2 spaces: the Dodo bird that refuses to die.

Two spaces after a period is typographically incorrect.
You heard me. It’s wrong.

The Sixth edition of the APA Publication Manual suggests 2 spaces after a period. But I refuse to do it. For I can not, in good conscience, commit such a foul deed. We will explore the APA manual a bit later. First, some background.

I know that keying two spaces after a period was likely taught to you in typing class, but you aren’t in typing class anymore. And without being critical of your age, if you (like me) had to take ‘typing’ in high school (as opposed to it’s younger sibling, ‘keyboarding class’) that was a long time ago. It’s okay, just let go. Your typing teacher would probably forgive you for it. Now.

The whole 2 spaces issue arose from a modern invention: monospaced fonts. And where is the most common place where monospaced fonts are needed? You guessed it, the typewriter. You see, in a typewriter, every character is placed on the page the exact same distance from each other. This is necessary of course, because of the mechanical nature of the device. You press the key, the type ‘strikes’ the paper through a ribbon. Every letter is the same distance apart from the next. Which means that some letters, like the letter ‘I’, are going to be further from other letters, like ‘M’. And in order to aid in readability, people came up with the idea of adding an extra space at the end of a sentence. In the late 60’s, IBM developed the Executive Model D typewriter, which featured proportional spacing (IBM archives, 2012), but it was expensive at over $700 in 1969, and by the time the technology really caught on, the damage had already been done.

With computers, we do not need monospaced fonts anymore. Probably one of the only examples of a monospaced font on your computer is Courier. You don’t use that one, right? I hope not. Why? Because it looks like it came from a typewriter, that’s why!

Typeface fonts are created with what’s called ‘proportional’ spacing. Professional typesetters have been using proportional fonts from since before typewriters were invented. Gutenberg used proportional type. What that means is that when you put the letter ‘i’ in between two letter ‘M’s, there isn’t a huge gap of whitespace. A proportional font closes the gap. The type, as a result, is set properly and therefore is easier to read, with characters looking like they belong together in a cohesive word. And the space at the end of a sentence is plenty large enough (deliberately) to do it’s job. Two spaces is overkill. The Chicago Manual of Style specifies one space (University of Chicago Press, 2010).

Which brings me back to the APA 6th. I have been told that the manual specifies 2 spaces after a period, which is odd, because we are commonly working in Times New Roman, a proportional font. Let’s look in the book: Item 4.1 says “Spacing twice after punctuation marks at the end of a sentence aids readers of draft manuscripts” (American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 88). Compared to the other rules in the manual, this one sounds a little weak, and refers specifically to draft documents. Which could mean articles written for a class, for instance. This is causing what you might call “cognitive dissonance”. I actually teach my students not to use two spaces, and now I am being asked to do the opposite.

Looks like this is shaping up to become my own personal academic rebellion. I’m going to be writing a lot of reports for this master’s degree, but I’m not going to be able to break away from using only one space, even though the APA suggests it. Who’s with me?

Note: After writing my rant above, I went looking for other writers to back up my argument, and found this excellent article on the subject from Slate Magazine that pretty much echoes what I said above.:
http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2011/01/space_invaders.html

References

American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association. Washington: American Psychological Association.

The Chicago manual of style. (2010). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

IBM Archives: IBM Office Products Division highlights – page 2. (n.d.).IBM – United States. Retrieved August 22, 2012, from http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/modelb/modelb_office2.html

Active pass

Residency is over now—the group has disbanded, and while a few remain in Victoria for a little relaxation and sightseeing, the rest of us make our way home. I am writing this post from BC Ferries. Between Vancouver Island and the mainland lie many smaller islands called the ‘Gulf Islands’. The best route the ferry can take to get through is an ‘s’ shaped gap between Mayne and Galiano islands called ‘Active Pass’. It’s a surprisingly narrow gap that is of course deep enough for the hull of a large ferry. Not only that, but it’s at about the halfway point on the route, which means that two ferries pass each other in the middle of the pass. One of my favorite west coast traditions is to go out on deck as the ferry enters the pass.

Today’s trip was outstanding. As the ship entered the narrow entrance, the water was swirling and churning from a massive rip-tide. Huge whirlpools of water, clouded with brown sediment, were spinning and dancing. Looking down from my perch on the top deck, I saw a fish jump, and watched large flocks of seagulls scavenging for whatever ocean life was getting churned to the surface for food. A seal surfaced near the boat, also likely looking for the feeding salmon that were in the area. Families on deck came over to the railing, and the parent next to me was pointing out the seal to their child just before the seal dove back down underwater.
As the other ferry entered the pass from the other end, the captain gave the requisite long blast of the air horns, then gave a few more toot-toots in greeting. Passengers covered the decks of both vessels as they passed by each other. A few more minutes, and we exited the pass, out into the straight – the final leg of the journey.

With the weeks of residency over, this educational journey has just begun. The next two years will be exciting, tiring, rewarding and frustrating all at once. I am glad to have met such a great group of people, and look forward to working with my fellow classmates in the years to come.

Voice-activated learning

In our case study this week, I have been trying to find articles and information about how language can affect the usage of technology in learning. We come to a course like this knowing that the content will be in English, but how does that relate to those of us that may have another language as our first language? I can only speak English, and the course is challenging enough. But if I were to be studying in a language that was not my first language, I’m sure it would be more of a challenge. I have met some wonderful people here in the program who are doing just that.

Since adult learning is social learning, the way that we can connect with each other, support each other, and learn from each other is very important. We must endeavour to continue to support each other online, particularly when rules such as APA writing style are hard enough in English. I liked the joke that the APA style was invented by psychologists in order to drum up business! Of online students in Australia from a study performed by John Hannon (2007), “half (50.2 percent) did not have good communication with students from other cultural backgrounds”. We must carry on supporting each other, and trying not to lose anything in the translation. I’m looking forward to it.

I will leave you with a short video about the challenges faced when using technology in other cultures.

http://youtu.be/5FFRoYhTJQQ

Reference
John Hannon, B. D. (2007). Cultural diversity online: Student engagement with learning technologies. International Journal of Educational Management, 21(5), 418-432. doi: 10.1108/09513540710760192