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Is your paper “heading” for trouble?

Adams, A. (2019, December 17). Is your paper “heading” for trouble? APA Style.
abstract drawing of colorful silhouettes of heads

Now that you’ve had some time to peruse the seventh edition of the Publication Manual and the new APA Style website, you may have noticed that guidelines for heading levels have been expanded, and, in some cases, revised to aid writers in creating an effectively organized document for their readers. For example, writers no longer have to sift through the Publication Manual just to determine whether their headings should be in title case or in sentence case, bolded or nonbolded, or double-spaced or single-spaced. Current APA Style guidelines advise writers to use title case, boldface, and double-space for all headings.

How are heading levels useful?

Headings help writers highlight the important content in their work, and they also help readers easily find the information they need. Generally, a writer may find themselves incorporating three or more heading levels in a paper, using a Level 1 heading for the top-level or main sections of a paper, a Level 2 heading for the subsections of a Level 1 heading in a paper, a Level 3 heading for the subsections of a Level 2 heading in a paper, and so on.

When using various headings in your work, start with the highest level of heading and progress to the other heading levels as needed (see Figures 2.4 and 2.5 in the Publication Manual). Recommendations for heading levels have been updated for consistency and accessibility. For example, subsections in the introduction may begin at Level 2 because a paper’s title operates as the de facto Level 1 heading.

How many heading levels are actually needed?

The number of headings to use depends on the complexity of the work. If you’re writing an extended piece, use as many heading levels as needed to convey your information clearly. If you are unsure of how many headings, if any, to include in your work, please consult your instructor, institution, or publisher.

Where can you find more information on heading levels?

If you want to learn more about how to compose a well-organized document for your readers, please see Sections 2.26 and 2.27 and Table 2.3 in the Publication Manual, the heading levels templates on the Instructional Aids page, and the Headings page on the APA Style website.

Cheers to precise and clear writing!