Headings denote the content within sections of a paper. While most people correctly use the main heading, APA subheadings must be carefully used based on the length and complexity of the paper.

Headings should be concise yet descriptive to clearly understand what the section will be about. Clear and well-formatted headings are helpful to readers of all abilities and enhance the readability of the text.

Why Are APA Subheadings Important?

APA-style paper is a set of instructions for writing articles using a specific set of formatting rules. These instructions are designed to make the layout, content, and overall look of the paper identical to specific academic journals or books.

Moreover, the APA style allows you to identify specific sections of an article by using subheadings. These subheadings can be further subdivided using yet more subheadings. The main goal is to provide a standard for the consistency of the work.

Man wearing blue shirt writing on paper with bold pen
Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

All About APA Headings & Subheadings

The APA Style employs a particular heading system to separate and organize paper sections. These headings are used to help readers navigate through the paper or document. Each section of the document should begin with the highest level of heading since the levels are arranged according to levels of subordination.

The APA Style has five levels of heading. No matter how many levels you have, always use the headings in order, starting with level 1.

Level 1 is the highest level of heading, followed by APA subheadings like Level 2, Level 3, and so on through Level 5.

Papers may include more than one heading based on their length and complexity. Use only the number of headers required to distinguish each section of your paper. Sometimes short papers don’t even need any heading or subheading.

Common Errors to Avoid in APA Headings:

  • It is best to avoid using only one subsection within a section.
  • Avoid using numbers or letters to identify headers.
  • Headings should be double-spaced; do not use single spacing within headings.
  • Avoid adding blank lines above or below headings even if the header appears at the bottom of the page.

Levels of APA Headings

Here are the levels of APA headings and how to format them in APA style:

Level 1:

Centered, Bold, Title Case Heading

Start text as a new paragraph.

Level 2:

Flush Left, Bold, Title Case Heading

Start text as a new paragraph.

Level 3:

Flush Left, Boldface Italic, Title Case Heading

Start text as a new paragraph.

Level 4:

Indented, Boldface Title Case Heading Ending With a Period. The text continues on the same line and same paragraph.

Level 5:

Indented, Boldface Italic, Title Case Heading Ending With a Period. The text continues on the same line and same paragraph.


It’s important to learn how to create effective APA subheadings and headings. This is because it will allow you to distinguish the underlying topic or nature of a given article.

Headings are what one encounters first and provide an instant glimpse at the article. And subheadings offer explanations of the article that are more detailed, in-depth, and necessary for a proper understanding thereof. They provide clarity and completeness.

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

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