APA Running Head | Example + Instructions for Word & Docs

This article reflects the APA 7th edition guidelines. Click here for APA 6th edition guidelines.

A running head is an abbreviated version of your paper’s title. It’s placed in the page header of your document, together with a page number. The running head is only required for professional manuscripts intended for publication, not student papers (unless instructed otherwise).

An APA running head can be up to 50 characters (including spaces) and is written in all capital letters. It’s left-aligned and appears on all pages, including the title page. It’s not necessary to put the label “Running head” in front of the title (as was the case in APA 6).

APA running head (7th edition)

Setting up the APA running head in Word and Google Docs

To set up an APA running head in Word:

  1. Click on “Insert” > “Header” (or double click at the top of a page).
  2. Select the “Blank” template (left-aligned without additional formatting).
  3. Insert your (abbreviated) paper title in capital letters.

To insert automatic page numbering:

  1. Click on “Insert” > “Page number”.
  2. Select the top-right position.
  3. Check the “Show on first page” box if possible.

These steps may differ slightly depending on your version of Microsoft Word.

To set up an APA running head in Google Docs:

  1. Click on “Insert” > “Headers and footers” > “Header”.
  2. Insert your (abbreviated) paper title in capital letters.

To insert automatic page numbering:

  1. Click on “Insert” > “Page numbers”.
  2. Choose the option with page numbers in the top-right corner on all the pages

Abbreviating long titles for the running head

If your paper title is longer than 50 characters, you need to use an abbreviated version for the running head. The APA guidelines state that:

  • You don’t necessarily need to use the same words in the same order.
  • You can’t use abbreviations, but you may use an ampersand (&) instead of the word “and”.

Examples: abbreviating the title

Running head example 1
  • Original title: Social Comparisons on Social Media: The Impact of Facebook on Young Women’s Body Image Concerns and Mood
Running head example 2
  • Original title: Examining the Energizing Effects of Humor: The Influence of Humor on Persistence Behavior
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Raimo Streefkerk

Raimo has been writing articles for Scribbr since 2017. His areas of expertise are plagiarism and citation. Besides writing articles, Raimo works tirelessly on improving Scribbr's Citation Generator and Plagiarism Checker tools.


Shana Bertato
May 15, 2021 at 6:26 PM

Hi there,

I am currently finishing my masters thesis and now comes the most difficult part: the running head. I have quite a long title and was wondering, if it is allowed to use parentheses and VS instead of versus (although it is an abbreviation).

Thank you!

Best regards


Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
May 17, 2021 at 10:37 PM

Hi Shana,

The running head should be abbreviated, but mainly by cutting it down to just the key words. The running head should be 50 characters or fewer (including any punctuation and spaces). APA does recommend avoiding abbreviations though, so I would avoid "vs." I'm not sure how exactly you would use parentheses to shorten your title, but they're certainly allowed. In general, just focus on cutting down your title to a few words that convey the topic effectively; the words don't necessarily have to be in the same order as they are in the full title.


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