APA Editing: Standard In-Text Citation Rules

APA Editing

One of the most-oft reasons APA editing is necessary for students’ theses or dissertations is to make sure their in-text citations are formatted correctly and included where required.  You must include a citation each and every time you paraphrase, reference, or use a quotation from a source other than yourself, and let’s face it—that’s often.  Adhering to the following basic formatting rules as you write will save you a great deal of time and cut down on mistakes that need to be corrected during the editing process.

Two Authors

-When Leading a Sentence

  • Include the author or authors’ last name followed by the reference year in parentheses: “Morgan and Smith (2013) reported….”
  • If the author or authors’ names are part of an introductory clause, place the comma after, not before, the parentheses: “According to Morgan and Smith (2013), participants….”

-When Closing a Sentence

  • If the source has two authors, always include both last names in the citation followed by the year.  Sentence-ending punctuation comes after the parentheses: “(Morgan & Smith, 2013).”

Three to Five Authors

  • When a source has three to five authors, include all authors’ last names in the first citation per paragraph, then include just the last name of the first author followed by “et al.” (Latin for “and the rest”), a comma, then the year.

-First citation per paragraph: “(Williams, McConnell, &Tommasi, 2010)”

-Subsequent citations per paragraph: “(Williams et al., 2010).”

 Six or More Authors

  • When a source has six or more authors, include only the first author’s last name followed by “et al.” even on the first reference: “(Brookbank et al., 2005).”


  • Following block quotations, which are 40 words in length or longer, the citation is set one space outside the final punctuation of the quotation, not inside.
  • Ampersands are used only in parenthetical citations and not when citing authors at the beginning of a sentence.
  • Take note that no comma precedes “et” and a period comes onlyafter “al.”
  • When an author’s name is included outside of parentheses, after the first citation in each paragraph, subsequent nonparenthetical citations do not need to include the year (as long as it can’t be confused with another source).  However, if a parenthetical citation is used multiple times in one paragraph, the year must be included each time.

Included here are the basics of APA in-text citation rules, but it is more than enough to get you started.  For in-depth guidelines, see Chapter 6 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed.