Tag Archives: publishing

Where’s the evidence to justify two spaces?

We’re still scratching our heads trying to figure out what prompted APA to revert back to two spaces at the end of sentences. Combing three likely sources for why they made this change, so far we’ve found the following:

  1. The Manual, itself, doesn’t appear to provide any rationale. In fact, in the introductory chapter, in which changes are enumerated chapter by chapter, no mention is made of the change to two spaces.
  2. On APA’s website, there’s a section devoted to pointing out changes (http://apastyle.apa.org/manual/whats-new.aspx). Here’s what they say about the change to two spaces: “Punctuation—return to two spaces after the period at the end of the sentence recommended for ease of reading comprehension.”
  3. On APA’s blog devoted to the Manual, they have said the change will make manuscripts easier to read: “this new recommendation will help ease their reading by breaking up the text into manageable, more easily recognizable chunks” (http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2009/07/on-two-spaces-following-a-period.html).
  4. On the APA blog, they  say:
  5. The question of whether one space or two should follow end punctuation has been hotly debated for quite some time, and it is no surprise that writers from both camps harbor equally compelling reasons for the approach they have always used, were taught, or have adopted.

  6. On the APA blog, they say: “improved readability was the impetus behind the new ‘two spaces after a period’ style recommendation” (http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2009/06/apa-style-who-we-are.html).

So, based on these statements, it appears that some combination of making manuscripts easier to read or easier to comprehend was the primary rationale for the change. And the only reference to an empirical justification for the change is the claim that both those who advocate for one space and those who advocate for two spaces “harbor equally compelling reasons.”

During times when many disciplines that recommend the APA’s Publication Manual are advocating evidence-based decisions, it’s noteworthy, we think, that these discussions of the rationale for using two spaces at the end of sentences (and after colons) do not appear to be based on scientific examination of the hypothesis that two spaces makes manuscripts more readable. We have to admit that we haven’t employed the most rigorous search methods in seeking evidence, but we’ve searched for studies comparing readability when one or two spaces follow sentence-ending punctuation, and we simply haven’t found any studies of the hypothesis.

We’d welcome assistance from the leadership of the revision of APA’s Publication Manual in locating the evidence undergirding this change. It’d save us some additional head scratching, and neither of us has much hair to protect his scalp from more scratching.


Filed under Comments, Notes, Research

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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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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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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