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APA Style Guide Cheat Sheet

What are the rules?! At university, students are expected to write papers that are well researched and well written. Sometimes, the writing process can be difficult because students don’t quite know which grammar rules to follow. The answer to this problem can be tricky: each professor and each university prefers different style guides.

VIU uses the APA style guide for style and grammar. Below are basic rules that will help guide you through the writing process. For more information, see the APA’s Publication Manual: 6th Edition or schedule an appointment with the WRMC for a coaching session.


 Type of Title Rule Example
Long works: academic journals, documentaries, books Italicize full title and capitalize essential words Don Quixote (novel)
Conferences/Events Write in plain font and capitalize essential words Syria’s Humanitarian Crisis and the International Response
Short works, like episodes, short journals, television episodes Quotation marks go around short works and capitalize essential words “Global Insights

Period Usage:

 Situation Rule Example
To end a complete sentence Place a period at the end of an independent clause The boy threw the ball at his sister.
To initial names Place a period between and at the end of the letters of an abbreviated name J.R. Smith
To abbreviate countries when they are used as adjectives Place a period between and at the end of the letters of the abbreviated country’s name U.S. Navy
To abbreviate the word inch Place a period at the end of the abbreviation, because it can be misread in.
To abbreviate acronyms of other proper nouns Omit the periods and capitalize the letters NY, VA, OH

Comma Usage:

Situation Example
To list elements the height, width, or depth
To set off non-essential and non-restrictive clauses Switch A, which was on the panel , controlled the recording device.
To join two independent clauses with a conjunction I loved the shoes I saw at the store ,but they simply did not fit my feet!
Omit when using a restrictive clause, or, a clause that is necessary to explain the sentence The switch that stops the recording device also controls the light.
Omit when you have two parts of a compound predicate All subjects completed the first phase of the experiment and returned the following week for Phase 2.

Semi-colon and Colon Usage:

Sometimes, it is a good idea to diversify your writing. If you think you may have too many commas and conjunctions, or too many short, choppy sentences, consider a semi-colon or colon.

Punctuation Mark Rule Example
Semi- Colon Join together two very closely related independent clauses that flow better without a conjunction The participants in the first study were paid; those in the second were unpaid.
(Relationship: participants, study, and payment)
Semi-Colon Join together a list that is using commas for a separate reason She lived in Lisbon, Portugal; Washington, D.C.; and Berlin, Germany
Colon Join together two independent, explanatory statements by using a colon and a capital letter for the second statement They have agreed on the
outcome: Informed participants perform better than do uninformed participants.
Colon Join together two dependent, explanatory statements by using a colon and a lowercase letter for the second statement Freud (1930/1961) wrote of two urges: an urge toward union with others and an egotistic urge toward happiness.