How to cite personal communication in APA?

Time to read: 6 Minutes
personal communication apa

APA is a style or format for structuring essays or research papers in academic writing. The role of APA is to show the reader or professor the exact source of the content in your paper. According to this style’s guidelines, personal communication is not cited like the other types of content.

This write-up provides you with a guide for citing personal communication APA.

FAQs: How to cite personal communication in APA?

The following are some of the most commonly asked questions regarding how to cite an interview or personal communication APA:

Sources that are not recoverable by readers are referred to as personal communication in APA. These include private emails, texts, direct messages, personal interviews, lectures, live speeches, and telephone conversations, to name a few.

Communications or information from undocumented sources can also be cited as a personal communication in APA.

Unlike other references, personal communication APA cannot be retrieved. Therefore, they are not usually included in the reference list, but only cited in the text. You can cite personal communication content using the initials and surname of the communicator and the exact date of the communication.

The straightforward answer to this question is NO. You should not include personal communication APA in your reference list, since the readers cannot access the source of information. Instead, personal communication is usually cited in the text.

The format for citing personal communication APA is relatively easy. All you have to do is indicate the initials and surname of the source, followed by the date when the information was delivered to you.

Note: The citation must be placed right after the quote. Personal communication can also be paraphrased.

Personal communication: Definition

In academic writing, personal communication is defined as works that readers cannot recover. This means that the reader cannot access the data other than what is presented in the document.

You can also use personal communication citation when you cannot provide a recoverable source. Personal communication can also be content from sources that have not been published formally or are only available to a particular group of people.

Examples of private communications: emails, text messages, online messages or chats, telephone conversations, one-on-one interviews, live speeches, unrecorded lectures, personal letters and notes.

How to cite personal communication?

When using the APA referencing format, you do not usually include personal communication in the reference list at the end. As already explained above, this is because the given information cannot be accessed or recovered by the readers. Instead, you have to use in-text citation. The format for citing personal communication is pretty straightforward – just add the initials and surname of the communicator and the date of the communication.

Below you can find a few examples of personal communication citation in APA:


J. Michaelson (Personal communication, September 4, 2019) stated that students need to understand the value of referencing in academic and research papers.


In the example above, the citation comes before the information. However, you can also have it the other way, as in the following example:


Referencing your sources in research papers is a mandatory requirement (J. Martin, personal communication, February 19, 2017).


You can also indicate the communicator’s name and the date of the communication on different ends of the statement:


J.D Prince explained that “infections are often contracted during the recovery process in the hospital” (personal communication, May 18, 2018)


If you choose to mention the communicator’s name in the sentence leading into or before the quote or paraphrased content, you do not need to repeat it in the in-text citation.

Extra Tip: You can also include a personal communication statement as a quote or paraphrase.

Take Note:
Sometimes you may use interviews published in journals, websites, magazines, and other publications to source your content. The magazines may cite the content as personal communication. However, in this case, you cannot do the same. Such content is cited as magazine articles. This is because the readers or your professors can easily track down the interviews and recover the content.

Quoting your research participants

In APA, it is also recommended that you quote the research participants. This means that you have to include the name of the participant in the personal communication citation, whether it is an interview, telephone conversation, email or an unrecorded lecture.

personal communication APA agreement

However, it is highly recommended that you abide by any ethical arrangements regarding confidentiality or anonymity, depending on your agreement with your participants. You must clear this up with the participant during the consent or permission process and respect the decision on whether or not you can include their titles or real names in your text as a citation.

In case they do not give consent, you can always disguise their information. This does not mean that you get to exclude them when quoting research participants completely. You can disguise the participant information by assigning pseudonyms, obscure identifying information, or presenting aggregate information.

Down below is an example of a personal communication citation where the communicator’s name is disguised:

“It is important to abide by confidentiality rules when quoting participants” a lecturer at the United Lias University, (personal communication, December 13, 2012)

Citation in the reference section

As mentioned before, personal communication is not a type of information cited in the reference section. The content included in the reference list is usually of such nature that the reader or the professor, who is grading your paper, can find it themselves, if they want to check the legitimacy of  the presented information. Therefore, including personal communication APA in the reference list is not required.

All you need to do is make  sure it is still included somewhere   in your text and you are done. Here are more examples on how to make in-text citations:


G.K. Williams, personal communication, February 15, 2019


G.K. Williams (personal communication, February 15, 2019)

In a Nutshell

  • Personal communication APA is any content without a traceable or a retrievable source, including personal texts, direct messages, emails, interviews, and telephone conversations, among others.
  • Personal communication APA citation is usually done in-text and not included in the reference list.
  • This type of citation usually includes the initials and surname of the communicator and the date when the communication took place.
  • The content of personal communication APA citation can be written as a direct quote or paraphrased, depending on what you prefer.