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College essays and punctuation.

DrezDrez Registered User regular
edited March 2010 in Help / Advice Forum
When I was in school, the rule was "two spaces after a period." I'm told that that is deprecated. I am proofreading and editing a friend's essay for her and I just want to make sure I am doing the right thing here. Nowadays, I use one space after a period. Two spaces is unnecessary. But which is expected/required within a college essay? Or does it not matter?

It probably doesn't matter much, but I do know some administrators and teachers are sticklers about this kind of thing so I was curious if anyone had any input as to current rules and expectations. I don't want her to get points taken off because of my highfalutin, newfangled grammars or nuttin'.

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  • Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    It doesn't matter. The two space thing is a relic of older hardware (typewriters and ancient printers); periods often looked like commas, and the two space thing became a way to break sentences apart and ease readability. AFAIK modern style guides don't specify one way or the other.

    I would be pretty amazed if a prof checked for spacing after periods.

    ed: AP style actually says one space, so there

    ed2: also, modern word processing programs tend to autocorrect extra spaces, either by removing them or by changing the letter spacing, which means that the difference between one space and two probably isn't even as big as you think it is. There is a surprising amount of debate out there on this topic!

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  • DrezDrez Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Dyscord wrote: »
    It doesn't matter. The two space thing is a relic of older hardware (typewriters and ancient printers); periods often looked like commas, and the two space thing became a way to break sentences apart and ease readability. AFAIK modern style guides don't specify one way or the other.

    I would be pretty amazed if a prof checked for spacing after periods.

    ed: AP style actually says one space, so there

    ed2: also, modern word processing programs tend to autocorrect extra spaces, either by removing them or by changing the letter spacing, which means that the difference between one space and two probably isn't even as big as you think it is. There is a surprising amount of debate out there on this topic!

    Thanks :) That's what I figured.

    Word 2010 doesn't autocorrect 2 spaces into 1 space, by the way. At least not by default. Actually, it doesn't change anything about the number of spaces after a period. I just put THREE after a sentence. It left it at three. Hmm.

    Well anyway, thanks :)

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  • Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    It remembers that you put three spaces there, but I bet if you were to actually print it and compare the length of the space after the period with a single standard space between words, the space after the period would be smaller than you would expect it to be.

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  • DrezDrez Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Dyscord wrote: »
    It remembers that you put three spaces there, but I bet if you were to actually print it and compare the length of the space after the period with a single standard space between words, the space after the period would be smaller than you would expect it to be.

    Possibly. I'd have to check. If I copypasta to Notepad (which has fixed width letter spacing), all three spaces are maintained. With variable width letter spacing, though, a "space" takes up much less room, so if I printed it, I'm sure it wouldn't look that bad. Particularly if you use full justification. Which I personally think is a good practice with essays and articles.

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  • WileyWiley In the dirt.Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    MLA has no preference and their examples in the manual show only one space.

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  • ihmmyihmmy Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Personally I prefer 2 spaces, because I find it improves readability. But, that's me and not the rest of the world

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  • Al_watAl_wat Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    I use 2 spaces and after typing for so many years its basically muscle memory and I don't even think about it.

    The answer you are looking for is: 1 or 2 spaces are fine. Either one.

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  • ScrubletScrublet Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Drez wrote: »
    but I do know some administrators and teachers are sticklers about this kind of thing

    You pretty much got it right here. I know of certain freshman level english professors at my school who were still espousing this two-space thing. I will say at work that most people still seem to use the two spaces in their e-mails and writing (in official company documents), so YMMV. Everyone saying it probably doesn't matter is right but if you get one of those douchebag professors that just hasn't gotten a handle on what's really important in school...

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  • scrivenerjonesscrivenerjones Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    The answer is whatever the prof wants. If you haven't been told already, you will when you get the paper back. Unless the prof doesn't care, in which case, great.

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  • GrizzledGrizzled Registered User
    edited March 2010
    As a grad student, whether writing my own papers or grading the papers of undergraduates, nobody pays any attention to the number of spaces after a period. I have one professor who is obsessed with good grammar and punctuation and even that professor wouldn't care about something like this. So you're probably fine using whichever style you feel most comfortable with.

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  • Inquisitor77Inquisitor77 2 x Penny Arcade Fight Club Champion A fixed point in space and timeRegistered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Caring about this is the exception, not the rule. No one cares as long as there's between 1-2 spaces and it's consistent (i.e., not distracting to the reader). Writing and grammar guidelines on this have not been established, because as a previous poster pointed out, the two-spaces rule is an artifact of early word processing requirements. For the hundreds of years before that, people didn't measure how much space was between the period and the next letter. And now that we have modern computers and programs, no one gives a shit.

    That's a really long way of saying that a professor who cares about this doesn't know what he or she is talking about. Unless it's explicitly stated in instructions, I wouldn't care about this. And if you lose points on it, you can always take it to the department head or the dean. I'm sure they love spending their time on this kind of stuff. Because they don't have more important things to do than clean up after their douchebag-anal colleagues.

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  • MrMonroeMrMonroe Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    It is absolutely an anachronism since the advent of proportional fonts and anyone who asks for it is being a jerk. Unfortunately if they are your professor you'll have to just do it and get over it.


    Incidentally, most web browsers won't even display it unless you use a special HTML code. That sentence had one space after it. That one had three! You can't see the difference because the font coding already renders sentences normally and the people who wrote HTML knew how silly it was to put extra spacing in with proportional fonts.

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  • LewishamLewisham Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    MrMonroe wrote: »
    It is absolutely an anachronism since the advent of proportional fonts and anyone who asks for it is being a jerk.

    Note that all scientific papers are one space only.

    I only heard about this thing a couple of months ago, and I found it pretty shocking.

    You should always always always type one space. If you absolutely have to, you can change your formatting preferences in the document to add more. You gain nothing from typing more than one space.

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  • RUNN1NGMANRUNN1NGMAN Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    MrMonroe wrote: »
    It is absolutely an anachronism since the advent of proportional fonts and anyone who asks for it is being a jerk. Unfortunately if they are your professor you'll have to just do it and get over it.


    Incidentally, most web browsers won't even display it unless you use a special HTML code. That sentence had one space after it. That one had three! You can't see the difference because the font coding already renders sentences normally and the people who wrote HTML knew how silly it was to put extra spacing in with proportional fonts.

    The only exception for this is in legal writing. For some reason everyone requires two spaces and feels pretty strongly about it--it's a little weird. I do find that having two spaces after the period with in-line citations makes things a little easier to read because it's a little easier to scan to the end of a citation and pick back up with the text when the sentence ends with a ". " rather than ". "

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  • Iceman.USAFIceman.USAF Major East CoastRegistered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Just be consistent. The person reading your essay probably won't be measuring spaces, but if you're inconsistent they will notice without looking too hard.

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  • ArchArch Neat-o, mosquito! Registered User regular
    I definitely only notice the "two spaces" thing when my students have not really written enough to hit the page requirements and are trying desperately to look like they've done more work than they have.

    My real advice is, use one space- most collegiate level formatting guidelines either don't specify or when they do specify, they want you to use one space.

    H3Knuckles
  • ElvenshaeElvenshae Registered User regular
    @Arch

    You okay, mate? Why're you necroposting something from 11+ years ago?

    Inquisitor77DarkewolfeMunkus BeaverH3Knuckles
  • ArchArch Neat-o, mosquito! Registered User regular
    Uhhh??? I saw this at the top of the H/A forum, read it over coffee without looking at the dates, and hit post. Kind of embarrassing, but now I'm also wondering why it was the top post for me.

    Weird, I guess lock and delete it, and I'll live forever in infamy.

    ElvenshaeInquisitor77DarkewolfeAldoH3Knuckles
  • ElvenshaeElvenshae Registered User regular
    There was someone else necroposting about college essays in ... SE++? Maybe it's a bot and it posted here, but it got deleted. :D

  • XaquinXaquin Right behind you!Registered User regular
    a bot got removed

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  • DarkewolfeDarkewolfe Registered User regular
    This has been a thrilling delve into history though.

    What is this I don't even.
    ElvenshaeAldoXaquinH3Knuckles
  • OrcaOrca Registered User regular
    Two spaces after a period is "tell me you're old without telling me your age."

    As someone who still hasn't trained himself out of it...

    H3KnucklesDaenris
  • FiendishrabbitFiendishrabbit Registered User regular
    1. The most important thing is to be consistent. Choose one or the other.
    2. I have yet to take a class where a the class reading list didn't specify a style guide. In this case pretty much every style guide specifies that unless asked to do otherwise you should use 1 space.

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This discussion has been closed.