Formatting a Word Doc for a Paper in APA

There are pricey software programs available that will do this type of formatting for you, but with a little effort on your part you can bypass the price tag and do it on your own for free! This tutorial will cover how to set MS Word to check for grammar and style that is specific to APA (such as the oxford comma, checking for passive voice, etc). I did this in MS 2010 but the 2003 and 2007 versions can do this as well. You can also download the free APA template I created.

Page Layout

  • First you need to set your margins, font etc. Since there are many tutorials that teach this I skipped that part. I recommend Zane State College’s APA Guide. It will teach you how to:

Change font face and size
Set 1″ margins
Add a running head & page numbers
Format a title page
Format an abstract
Format a reference list (hanging indent)

Grammar and Style

  • From the “File” menu click on “Options:”


  • Next click on “proofing.” Under the “When correcting spelling and grammar in Word” menu on the proofing page select “grammar and style.” Then click on “settings:”


  • In the Grammar Settings dialog box select “always” for “Comma required before last list item” (otherwise known as the serial or oxford comma), “inside” for “Punctuation required with quotes,” and 2 for “spaces required between sentences” (this is an APA suggestion you can choose 1 if you’d like):


  • On the Grammar and style portions check every box in the list:



Heading Styles

  • Word has built in heading styles that you can modify according to APA. From the Home menu select the little arrow in the bottom right of the “Styles” box:


  • You should see a floating box that says “Styles,” at the bottom of that box click “Options:”


  • From the “Select styles to show” select “All styles:”


  • Now you should see all the heading style options in the “Styles” menu. Click on the drop down menu on “Heading 1” and click on “Modify:”


  • You will now see a “Modify Style” window. Change it to Times New Roman, size 12, black, centered, and boldface:


Save Your Template:

  • Title your paper something you’ll remember (I titled mine APA). From the drop down menu select “Word Template:”


And you’re done! Any time you need to write a paper in APA open your saved template and get to writing! When you save your new paper make sure to select “save as” rather than “save” so you don’t overwrite your template.

3 thoughts on “Formatting a Word Doc for a Paper in APA

  1. What a great blog! And, what an impressive CV. Thank you so much for the tutorial on setting up the template for APA documents. I am a medical writer and need as many templates as I can gather. I will be certain to use this one over and over, I am sure.

    I am very interested in data visualization, although I am unfamiliar with the concept or practice. Could you write a little piece on your field (when you have a spare moment – heh-heh…). Thanks again and the best of luck with your career.

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