Author Archives: John Wills Lloyd

About John Wills Lloyd

Too old, too heavy, too slow, but still chugging along.

Randall Munroe’s take

From Randall Munroe’s XKCD


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Alive on the bigger stage!

The question of whether to add that extra, wasted space after sentence-ending punctuation is hot again! For your reading pleasure:

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Have your say!

We are pleased to announce the availability of SpaceWaste polls. Click on the link for an individual poll under the heading “Polls” in the right rail.


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Old dogs and new tricks

I am glad that I learned to type. When I learned to type, while I was in junior and senior high school in the 1960s, we had the luxury of using electric typewriters. Even though the schools’ machines were modern typewriters, they used the same technology as both the manual typewriters I had at home, the trusty Royal that I used regularly and the Royal Portable that was in a closet (the latter left over from my father’s college days in the ’20s; I still have both). The school and home typewriters produced type in which every letter occupied a fixed dimension.

Type with fixed dimensions was called “fixed width” or “monospaced.” The physical space occupied on a page was the same for an i and an m. When typewriters had monospaced type, it made sense to use two spaces after sentence-ending punctuation and internal colons.

Wikicommons image of type differences

Without disucssing dot-matrix printers (mayhaps in a later post), when personal printers capable of printing proportional type became widely available, beginning with the Apple Laserwriter (I suppose), things changed dramatically. That extra space after sentence-ending punctuation was no longer needed. I could print type that mimicked the kind of print I knew from learning how to set cold type while in junior high school (a skill I no longer find valuble).

So, 15 years ago I was happy to see that the Publication Manual abandoned its requirement that I make my thumb hit the space bar twice after sentence-ending punctuation (compare p. 140, American Psychological Association, 1983, with p. 244, American Psychological Association, 1994). What liberation! I no longer had to switch modes depending on whether I was typing a manuscript or just about anything else. I could employ the same thumb behavior regardless of reader.

Now I’m asked to return to differential responding. One space after sentence-ending punctuation when I’m typing most everything except manuscripts for submission to journals.

Thanks to Bassetman3 for making this image available

Oh, woe is me. I’m an older dog who must learn new tricks.

I wonder if I should plan to use monospaced fonts, too. Mayhaps I could just put the old Royal on my desk and relegate these monitors and plastic keyboards to a shelf.


American Psychological Association. (1983). Publication manual (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

American Psychological Association. (1994). Publication manual (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.


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Heads up to folks responsible for Web pages

The changes in the APA Publication Manual will require many people to change their pages about using APA style. Now, I’m not writing this because I’m recommending that they add non-breaking spaces in their HTML. It’s just that people who have developed Web pages explaining APA style to folks will need to revise their pages.

At least one individual has already updated his page. See the recommendations of Doug Degelman of Vanguard University: “Spacing after Punctuation: Space once after commas, colons, and semicolons within sentences. Insert two spaces after punctuation ending sentences” (emphasis added; accessed 29 July 2009).

To get an idea of whether people had pages (or other documents) that would require updating, I searched with Google using “+apa style spaces after period” (sans quotes, of course). Here are 50 places where authors will apparently need to update their directions:

  32. (our colleague’s guide for his students)

Google returns 248,000 results, though not all of them would be as germane as these first 50. Yahoo returned 145,000 and Bing returned 91,000. I didn’t check the extent to which those items overlap with the items in the list from Google.

To be sure, the authors of these resources will have to update their works to bring them into line with some of the other changes in the Publication Manual (e.g., headings). Still, it’s a lot of updating.

Some of these sources, however, are basing their recommendations on even-older versions of the Publication Manual. Some of these also include substantial other departures from APA style. And, just in case things are not confusing enough, here’s one that states that two spaces are needed, although it’s based on an earlier version of the Manual that didn’t require two spaces!


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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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APA’s style blog

APA is publishing its own blog about the use of the style in the Publication Manual. It’s available via this link and we’ll add it to our blogroll to provide easy reference for others.


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