rules that allow you to identify what type of appointment you are referring to: direct brief appointment, indirect brief appointment or extended appointment.

Appointments within the paragraph

Many authors of essays and yourself in your essay, are in need of referring the words of a writer who is authority on the subject they speak.

To indicate that those ideas of a writer are not their own, a series of indications established by APA must be followed.

With the previous example we can deduce certain essential rules:

Direct quotes are those in which the words of the referred author are copied, without any change.

Short direct citations (less than 40 words) should be part of the same paragraph, which will be different if the extension is greater, as explained below.

Any direct quotation or textual quotation must be enclosed in quotation marks.

At the end of the citation, the source should be referred to in a synthetic manner and in parentheses with the following formula: (First surname of the author, year of edition of the book, page (so abbreviated) where the citation is found).

Indirect Appointments

In many occasions, when we write an essay we refer the ideas of other people without verbatim copying their words, that is, we cite them indirectly, only the idea, although not their words.

Appointments in nested paragraph

When direct quotations or quotations exceed 40 words or the four complete lines, they should appear in a separate paragraph from the rest of the text with the following specifications:

This extended citation appears in a separate paragraph with a font size smaller than the general size of the text. That is, if the size of the letter is 12 points, the extended citation in nested paragraph is 11 points.

The line spacing of an extended appointment in nested paragraph goes from 2 to 1.5.

The quotation in nested paragraph, although it is a textual quote, does not have quotation marks.

The left and right margins are extended 1cm, so the space for the paragraph is reduced in size

At the end of the appointment, the source from which the appointment was taken is written in parentheses and with the formula mentioned above.

Appointments of magazines, videos or internet pages

At present and for many years, the sources of knowledge are no longer only in books, but also in paper and digital magazines, as well as YouTube videos where scientists, politicians or newspapers offer us information and blogs or pages of Internet.

When you are going to quote, directly or indirectly, briefly or extensively, some magazines, videos or the internet, you should immediately put in parentheses the essential data of the source: author’s last name, year in which the video was written or recorded and , if it is a magazine, the page where you take the appointment. If it is a video or internet page that does not have the text on pages, such as paper, it is not necessary to put a page.

In the case that you cite a PDF document that is only the digitization of a book, it is cited as if it were a paper book.


In other writing models, to the last part where the sources used to write your essay are cited, it is called Bibliography, but APA indicates that it is called References because it is not only books that are cited, but magazines, blogs, videos, newspapers, and archival documents, among many others.

All documents cited within your essay should be referred to at the end in an extensive manner that allows your readers to know what sources you were useful for the construction of it.

There is a general formula for making your appointments.

Notice that after the surname, only the first, goes a comma and then the initials of the name followed by a period.

Then in parentheses the year of edition, again period and in italics the name of the book; point again. Immediately the name of the city, never of the country, and then of two points the name of the publishing house and final point. The source that follows.

To make citation easier in a word processor such as Word, we recommend your tutorial, which will make it easier for you.

Finally, remember that not only books, but magazines and others are cited; for this reason, it is important that you always have at hand a good manual that tells you how to correctly cite this type of documents in your References, so I suggest you have at hand the synthesis of the APA manual made by the Popular Autonomous University of Puebla.

Now, to write your essay following the APA rules with precision.