Word Processors Are Not Typewriters

J. P. Braselton, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
Ohio University

For those of us who learned to touch type prior to modern word processors, there are different rules from what we learned during our typing lessons with those clunky, noisy, upright Underwood, Smith Corona, Royal, and Remington typewriters. I became aware of several of the changes through experience when I was invited to write a review article for a scientific publisher who required that the manuscript be written in Microsoft® Word with formatting set to the publisher's specifications.

The main reason for the changes in rules of formatting is that modern word processors primarily use proportional fonts such as Helvetica, Times New Roman, Verdana, Georgia, and Arial. Typewriters had fixed width type, which can be mimicked with word processors by using fonts such as DejaVu Sans Mono, Courier New, and Courier 10 point.

Since most writing with word processors is with one of the proportional fonts, the main change is with spaces after full stops ("." and ":"). Instead of what was drummed into our heads, i.e., two spaces after full stops, the standard now is for only one space after periods (".") and colons (":").

Other problems one sees with word processed documents where the author was using the word processor as if it were a typewriter include the following.

Once you have your document written and formatted, if you plan to send it through email to others, or post it online, please consider the reasons why you should convert DOCs, DOCXs, and PPTs to PDFs.

The following are several of the many online sites that address spacing after full stops. Also check the links that go into detail about how to use word processors, particularly Microsoft® Word. For those of you who are like me and use free, open source office suites such as LibreOffice and Apache™ OpenOffice, many of the instructions for Word may apply to them as well.