What’s New in APA-6? One Space or Two?
If you’re old enough to have learned to type on an actual typewriter, as I did, then you undoubtedly learned to use two character spaces (i.e., two taps of the space bar) in between sentences. There was a reason for this: Typewriter type was not proportionally spaced. Since all letters occupied the same amount of space on the page (i.e., an “i” took just as much space as a “w”), placing an extra space after the final punctuation in sentences made the breaks between sentences more readily apparent.
Then came computers—and with them, proportionally spaced type. With the advent of proportional type, extra space between sentences is automatic, making the old double-character-space rule obsolete. And with fully justified texts, the old rule becomes completely irrelevant, since flexible spacing between sentences is one of the vehicles for achieving right justification. Most major style sheets—including APA, MLA, Chicago, and Turabian—took the position that one space (not two) should be used after final punctuation in sentences.
THE NEW RULE IN APA-6 IS
TWO SPACES BETWEEN SENTENCES IN DRAFT MANUSCRIPTS.
Space once after all punctuation as follows:
· after commas, colons, and semicolons;
· after punctuation marks at the ends of sentences;
· after periods that separate parts of a reference citation; and
· after the periods of the initials in personal names (e.g., J. R. Zhang).
Insert one space after
· commas, colons, and semicolons;
· periods that separate parts of a reference citation; and
· periods of the initials in personal names (e.g, J. R. Zhang).
Exception: Do not insert a space after internal periods in abbreviations (e.g., a.m., i.e., U.S.), including identity-concealing labels for study participants (F.I.M.), or around colons in ratios. Spacing twice after punctuation marks at the end of a sentence aids readers of draft manuscripts.
Making it clear that this change of rules applies to “draft manuscripts,” the new edition of the APA Manual of Style does not intend to suggest rules for typesetters of journals and books. What about writers of dissertations, theses, and academic papers? Technically, such documents are in final form, not draft. Of course, the best advice is to seek direction from the institution, program, or individual instructor. If these specify APA as the style sheet of choice, though, you should return to the old practice of using two spaces between sentences.
Using the latest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style (16) or the MLA Handbook (7)? Then you’ll likely be sticking with the practice of one space between sentences … But more on that in future posts.
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