A Few Important New Rules in the Sixth Edition of the APA Publication Manual

APA Writing Style

Writing in APA Style presents significant challenges. Neither students nor professionals have the leisure to commit to memory the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. To complicate matters, the first printing of the Sixth Edition of the publication, printed in July 2009, contained errata on over 80 pages. For this reason, do not purchase a used copy. Amazon.com and the American Psychological Association are presently selling only later, corrected printings of the work.

Changes Between the Fifth and Sixth Editions of the APA Publication Manual

Although the Sixth Edition is more concise than its predecessor, this is partly because it lacks the wealth of examples provided in the Fifth Edition. Also, there are numerous rules in the Fifth Edition that have been changed in the Sixth Edition. I present below a few important changes in the mechanics of APA Style:

Whereas the Fifth Edition recommended inserting one space after punctuation marks at the end of a sentence, the Sixth Edition stipulates two spaces.

Both editions provide a general rule to use numerals to express numbers 10 and above and words to express numbers below 10. However, the Fifth Edition made an exception that the Sixth Edition does not: When numbers 10 and above are grouped together in the same sentence with numbers below 10, the latter are also expressed in numerals.

Two examples of this outdated rule follow:

4 of 29 analyses
3 of the 36 groups

Numbers

There is also a difference between the two editions in another exception to the rule of expressing numbers 10 and above with numerals and those below 10 with words. Whereas the Fifth Edition stipulates that all numbers denoting time should be in numerals (e.g., 2 months), the Sixth Edition states that this exception no longer applies for approximate designations of days, months, and years (e.g., about two months ago).

Report p values to two or three decimal places (e.g., p = .031, p = .03). However, the Sixth Edition states to report p values less than .001 as p < .001.

Bulleted Lists

Whereas the Fifth Edition did not allow bulleted lists, the Sixth Edition suggests that writers who wish to avoid connoting an “unwanted or unwarranted” ordinal relationship (e.g., chronology, priority, importance) among items in a list may wish to resort to bulleted lists rather than numbered ones.

Making APA mistakes can cost a significant amount of time and money. You may need to revise an entire manuscript, which could entail enrolling in school for another semester or more.

To avoid these serious inconveniences, consider enlisting the expertise of a competent APA editor.

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Ayla Myrick