How to Put Emphasis on a Word in APA Format

APA guidelines suggest using words for emphasis when possible.
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Emphasis is important in research paper writing as it shows how information from sources supports your point and thereby strengthen your argument. The guidelines set down in the sixth edition of the "Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association" establish what methods you can use to effectively emphasize ideas and still follow proper format.

1 Formatting

If you want to emphasize words within a quote, you can use formatting. Italicize the word or phrase inside the quote and add "[emphasis added]" (without the quotation marks) in the square brackets to indicate the italics did not appear in the original. Such emphasis may help illustrate how the quote supports your purpose. For instance, you might emphasize "not" in this sentence:

According to Smith (2012), "The assessment is not (in italics) [emphasis added] meant to take the place of classroom testing."

You may use italics outside of direct quotes if no other method allows you to emphasize effectively, but APA style dictates using direct quotations for emphasis when possible.

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2 Language and Punctuation

Using syntax to emphasize relationships between ideas is the most appropriate for APA-style papers. Placing ideas in subordinate clauses -- those that begin with subordinate conjunctions such as "although" and "since" -- emphasizes the other portions of the sentence. For instance, the sentence "Although assessment is needed, it does not take the place of classroom testing" stresses the main clause's idea that classroom testing remains important. Similarly, using active or passive voice accentuates the information appearing first in the sentence. For example the passive voice sentence, "The assessment was given to all students" emphasizes the testing while the active voice sentence, "All students take the assessment" highlights the students. Avoid using exclamation points for emphasis in formal writing.

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.