How to Do Abbreviations and Numbers in APA Style

by | Oct 13, 2020 | APA Style, Essay Writing

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Information is taken from the 7th edition Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, latest version, 2020.


Abbreviations and numbers are pretty much unavoidable when writing an APA style essay, and it’s sometimes difficult to know the correct way to handle them. In this quick guide, we’ll go over the proper way to format abbreviations specific to APA formatting.

APA Style Abbreviations

When using abbreviations, think about the familiarity that your reader may or may not have with the acronym and what it means. If you use an abbreviation multiple times throughout your paper, it’s good to spell out the full word or phrase the first time, so your readers aren’t left in the dark. Let’s go through some of the specific rules for using abbreviations in APA format.

  • The first time you use a term that you will later abbreviate, provide the full name and parenthesize the abbreviation immediately after.

  • When using the plural form of most abbreviations, add a lowercase “s” with no apostrophe (IQs, URLs, vols., ESs).

  • Never begin a sentence with a lowercase abbreviation.

  • When dealing with units of measurement, always use the metric system unless otherwise instructed. Write out the complete name of measurements that aren’t paired with numbers (several meters, weight in kilograms). Use abbreviated measurements when paired with numbers (7 cm, 18 kg, 15 °C).

  • Do not abbreviate the words “time,” “day,” “week,” “month,” or “year.” However, you should abbreviate the words “hour,” “minute,” “second,” “millisecond,” and “nanosecond,” when they are attached to numbers.

  • Chemical compounds can be written using the common name or the chemical name; however, if you use the common name, provide the chemical name in parentheses on the first use.

APA Style Numbers

When using numbers in your APA paper, you can follow this general rule: Numbers 10 and above should be written in numeric form, and numbers below 10 should be spelled out. You can remember this rule and loosely apply it to your APA paper, judging each case by what you think looks best on the page. Let’s look through some of the more specific rules for numbers in APA format.

  • Numbers that represent mathematical or statistical values should always be in numeric form.

  • Numbers that represent dates, times, ages, and scores should always be in numeric form.

  • Numbers that begin a sentence, title, or heading should be spelled out. If possible, try to reword the sentence to avoid starting with a number.

  • Common fractions should be spelled out (one half, two thirds).

  • Use a combination of spelled out numbers and numbers in numeric form when multiple numbers appear back-to-back in your paper.

  • Place a zero before the decimal when using numbers below one (0.11, 0.089).

  • Using roman numerals is fine, primarily if used by a source cited in your paper.


It’s impossible to avoid numbers and abbreviations in an APA style paper, so it’s essential to make sure they are formatted correctly. This guide has broken down each common element of numbers and abbreviations from the APA style guide, so you should have all that you need to write an incredible APA paper!

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