Sybil Low by Sybil Low

When writing academic papers, it’s important to give credit to the sources of the information you use. This includes not just books and articles but also personal communication like emails, interviews, and private letters. Citing personal communication correctly helps you avoid plagiarism and adds credibility to your work.

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One common citation style used in academic writing is the APA (American Psychological Association) style. It’s widely used in the social sciences, such as psychology, sociology, and education. In the APA style, citing personal communication is a bit different from citing published sources. You need to include the communicator’s name, the phrase “personal communication,” and the date of communication. The APA style is popular because it provides clear guidelines for formatting and citing sources, and makes it easier for readers to follow and understand your research.

What Falls Under the Umbrella of Personal Communication in Academic Writing?

In academic writing, personal communication refers to any information you receive directly from a person, rather than from a published source. This can include conversations, whether they’re face-to-face, over the phone, or via online platforms, as well as written communication like emails, private letters, or direct messages.

Here are some common examples.

How to Cite Personal Communication in APA

It’s important to note that personal communication should only be cited in your academic work if it provides necessary information that’s not available from a public source.

How to Cite Personal Communication in APA

Citing personal communication in APA format is fairly easy, since it isn’t a lengthy research article. Here’s how you can do it step by step.

Identify the Key Elements

  • The communicator’s name (first initial and last name).
  • The phrase “personal communication.”
  • The exact date of the communication (month, day, and year).

Format the In-Text Citation

Place the citation in parentheses within the text of your paper, similarly to the example below.

How to Cite Personal Communication in APA

Include Details in Your Text

When mentioning the personal communication in your paper, provide a brief explanation of the context.

How to Cite Personal Communication in APA

Remember, personal communication is not included in the reference list at the end of your paper because it’s not a source that readers can access. Instead, it’s cited only within the text to acknowledge the source of specific information.

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When to Cite Personal Communication?

When preparing your work, it’s appropriate to include personal communication when it provides key information that cannot be accessed otherwise. Personal communication can be relevant and reliable if it comes from a credible source with expertise or firsthand experience related to your topic.

Here’s a table with examples of when it’s appropriate to cite personal communication and when it’s not:

✅ Appropriate to Cite❌ Not Appropriate to Cite
An expert’s unpublished opinion on a topicInformation that can be found in a published source
A personal interview with a key figure in your researchGeneral knowledge or widely known facts
Direct correspondence with an author about their unpublished workSecondhand information or hearsay

For example, citing an email from a researcher discussing their unpublished findings is appropriate. However, citing a conversation about common knowledge or information that can be easily accessed in a published source is not necessary.

When including personal communication in your work, remember to point out its relevance to your research and make sure the source is reliable. This will definitely improve the work itself and further prove the credibility of your academic writing.


How do you cite personal communication in APA?

In APA, cite personal communication in-text only, using the communicator’s initials and last name, the words “personal communication,” and the exact date. Example: (J. Doe, personal communication, May 10, 2023).

What qualifies as personal communication in APA?

Personal communication in APA includes emails, interviews, private letters, conversations, phone calls, and other forms of direct communication that are not retrievable by others.

Can personal communication be included in a reference list?

No, personal communication is not included in the reference list in APA because it is not a retrievable source. It should only be cited within the text of your paper.

How do you cite an email communication in APA?

To cite an email communication in APA, include the sender’s initials and last name, the words “personal communication,” and the date of the email. Example: (A. Smith, personal communication, June 15, 2023).

How do you cite a conversation in APA?

To cite a conversation in APA, include the person’s initials and last name, the words “personal communication,” and the date of the conversation. Example: (B. Johnson, personal communication, April 20, 2023).

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