How to Place Personal Communication Sources in APA Format

by Kristie Sweet, Demand Media

The American Psychological Association established guidelines to create consistency among publications in the sciences, social sciences and nursing. This structure allows readers to easily determine sources of borrowed words and ideas through in-text attribution and an entry on a references page. Although you still must cite personal communications, attributions for them vary from the traditional format.


Personal communications include more detail in the in-text citations than other sources do. Instead of just the last name and the year of the source, give the speaker's first initial with the last name, the phrase "personal communication" (without the quotation marks) and the exact date of the conversation in month-day-year structure. Commas appear after the last name, "communication" and the day in the citation. A parenthetical citation may look like this example: (J. Jones, personal communication, March 29, 2013). You may use the name in a signal phrase instead, but you should include the first initial, as in this example: J. Jones asserts that this idea is unworkable in reality (personal communication, March 29, 2013).


As explained in the sixth edition, second printing of the "Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association," sources listed on the References page give your reader information to find that original source. Since your reader cannot recover personal communications such as informal conversations, interviews, telephone consultations, email and letters, such sources do not appear on the list. The manual admonishes writers to carefully consider the scholarly credibility and relevance of such informal information for a paper.

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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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