Processes

This will be a short entry (and the first I’m writing directly on the site; luckily I can come back later and correct any errors I might make!).

I’ve talked about how writing is a process. Papers, articles, books, and such don’t move from your mind to the paper fully formed. Instead, we must engage in a process of reading and rereading our writing. We need to make sure it says what we want it to. We have to make sure that our audience (the people we are writing it for—beyond professors—will understand it. We have to make sure it is grammatically correct and has correct spelling and punctuation. If it is a piece of writing that requires us to use outside sources and state where we got them, that has to be done correctly, too.

All of this take time and patience—and the need to take time away from our work so that we can re-see it. It is a process. And I wrote the above steps in the order I did because that is usually the process we are supposed to use. After all, why work really hard on getting a sentence perfectly right when it very well may not end up in the final draft because it doesn’t fit what you want to say or won’t make sense to your audience?

This was supposed to be a segue to talking about a lesson I learned yesterday. A client, a graduate student, pointed out that the 6th edition of the American Psychological Association’s Style Guide says that there needs to be two spaces after any sentence that ends with a periods (it is different with commas, colons, and semi-colons). This is a change from the 5th edition.

If you have been around for a while—and especially if you have used a typewriter—two spaces after a period was standard. It simply made the paper easier to read. (Plus, it made essay a little longer for those of use who didn’t write enough!) Any formatting in typed papers was really limited to side margins. And all thumbs were poised to hit the space bar twice.

Then computers arrived, and formatting and typing changed. For one, much of the formatting was merely setting what we wanted; the program did the rest.. And the second space tended to disappear (though it was hard for many of us to untrain our thumbs!). The reference style manuals I used for citations and paper format (APA, MLA, Chicago, and others) agreed that one space worked well.

Well, APA changed that, apparently so people can read papers more easily. Some online comments have stated that it will be easier for professors and others who have to read a lot of papers in a short amount of time (I feel for them, but that’s not why).

However, as a friend who knows much about computers and graphic design says, With any proportionally spaced typeface, the extra space is built in. An extra space is completely redundant, and actually makes readability worse by calling attention to itself. Good typesetting seeks to make itself invisible to the reader.” He further points out that if he were to put six spaces or so between sentences on a Facebook comment, they would disappear into only one when he posted it.

The APA certainly has the right to make changes, to try different ways that they think will help. It’s possible this one will cause more confusion that it’s worth—particularly since it is only mentioned in an “exception” in a small section about very common rule (that hasn’t changed). It’s all a process.

And I’ll have to change my process: instead of my first action with a new client’s paper is to replace all the double spaces with single ones, I’ll now have to make sure that APA papers have all those double spaces.
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