How Strong a Faction?

In response to a post we made to the APA Style Blog questioning the Manual’s change  to two spaces, Sarah Wiederkehr responded, “You have hit the proverbial nail on the head – improved readability was the impetus behind the new ‘two spaces after a period’ style recommendation in the Publication Manual. Believe it or not, there is a strong faction of readers out there who prefer this spacing; in fact, many in the legal community require it” (link).

Leaving aside the question of  what  it means that “many” in the legal community require two spaces, we wonder  how strong the faction favoring two spaces is in the community that uses APA style. Admittedly, we’ve only talked to a few of our colleagues  so far, but none  has thought the change to be for the better. In fact, most have been dismayed.

John & Dan

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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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Hello world and space!

Welcome to the WordPress.com site about the American Psychological Association’s recommendation that typists put two spaces after sentence-ending punctuation.

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