How to Cite Email References in APA Format

by Kristie Sweet, Demand Media

According to the American Psychological Association, the purpose of its standardized documentation format includes ensuring the integrity of research and fostering rights to words and ideas. Failure to properly document the source of such information results in plagiarism, which undermines your credibility as a writer and may result in serious consequences. Even email communications must be properly documented.


According to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th Edition), any reference to words or ideas from outside sources must include an in-text citation to indicate the source of that information. Email, along with other types of personal communications such as letters, interviews and phone conversations, fall within this category, as well. Use the sender's name as you would an author for a source, using the initial for the first name followed by the last name, like "J. Smith" (without the quotation marks). Follow the name with an indication of the type of source: "personal communication" (without the quotation marks) and the specific date of the email.


You may put the sender's name in the context of the sentence like a signal phrase, such as "According to J. Smith" or include the name inside the parentheses along with the "personal communication" and date. Put a comma before the date. Spell out the month and then write the day and year with a comma between the two numbers: (personal communication, August 22, 2012). Since email messages are not available to the public, such sources do not appear on the references page.

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  • Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th Edition); APA

About the Author

Kristie Sweet has been writing professionally since 1982, most recently publishing for various websites on topics like health and wellness, and education. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Northern Colorado.

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