I'd like to learn the APA style guide, so that, in addition to the fiction and general non-fiction I work on currently, I can start accepting academic editing jobs. However, I know very little about the details of APA and I don't know what the best strategy is for learning it. I also understand it's very different from AP and Chicago, the style guides I use most and know the best.

The tutorials John linked to in the comments look like a good resource and, best of all, they're free. However, from experience, I learn best by hands-on, applied project-based learning. However, this style guide is a foreign country to me, and I don't know if my usual style of learning will work well with APA.

My question:

How do I learn APA quickly? Should I look for training right away, or, since I learn best when I have a project, should I dive right in and then fill in the gaps later on? At which point can I consider myself competent enough at the style manual that it would be ethical for me to start accepting editing jobs using APA? How will it be different from other, non-academic style manuals?

  • I'd welcome any edits or suggestions that would make this question better. This is a collaborative site; please feel free to be bold and edit stuff in here. I'd like to specifically avoid answers that are links to training resources and little else. I'm specifically looking for an overview of the process of applying APA to papers, so I know how to approach learning it. Apr 24, 2012 at 17:56
  • TLA? WTF? APA? Besides that, you should mention, why you do not use the most obvious steps: Getting the book (apastyle.org/manual/index.aspx) and looking at the tutorials (apastyle.org/learn/tutorials/basics-tutorial.aspx) - Are there any problems with them? Not "quickly" enough? I mean if you want to go professional with APA, you need the manual anyway (that means, if I haven't picked the wrong TLA). Apr 26, 2012 at 12:11
  • @JohnSmithers - I missed those tutorials; thanks, will go through them. However, the thrust of the question isn't how to learn APA but how to learn APA when I learn best by hands-on, applied project-based learning. Will edit the question to make that clearer. Apr 26, 2012 at 17:21
  • John Smithers – Good info. I'm going to look those links up myself. Keep the good stuff coming. ;-)
    – Ace
    Apr 26, 2012 at 17:44

2 Answers 2


My first thought was "Why not start with the Web site you mentioned and take the Basics Tutorial?" You mention that you learn best with "applied project-based learning," but you cannot work on projects without first having a least a little knowledge of the topic -- it's a "chicken and egg" thing. I would look at the tutorial, because they provide examples of manuscript formatting, citing references, etc., which are basic to doing any work with APA.

After the tutorial, you should read the "Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association" (currently, Sixth Edition). If you want to take a course, there's the "Mastering the Sixth Edition" course.

Especially with academic style-guides, there are a lot of rules and idiosyncratic syntaxes to memorize. Sometimes there are no shortcuts.


I agree with getting a copy of the APA publication manual, sixth edition either digital or hardcopy. I have both and use them all the time. The APA also has a website for reference based on the book. But, I also highly recommend using the Purdue OWL (online writing lab) APA style section. It is great for quick reference because it is searchable and is based on the APA Manual. Their website has examples of APA papers and a APA style workshop.

Website is here

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