Serious About Spacing

By Chrissine Rios, MA, Purdue University Global Writing Center

Are you one of them? Do you space like it’s an exact science? Do you bypass 2.0 on the spacing shortcut and go straight for Line Spacing Options?

Not this: 2.0. Done.

Not This-2.0.Done

But this:  Line spacing > After and Before: 0 and 0 > “Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same style”: Check. OK.

But this-LineSpaceOptions

I do this. I get right in there and change the spacing to double, make all other settings 0 and check the “Don’t add space” box. I’m quick too because I know Word better than any other software. I’ve been using it for 18 years. If you also remember word processing in the days before Internet, then you’ve probably also been using Microsoft Word since its earliest version and are just as adept with its options and settings.

I would not expect the typical undergraduate to be as adept with MS Word as I am or even very concerned with Line Spacing Options. Students only have to set their paragraphs to double, after all.

In my paper reviews and in Live Tutoring, I help students with double-spacing when the I see quadruple-spacing instead of paragraph indentations or instead of hanging indentations on the reference list or if I see single-spacing or inconsistent spacing that distracts me from reading or leaves me no room to put comment bubbles next to where I’m commenting. And when I do comment on spacing, I’ll refer the student to the Writing Center’s APA Headers and Title Page tutorial, which is a video demonstration on page formatting in Word. Or, if the problem involves hanging indentations, I recommend our APA Reference Page Tutorial, 6th Edition.

You may know these videos as they are two of the Writing Center’s most popular resources. The reference page tutorial has had over 44 thousand views since it was published in December of 2011. It shows how to (1) create a page break to begin the references list on a new page, (2) center the heading “References” on the first line of the page, (3) left justify the first line of the references list, and (4) create hanging indentions by selecting “hanging” on the Special menu in Paragraph settings. The tutorial is very basic, intended for students new to APA. It’s 2:27 minutes long, including the musical intro and outro, so it’s not only basic but short.

Recently, I received an email about this video that panicked me. An instructor wrote saying the video was showing incorrect spacing, and that it needed to be fixed because it was misleading students about APA formatting. She pointed out that the “After” spacing is set at 10 points and not 0.

You can see this during the ten seconds that the tutor narrating is showing how to select “hanging” from the Special menu. She begins by saying, “Everything down here stays the same” as she circles the line spacing settings with her pointer. I’ve put an orange box around the area for you to see (Figure 3). The tutor then moves her pointer to the Special menu where she selects “hanging.” She then clicks okay, and the next step, she informs the viewer, is to start writing the citations, and that concludes the tutorial. Again, very basic. This is not a tutorial on double spacing as that is done in our title page tutorial.

References Video Screenshot

Figure 3: Screenshot of references video

I’m the point-of-contact for resource development at the Writing Center and Academic Support Center, so I fix any problems with resources right away. Due to how many times this video has been viewed and because I’ve never heard a complaint about this one before or noticed this issue in the video myself, I took this instructor’s concern very seriously. After all, I format the same way that she does! But, confession: I only just learned to change the “before” and “after” paragraph spacing a year ago, and I did not do it for the purpose of APA style but while developing resources and trying to make content fit on the page the way I wanted.

So I watched the video again to assess the gravity of this issue, and I watched our title page video too, which also shows the After spacing to be 10 points, and then I opened up Word and formatted my document accordingly. And now I think it’s time we all got serious about spacing.

First, Find the difference:

1. Line spacing as shown in the video: Double, Before 0, After 10, “Don’t add space…” checked.

Line Spacing Double 1.102. Line spacing “fixed”: Double, Before 0, After 0, “Don’t add space…” checked.

Line Spacing - Double 00

Side by side: No difference in line spacing on the page.

side by side 1

side by side 2According to my experimentation and observation, when “Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same style,” is checked, a number in the After box does not add space. Since the video shows the “Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same style,” students are correctly being shown how to double-space.

Additionally, if the Before and After settings are both at 0, and that “Don’t add space” box is not checked, there also won’t be extra space, so that’s an alternative for the same desired result: either check the box OR put 0 in the “before” and “after” settings. Doing one or the other will create evenly double-spaced lines throughout the document. Yet, APA does not explicitly state the need to go into the document’s settings and alter the defaults.

Here is the APA spacing requirement. Note that APA style is ultimately for professional and scholarly publications, and the line spacing requirement is in the “Author Responsibilities” section of Chapter 8, “The Publication Process.” In 8.03 “Preparing the Manuscript for Submission,” the requirement for line spacing is the following:

Double-space between all text lines of the manuscript. Double-space after every line in the title, headings, footnotes, quotations, references, and figure captions. Although you may apply triple- or quadruple-spacing in special circumstances, such as immediately before and after a displayed equation, never use single-spacing or one-and-a-half spacing except in tables or figures. (APA, 2009, p. 229)

This section on manuscript requirements begins by acknowledging that different publications have their own specifications, and that APA’s focus in this chapter is on preparing a peer review draft that is readable.

So here is the crux of the issue: APA says to double-space, and MS Word says double-spacing is 2.0, Before: 0, After 10. My version of MS Office 2013 came with these default settings, anyway. Other versions may be different. I’ve seen 0 After and 5.95 Before as the default too. Yet, I do not see the APA requirements or the Word defaults as being at odds.

If I were told to color using orange, I would color with a crayon that says Orange on the side. To expect my orange to be Hex #FF7F00 when my software’s default orange is Hex #ED7D31 would be unfair. Now if I were told to use a specific Hex number and was shown how to change the Hex number, then that would be fair. Similarly, if students are asked to double space, it is unfair to expect them to do more than select double-spacing on the formatting ribbon at the top of the page. Students have various competencies with technology and won’t automatically know to do more than that without being informed to do so, and many more need to also be shown how. So it’s as simple as helping students meet expectations by being clear about what they are and by providing the support necessary for them to meet them.

In the Writing Center, we tutor how to double-space by showing them how to go into the Line Setting Options, select 2.0, and check the “Do not add space” box. However, when students come to us for help with their thesis statements, we help them with their thesis statements and not spacing, if you know what I mean. We also encourage instructors to share our APA tutorials as instructional aids when they assign papers that must follow APA style guidelines for page formatting and citation. And I will update that reference page video this year using a newer version of Word, but should I leave Word’s default Before and After spacing or change it? Please comment if you have an opinion on this.

And consider this: What if next year, APA says we should all single space because that is easier to read or that creates more accessible files for a diverse readership using multiple technologies. We can zoom in on the page, after all. I’m reminded how spacing after periods has evolved. First we typed with two spaces after periods, and then word processors automatically added extra space after end marks, so APA went to one space after periods, and now that we do most of our reading on a screen, APA has changed it back to two spaces because it’s easier to read, but look at me. I’m still using one space! This could be trouble if I were a student and my instructor expected double.

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