3 posts categorized "Computer tips"

May 26, 2011

A Marginal Note

More Tales from the Style Expert Inbox

.rev2 by Jeff Hume-Pratuch

Dear Style Expert,

I would like a clarification about the margins for an APA Style paper. The APA Publication Manual (6th ed.) says to “leave uniform margins of at least 1 in. (2.54 cm) at the top, bottom, left, and right of every page” (p. 229). I believe the correct thing to do is to space 1 in. at the top margin, then single space down and insert the running head. Some of my students are using a ½ in. margin for the top of the page, then single spacing down to type in the header, followed by a double space where the text of the paper begins. Who is right here? A lot of grades are riding on this.

—Inquiring Instructor

Dear Inquiring,

Typist Unless you’re teaching at Luddite State (where manual typewriters are a must), no one should be “spacing down” anything. The APA Publication Manual (6th ed.) does direct authors to use a 1-in. margin (p. 229), but it also directs them to “use the automatic functions of your word-processing program to generate headers” (p. 230). That means there’s no need to adjust the spacing around the header—it’s automatic!

Just set your margins at 1 in. (2.54 cm) and use the default setting for headers in your word-processing program. Voila! Your paper is correctly formatted in APA Style.


Dear Style Expert,

Now my whole study group is extremely confused, because your instructions seem to contradict the sample papers in the Publication Manual. It looks like there is more margin at the top of sample p. 4 than sample p. 3, and some of the pages are cut off at the bottom. What gives?
—Going Cross-Eyed in Cincinnati

Dear Cross-Eyed,

The sample papers are illustrations, not scale models. Just enough of each page is shown to illustrate the rules that are called out in the attached boxes. They’re not intended to show every point of APA Style, however, and you certainly can’t deduce margin guidelines from them. Fortunately, those guidelines are clearly stated on pp. 229–230 of the Publication Manual. If there ever appears to be a contradiction between an illustration and the text, follow the text.


Dear Style Expert,

Why, that’s crazy talk! A margin is empty space. If you have a 1-in. margin, then there should be 1 in. of empty space at the top of the page, with no headers in it.

—Marginal Maniac


Dear Marginal,

Think of it this way: The margin is, by definition, the part of a page outside the main body of text. The running head (again, by definition) is not part of the main body of text. Therefore, it is included in the margin, not below it.

Got a Question?

If you have a question (marginal or otherwise) about APA Style that hasn’t been answered yet, post it in the comments here. We’ll do our best to demystify it for you!

September 30, 2010

Computer Editing Tip: Em Dashes

Timothy.mcadoo by Timothy McAdoo

APA Style recommends specific uses for hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes. Last week we discussed en dashes. Today we focus on em dashes.

First, when would you use an em dash? The Publication Manual (p. 97) notes that em dashes are “used to set off an element added to amplify or to digress from the main clause.” The em dash draws a reader’s attention, partly because of the physical separation that the longer dash creates and partly because these dashes appear less frequently than hyphens and en dashes. The novelty of the em dash makes it perfect for text that you want to stand out.

An em dash might set off a phrase at the end of a sentence—like this one. Or, em dashes may set off a phrase midsentence—a technique that really draws a reader’s attention—as they do in this sentence. The text between the dashes is typically a digression or outright interruption of the main idea of the sentence. When used with care, this technique can really punctuate your point (pun intended)!

But “overuse,” notes the Publication Manual (p. 90), “weakens the flow of material.” One sentence with a phrase set off by em dashes draws the reader’s attention; but frequent interruptions of this type risk making your text seem disjointed or cumbersome.

Don't worry, the Publication Manual (p. 97) notes that you can use two hyphens with no spaces around them “if the em dash is not available on your keyboard.” If you prefer to use a true em dash, most keyboards don’t include a key for it, but a simple shortcut is available!

How to Create an Em Dash in Microsoft Word
Like many people, I use Microsoft Word as my word processor, even on my Mac. (Shortcuts for other software, like OpenOffice, will vary. Please feel free to share your tips for other programs in the comments section.)

Em dashes are easy to create in Microsoft Word:

  • On a PC, hold both the Control and Alt keys and type the minus sign (specifically, the one on the numeric keypad to the right; this shortcut will not work with the one at the top of the keyboard).

    PC-em-dash

  • On a Mac, hold both the Shift and Option keys and type the minus sign (specifically, the one on the top of the keyboard).

    Mac-em-dash

  • Or, you can even copy and paste one of the em dashes from earlier in this post!

For more detail on the use of hyphens, en dashes, em dashes, and even minus signs, see page 97 of the Publication Manual.

Bonus tip for Scrabble players: Both en and em are standard words in the dictionary. These make excellent surprises to have ready in a tight game!

September 23, 2010

Computer Editing Tip: En Dashes

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

People sometimes use the terms hyphen and dash interchangeably, but there’s a subtle distinction. In fact, dashes are different from hyphens, and they have a variety of forms.


The Publication Manual shows specific uses for hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes. Today we focus on en dashes.

First, when would you use an en dash?

The Publication Manual shows en dashes for

  • items of equal weight (e.g., test–retest, male–female, the Chicago–London flight),
  • page ranges (e.g., in references, “... Journal of Applied Psychology, 86, 718–729.”), and
  • other types of ranges (e.g., 16–30 kHz).

Don't worry, the Publication Manual (p. 97) notes that you can use a single hyphen “if the en dash is not available on your keyboard.” If you prefer to use a true en dash, most keyboards don’t include a key for it, but a simple shortcut is available!

How to Create an En Dash in Microsoft Word
Like many people, I use Microsoft Word as my word processor, even on my Mac. (Shortcuts for other software, like OpenOffice, will vary. Please feel free to share your tips for other programs in the comments section.)

En dashes are easy to create in Microsoft Word:

  • On a PC, hold the Control key and type the minus sign (specifically, the one on the numeric keypad to the right; this shortcut will not work with the one at the top of the keyboard).

    PC keyboard shortcut
  • On a Mac, hold the Option key and type the minus sign (specifically, the one on the top of the keyboard).

    Mac keyboard shortcut
  • Or, you can even copy and paste one of the five en dashes from earlier in this post!


En dashes should not be confused with hyphens, which are used in compound words (e.g., self-esteem) and sometimes with prefixes (meta-analysis). Nor should they be confused with em dashes—the subject of next week’s post!

For more detail on the use of hyphens, en dashes, em dashes, and even minus signs, see page 97 of the Publication Manual.

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