New APA versus the Web

If one uses most of the popular editors for entering text in a form for the Web, inserting an extra space after sentence-ending punctuation in HTML on pages to be displayed in Internet browsers, the browsers will simply ignore them. Extra spaces are still rendered as if there was only one space. Here are a few illustrations:

  1. Here is the end of the sentence in this first bullet. There is one space in the HTML after the period.
  2. Here is the end of the sentence in this second bullet. There were two spaces in the HTML after the period.
  3. Here is the end of the sentence in this third bullet. There were three spaces in the HTML after the period when I typed it.

To make the extra spacing required by the Publication Manual, a typist would have to insert this character string for each extra space: &nbsp. Here’s how the same set of items would appear with the extra spaces inserted using the HTML entity for extra spaces.

  1. Here is the end of the sentence in this first bullet. There is one space in the HTML after the period.
  2. Here is the end of the sentence in this second bullet.  There were two spaces forced into the HTML by inserting the entity after the period.
  3. Here is the end of the sentence in this third bullet.   There were three spaces iforced into the HTML by inserting the entity after the period when I typed it.

For bonus points, read the corresponding bullets in the text of these two lists. Does number two in the second list read more easily than number one in either the first or the second list? According to the rationale offered on the APA’s webpage (note that I didn’t capitalize “web” in this usage, as per the new recommendations) about changes in the manual, it should read more easily.

Now, I understand that the Pub Manual describes the production of a manuscript, not the final document. Because this observation about spacing in HTML is about spacing in a finished document, I’m illustrating spacing in a different form. Although the form differs, it still is relevant to the question of whether the extra space adds to readability.

For the geeks: Yes, technically, the non-breaking space is used to keep spacing between words from breaking across lines. However, if one wants to have two spaces after a sentence-ending period, using   is about the only way to have it happen in HTML, no?

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1 Comment

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One response to “New APA versus the Web

  1. Hans Wurst

    Using non-breaking spaces can lead to strange editing errors (e.g. when removing the period and the normal space), also some software might differentiate between a normal and such a special space so that for example searching might yield different results. And don’t even get started on the semantic sense of the non-breaking space…

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