We’ve asked the WEX editors about the common APA errors they’re seeing in dissertations and have created this list in the hopes writers might have an advantage in self-editing their dissertations. Here we go:


Table of Contents:

  • Inconsistent wording from the heading in the text
  • Incorrect representation of heading levels
  • Incorrect pagination and/or margins


  • Incorrect heading levels and/or appropriate margins
  • Headings from the text must have identical wording in the Table of Contents
  • Having an unnecessary subheading (only one subheading at a given hierarchical level, which means no subheading is warranted)
  • Applying Word headings styles to entire paragraphs or empty space, which causes non-heading text to show up in automated Table of Contents

Line Edits:

  • Misspellings due to homophones (it’s vs its; they’re vs their; too vs to; led vs lead; etc.)
  • Using inconsistent or incorrect verb tense when describing published research
  • Using future tense in referring to dissertation research (This study will show . . .)
  • Using the slash (/) incorrectly when a conjunction should be used (dogs/cats instead of dogs and cats). Or using a slash between two unrelated nouns (“the council/Department of Health”)   


  • Correct placement of end punctuation:
      • In-text citation: “quote” (Mariposa, 2019). (Period follows citation)
      • The end of a blocked quote. (Mariposa, 2019) (Period ends quote; no period after citation)
  • Single-spacing blocked quotes (according to certain program handbooks)
  • Adding an incorrect comma after the first author’s name in a citation using et al.: (Should be Vichy et al.; not Vichy, et al.)
  • Wrong order of multiple citations in a single parenthesis; they should be alphabetized according to first author & chronology of each resource.
  • Using “&” instead of “and” when integrating multiple authors of a source into a sentence (outside of a parenthetical in-text citation)
  • Use of et al. (from neglecting the period for the Latin abbreviation to incorrectly  including et al.    after the initial citation)
  • Making et al. a possessive: It is incorrect to add apostrophe + s to et al.


  • Misspelling authors’ names or journal titles
  • Capitalizing all words in a title or neglecting to capitalize the word following a colon or dash
  • Omitting the ampersand (&) with a work written by 2+ authors
  • Including typos in URLs
  • Failing to include DOI numbers in references or failing to use consistent format for DOI numbers
  • Failing to single space the reference and include an extra line between entries
  • Incorrectly italicizing punctuation in the References or Keywords sections (punctuation that is not part of a book or journal title)

Fussy Details:

  • Not following program handbook for pagination of front pages
  • Not having appropriate headings for Appendices
  • Using incorrect italicization in table headings and figure captions
  • Inconsistent spaces between words and/or sentences. Remember, APA indicates single space between sentences. 
  • Not using en or em dashes properly (See WEX blog, “Dash Away!”)
  • Proper use of spelling out numbers and percent vs. 10%, except for the beginning of sentences.
  • Overuse of e.g. and/or i.e. (these should not be used more than a couple of times per page)
  • Incorrect punctuation when using et al., e.g., and i.e. and neglecting to add the comma after the period (et al.,)


Though it’s always best to hire a professional editor, here at WEX we hope to empower academic writers to become masters of their craft!