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5 posts from July 2009

July 30, 2009

On Two Spaces Following a Period

Sw4 by Sarah Wiederkehr

Do you remember dot matrix printers? These early generation printers were affordable for home use, but widely spaced pixels made their output tough to read. When run on the draft setting, dot matrix printers were intoxicatingly zippy. To print a document with a more humane, higher density output, however, the term-paper writer was forced to watch the ink head take three passes at each line of type—a steep (and excruciating) investment in time.

As I progressed through my college career, more and more professors declared that they would no longer accept work produced on dot matrix printers. In my heart of hearts, I could not blame them. I can only imagine what a weekend of slogging through hundreds of pages of weakly printed copy would have done to the eyes of those professors.

The new edition of the Publication Manual recommends that authors include two spaces after each period in draft manuscripts. For many readers, especially those tasked with reading stacks of term papers or reviewing manuscripts submitted for publication, this new recommendation will help ease their reading by breaking up the text into manageable, more easily recognizable chunks.

Although the usual convention for published works remains one space after each period, and indeed the decision regarding whether to include one space or two rests, in the end, with the publication designer, APA thinks the added space makes sense for draft manuscripts in light of those manuscript readers who might benefit from a brief but refreshing pause.

As I learned in college, it is never a bad idea to consider the eyes of the person reviewing your work.

July 23, 2009

To Slash/Not to Slash--That Is the Question/Quandary

“Punctuation is to make clear the thought expressed.” So say the authors of the Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual (p. 267), and they’re right, of course.  This sentiment explains some editors’ reservations about the slash (also called a solidus, slant, diagonal, virgule, forward slash, front slash, oblique stroke, or shill). In my years of editing, I’ve noticed that writers like the slash, and use it, but editors tend to, if not detest it, at least eschew it (the MLA Style Manual, for example, declares “the slash, or diagonal, is rarely necessary in formal prose”). Why? Ambiguity. Merriam-Webster’s entry on the slash illustrates perfectly the symbol’s foggy identity, defining it as “and” and “or” and “and or.”

Style, like all well-meaning advice, is sometimes a matter of urgency (e.g., “I would suggest you exit this burning house”) but more often is a matter of taste and discretion. So the sixth edition of the APA Publication Manual cautions readers not “to use a slash when a phrase would be clearer.” Or? And? “X, Y, or both?” APA Style also calls for the use of a hyphen or short dash for simple comparisons. Still, there are times when “and/or” hits the mark best, and this blogger, for one, thinks it’s a serviceable enough construction. Moreover, “and/or” is an entry in the 11th edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.

Other sources echo APA’s cautions. Weighing in on “expressions of equivalence or duality,” the American Medical Association (AMA) allows a forward slash (actually, AMA likes the term virigule) to signify “and” but urges rewording around the virigule “in the likelihood of ambiguity” (p. 353). In Copyediting: A Practical Guide (1990), Judd noted that the slash is used to indicate options (e.g., when you’re going to a party/fete/gala) but reserved its principal use for mathematical copy. The Modern Language Association (MLA) likes the slash for “two terms paired as opposites/alternatives and used together as a noun.” The Chicago Manual of Style seems more tolerant of the slash, noting without commentary that it can be used as shorthand for “or” or “and.” (I’m disappointed that the venerable Words Into Type doesn’t address the slash.)

In sum, the shifty/flexible nature of the slash (and the lack of consensus on its use) reinforces the notion that effective writing and/or editing is always a matter of thinking through the small details.


July 16, 2009

Why Isn't APA Style Applied to the Book Describing It?

Daisies by Stefanie

Open your copy of the 6th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Peruse the pages. Absorb (and enjoy!) its wisdom. But do not look for strict adherence to APA Style in the dropped letters beginning each chapter, nor the flush left indentation of the first paragraph of each section, nor the cool logo and shading found at the top of each page.
On page 7 of the Publication Manual is a brief explanation: “APA Style rules are designed for ease of reading in manuscript form. Published work often takes a different form in accordance with professional design standards.” This sums up the reasoning but may strike some as unsatisfying.
It may help to think of it this way: The Publication Manual applies not to all stages of writing but to a particular stage of writing, the first and arguably most important stage when ideas are being shaped and clothed in words and symbols that readers will understand. APA Style encourages and supports standards of clear communication for writers while keeping in mind the needs of readers, consisting, at this stage, of editors and reviewers (or, for students, professors and other graders).
Once the article is written, reviewed, edited, revised, accepted for publication, copyedited, and sent to the printer for typesetting, the article leaves the land of APA Style and enters the stylistic world of whatever publisher has accepted it. With a book like the Publication Manual, the designer needs to keep the information easily readable and accessible while drawing the reader’s eye and interest, thus the visual elements such as shading and boldface where one might not be used to seeing them in classic APA Style. Samples of writing and visual elements that are in APA Style stand out and are easier to find and use when they differ from the book’s style.
Although an entire book that puts APA Style into practice from beginning to end is a good idea in theory, our hope is that a book that clearly describes APA Style and is liberally filled with examples of it—that is, the new Publication Manual—will be even more useful.

July 09, 2009

Five Essential Tips for APA Style Headings


Chelsea blog 2by Chelsea Lee

The 6th edition of the Publication Manual brings an important and exciting change: a new way of doing headings. The updated headings style should make headings easier to understand, implement, and see in your finished paper. Here are five essential things you need to know:

  1. APA has designed a five-level heading structure (we numbered them to talk about them, but you won’t actually number your headings in your paper). Click the image below to get a close-up view of the new heading style.APA Style Headings 6th ed

  2. Proceed through the levels numerically, starting with Level 1, without skipping over levels (this is in contrast to the 5th edition heading style, which involved skipping levels depending on the total number of levels you had—how complicated!).

  3. The first heading in your paper will appear within the body of the paper, that is, after you have started writing your text. There are two common mistakes to avoid when assigning the first heading in a paper. First, do not use the heading Introduction; the beginning of the text is assumed to be the introduction, so it is redundant to use this heading. Second, although the title of the paper appears at the top of the first page of text (as shown in the sample papers), the title is not considered a heading; it is a section label. Thus, to set up your paper correctly, put the paper title at the top of the first page of text, centered and in regular font, and then start writing your text. When you need to introduce a heading within the text (e.g., the Method heading for an experimental study), format that first heading as a Level 1 heading. 

  4. Use as many levels as necessary to convey your meaning. Many student papers and published articles use two or three levels. Longer works like dissertations may demand four or five levels.

  5. Need more guidance? Consult the Publication Manual (Chapter 3, Section 3.03) for more examples and explanation. Also look at published APA articles to see how it’s done—APA articles published since January 2010 show the new heading style.  

How do you like this heading style? Do you have any questions or comments about it? Please share!

July 02, 2009

The Sixth Edition: Effective Now?

 Paige-for-web-site 75x75

by Paige Jackson


When will I need to start using the sixth edition of the APA Style Manual?




It will take a while to figure out what’s different about the revised manual and for the new style rules to become second nature. That may take a year or so. At APA, 2010 journal issues will be the first ones to adhere to the revised manual.



Do I need to update manuscripts that are in peer review so they conform to the revised manual?




We do not expect authors who have manuscripts near the final stages of peer review to revise their papers to conform to the sixth edition. APA staff will make the necessary changes during copyediting.



What if I’m thinking about submitting a new manuscript to an APA journal?




APA journal editors expect that new manuscripts submitted after January 1, 2010, will conform to the sixth edition. Before then, new submissions will probably be a mixture of fifth and sixth edition styles. Authors, in their later revisions, and/or APA staff will make sure all accepted articles follow sixth edition style. APA’s Instructions to All Authors contain the latest updates about submitting manuscripts to APA journals.



What about requirements for courses or for submitting to non-APA journals?




Professors or editors of other journals that use APA style may have different expectations—so be sure to check individual course requirements and journal instructions to authors to figure out what timetable for the transition will apply. Some will start in the fall of 2009, and some in the winter of 2010. Ask in your class.


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