An Easy Guide to APA-Style Headers

Posted by Josh on March 19, 2013 under Computers | 4 Comments to Read

If you’re new to APA style, the requirement of a different header text on the first page of the manuscript[1] might seem a bit daunting, at least on a technical level. We can help. Read on for the step-by-step, or click through for the TL;DR

Often, students solve this problem with a lot of manual twiddling of the “just hit enter a bunch and then tab over” variety. While this sometimes comes out looking okay, it makes things a lot more difficult when it comes to revising. Ultimately, this results in teachers seeing a lot of papers where, because of a minor change on page two, every header from page three onward actually shows up on the fifth or sixth line of the paper.

Eww. Nobody wants that.

Fortunately, talking Microsoft Word into using a different header for the first page of the document isn’t quite as hard as you might expect. There are lots of ways to do this, but this is a fairly easy, step-by-step guide to setting up an APA-style header in Microsoft Word 2010. I’m assuming here that you’ve already started on your paper, and are adding the title page as a last step.

Step 1: The Regular Header

For many of us, this part is familiar. At the beginning of your paper (again, assuming you haven’t added the title page yet–we’ll do that in a bit), click on “Header” under the “Insert” section of the Banner.[2] For APA style, the easiest option to choose is the “Blank (Three Columns)” layout, as it makes it easy to separate your running head from your page number.

Insert → Header → Blank (Three Columns)

This will give you something that looks more or less like this. You can go ahead and delete the middle box, since APA style doesn’t require anything in the center of your header.

Lo and behold, a header of three columns.

Type in your running head on the left, and make sure to set your font correctly–whenever you change the header, Word will go back to the default font for its theme, which is probably not the font you’re trying to use. Remember, we’re setting up the header for the paper right now, not the title page, so you just want the actual short title for your paper here.

A Running Head. Sounds a little bit like something from a horror movie, doesnt it?

Next, click on the box on the right, where your page number should go. In the “Insert” section of the Banner you’ll find a dropdown for “Page Number.” Click “Current Position,” then “Plain Number.” This means to put the current page number wherever you have the cursor right now–which should prevent Word from “helpfully” messing up the rest of the stuff you’re doing in the header. (This will also be in some wacky font, so make sure to clean that bit up too.)

Insert → Page Number → Current Position → Plain Number

Cool. So at this point, we’ve got a header for our main document that looks about like it should!

So now for that pesky title page.

Step 2: Setting Up the Title Page.

One common problem that people have with title pages is that what feels natural is, again, just hitting Enter a bunch of times. But what we really want is for the beginning of our paper to always be on the beginning of a new page, no matter what we do on the title page.

Most word processors have an easy way to do this, called a Page Break. Click on the very beginning of your document, and click on “Page Break” in the Insert section of the Banner.

As you can see, you can also press Ctrl+Return

Now you’ve got a shiny new page for your title page. Go ahead and set up your title page.[3]

Step 3: The First Page Header

So the problem now is that the header for your title page looks just like the header for the rest of your document–which is, after all, kind of the point of headers, right? But because APA asks us for a different header on the first page, we have to tell Word that.

If you click on your header on that first page, you’ll get a banner section that says “Design” under “Header & Footer Tools.”

The Design Banner. (Only available when the cursors in the header.)

Right under that is a checkbox that says “Different First Page.” Go ahead and click it.

Congratulations! Your header has disappeared. Try not to panic.

If you scroll down to page 2, you’ll see that your header is still there, safe and sound, just like you made it. But your first page now has a different header. In fact, you’ll see where the little blue box used to say “Header” on that first page, now it says “First Page Header.”

Oh crap! My header disappeared!

Type in your first page header (including the “Running head: ” part). Just like before, Word has probably decided that in fact, you really really want to be writing in Calibri 11, no matter what you’ve told it a bazillion times before. Make sure to change it.

On the weekends, Word goes door to door asking people if theyve accepted Calibre into their hearts as their personal typeface.

Now, hit tab. Your header is automagically set up so that if you hit tab twice (or once if your running head is super long), it’ll take you over to the right margin.

Once you’re there, insert the page number again the same way as above.

Insert → Page Number → Current Position → Plain Number

And lo! We’re done. Now, no matter what happens to the rest of your paper, your first page header will always be right. Here’s how it looks when all is said and done.

Oooh. Pretty.

TL;DR

The magic option is “Different First Page” in the Design section of the Banner, which only appears when you’re working in a document’s current Header. Click it, and you can set up a different header for the first page of the document.

Thanks to Bacon Ipsum for being the most flavorful
Greeking generator on the web.


  1. APA style states that, on the title page, the manuscript’s running head should be prefaced with the identifier “Running head: ”. We don’t know why either.  ↩

  2. Called the “Menu” in simpler and saner times.  ↩

  3. A dirty, shameful secret: while there are fancier ways to do it, even I usually just hit Enter a bunch to get the vertical centering right.  ↩

Success in Using the Writing Center

Posted by Andrew D. Snow on January 20, 2012 under Uncategorized | Read the First Comment

Success in the Writing Center is something you will see a lot of discussion about on this blog, specifically when to come in for a visit. This is part of the writing process and depends on each person. I have found that the best and easiest answer is to come early and come often. So how do you decide when you should join us?

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This is your brain; this is your brain trying to figure out apostrophes

Posted by Kate Moon on December 11, 2011 under Strategies, Writing Process | Be the First to Comment

This semester, for some reason, I have worked with several students struggling
with a specific grammar problem. I will be honest and say that I do not normally
feel very comfortable working through grammar with students. However, this
seemed like a problem that I could easily help with. Then I had a great idea:
Write a blog about it hoping that it would help other people not coming into the
writing center.

Apostrophes. When I was a kid I actually had problems saying this word let
alone knowing how to use them. Since then I have learned how to say them and how
to use them. For many students coming into the writing center, however, this can
be something they constantly struggle with. There are a few different uses for
apostrophes:

Showing possession.

Examples:

  • The girl’s house is over there.
  • This essay is that student’s writing.

Often times we think that if we add an “s” to the end of a word we need to add
an apostrophe. When making something plural, there is not a need for an
apostrophe. The only time it needs to be used when adding an s is if it is
explaining or showing that something belongs to, or is owned by, someone or
something. Here are some examples of situations that do not need an apostrophe.

  • The girls live over there.

Students need to spend more time studying.

One of the hardest parts of possession is when you have a plural word that also
is showing possession. We call this plural possessive and this is one of the
hardest situations in which we use an apostrophe.

For plural possessive it is almost always written with an s and then the
apostrophe (“s’”). There are a few exceptions to this rule but I will get into
that later.

Examples:

  • My parents’ car is really small.
  • The singers’ voices were very loud. (Singers is a plural word already. But
    we are showing that the voices belong to the singers. To show this possession,
    we write “singers’”.)

Another way that we can write this sentence without the apostrophe is to say:

  • The singers are very loud. (There is nothing in this sentence the singers
    have possession of, so there is not a need for the apostrophe.)

When writing a proper noun (names, places):

Laura’s boyfriend is really nice.

This is true even when the name ends with an “s”:

  • Silas’s hats are super fly.1
  • That is Mr. Jones’s dog.

Writing Contractions.

Contractions are two words merged into one. Common contractions include: Won’t,
Can’t, I’ll, I’ve, and I’d.

The easiest way to explain a contraction is to say that the apostrophe stands in
for whatever letters are omitted when the words are merged.

Example: I have = I’ve. (We removed the “ha” and replaced it with the
apostrophe.)

We have to write it this way no matter what kind of contraction it is, or how
many letters we remove.

When we write “I’d” we are saying “I would.” In the contraction we are
missing four letters, but the apostrophe represents them all.

Examples:

  • I’d like to invite you over for dinner.
  • They’re trying out for the cheerleading team.

Once you get all of these nuances down as a writer, writing with them becomes second nature. I know this seems lik*e a lot of hard information, but there are many resources available (online and also in the writing center) that you can use as you’re writing. Whether you have questions on how to use commas, interesting ways to fix run-ons, or more information on apostrophes, you can find them online or by visiting us in the comfy, cozy writing center.

Helpful links!!!!!!!!:


  1. The only two exceptions to this rule are when writing Moses or Jesus in the
    plural possessive. For both of them, you simply write:

    • Jesus’ parables are still told today.
    • Moses’ mother put him in a basket.

How to Ask for (and Get) Good Feedback

Posted by Josh on November 21, 2011 under Workshops, Writing Process | 3 Comments to Read

When Violet told me what she planned to write about last week, it made me think of all the times I’ve been on the other side of the table. Having worked in Writing Centers for a decade now, I have a lot of practice responding in peer workshops. But as a writer, I often find that my readers aren’t as comfortable responding to my writing. For me, one of the most useful things I ever learned as a writer was how to get people to give good feedback to my writing.

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Difference between Analysis and Summary

Posted by msandhu on November 10, 2011 under Genres | 7 Comments to Read

Writing a summary or an analysis seems like the easiest assignments but they can be very confusing. Many students confuse and mix summary with an analysis. They sometimes know what a summary is but they also think of analysis as a summary. However, they are two different things. A summary is rewriting what the story is about, but putting it in your own words. An analysis is breaking down the reading into smaller parts and examining it. I have put together some of the common factors that each one of them include.

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