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APA Citations (7th ed.): In-text Citation Author Rules

This guide will help you learn how to properly cite sources in APA style and how to avoid plagiarism.

Author Rules

APA has different rules for in-text citations depending on:

  • The number of authors of a work
  • Whether you are citing a group author that has an abbreviation
  • If an author is unknown or anonymous
  • If more than one work has the same author and date
  • If multiple authors share surnames

Look to the right to find rules about each of these circumstances.

Number of Authors to Include in In-text Citations

For a work with one or two authors, include the author name(s) in every citation.

     (McCall, 2019)

     (Moyer & Hendricks, 2014)

     Thornton and Manning (2016)


For a work with three or more authors, include the name of only the first author plus "et al." in every citation, including the first citation, unless doing so would create ambiguity.

     (Huerta et al., 2019)

     Kapoor, Bloom, Montez, et al. (2017)

     Kapoor, Bloom, Zucker, et al. (2017)


To learn more about avoiding ambiguity in in-text citations, see pp.266-267 of the manual.

Group Authors, With and Without Abbreviations

Authors may be groups. For example, you may cite a work written by the National Institute of Mental Health, or NIMH.

If a work is authored by one or two groups, include the group author name(s) in every citation.

     (Morningside College, 2019)

     (Harvard University & Cambridge College, 2018)

     (U.S. Department of Agriculture et al., 2019)


If a group author has an abbreviation, introduce the abbreviation in the first citation. In subsequent citations, use the abbreviation in place of the full group name.

     First citation: (Mothers Against Drunk Driving [MADD], 2015)

     Subsequent citations: (MADD, 2015)

Unknown or Anonymous Author

For works with an unknown author, include the title and year of publication in the in-text citation.

If the title of the work is italicized in the reference list, also italicize the title in the in-text citation. If the title of the work is not italicized in the reference list, use double quotation marks around the title in the in-text citation.

Capitalize titles in in-text citations using title case, even though sentence case is used in the reference list entry.


     Book with no author: (The Future of Entrepreneurship, 2018)

     Magazine article with no author: ("Towards a Psychology of Collective Memory," 2015)


When the author of a work is overtly designated as "Anonymous," this takes the place of the author name in the in-text citation.

     (Anonymous, 2016)


See pp. 264-265 of the manual for more information.

Works With the Same Author and Same Date

When multiple references have an identical author (or no authors) and publication year, include a lowercase letter after the year. This lowercase letter is also included in the reference entry.

Use only the year with a letter in the in-text citation, even if the reference list entry contains a more specific date.

     (LaBlanc & Ibarra, 2019a)

     (LaBlanc & Ibarra, 2019b)

     (Kirk, n.d.-a, n.d.-b)

Authors With the Same Surname

If the first authors of multiple references share the same surname but have different initials, include the first author's initials in all in-text citations, even if the year of publication differs.

     (J. R. Stuart & Frey, 2016; M. Stuart, 2019)


If the first authors of multiple references share the same surname and the same initials, cite the works in the standard author-date format.

     (Grant, 2019; Grant & Reese, 2017)


If multiple authors within a single reference share the same surname, the initials are not needed in the in-text citations.

     (Chen & Chen, 2018)