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I'm a student who's into graphic design. I try to make everything I turn in look nice, and usually succeed. One of the only times I feel stuck with a design that I don't like is when I have to double-space an essay. This traps white space, and makes navigating the report a little harder because a reader's eye passes right over intentional white space.

What advice do you have on how to make double spacing less annoying?
Much appreciated!

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Double-spacing doesn't create trapped white space. Otherwise, any kind of leading would be considered trapped white space.

The reason why most instructors tell their students to double-space their essay (aside from being dictated by the MLA guide) is precisely because it increases readability. Lack of sufficient leading causes text to become cramped and taxing to read. And in fact, most layouts on the web don't provide sufficient leading.

A teacher may have to grade hundreds of essays a week. So it's important that the essays turned in are double-spaced to reduce the strain on the reader's eyes. You may find a single-spaced essay to be more visually pleasing, but you're not the one who has to read 30-40 essays a night.

This is a case where design aesthetics definitely should not trump usability/accessibility.

Note: I used to sometimes cheat and use 1.8, 1.75 or 1.5 spacing to fit a really long essay into the page count limit of an assignment (or just to avoid wasting another sheet of paper for a single widowed line), but I really wouldn't recommend it.

Edit:
Personally, I think traditional typed reports, research papers, academic papers, etc. have their own pleasing aesthetic. It's not like a slick corporate brochure or an artsy web design, but they have their own romantic aura to them.

If you want to make your paper look nice and stand out in a good way, try purchasing some nice high quality stationery and type the paper using an old-fashioned typewriter, and hand it in in a nice file folder (get a string-tie one for added class).

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Not to mention it leaves room for those instructors who mark up the paper by hand. –  Matthew Read Jan 14 '11 at 4:59
    
out of curiosity can I see a visual example? –  Littlemad Jan 14 '11 at 6:08
    
@Littlemad: I can't find any good examples, but these are similar: envelopperinc.com/mm5/elements/prese_1.jpg . You should be able to find them at a stationery or office supply store. –  Calvin Huang Jan 14 '11 at 9:03
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@Calvin: well put. @Nathan: one of the things you learn in the working world is that oftentimes, what the client wants gets priority over "what looks right." If the client (in this case, the professor who assigns the essay) wants the essay double-spaced, that's what you do. Save your preferred design for other clients who don't have that requirement. –  Lauren Ipsum Jan 14 '11 at 13:57
    
@Littlemad: If you meant a visual example of a nicely typewritten report, I haven't been able to find a good picture, as most are low-quality scans. Also the subtle details you get from a typewriter or using high quality stationery is hard to capture in photos, but I'll post a picture if I come across a good example. –  Calvin Huang Jan 14 '11 at 16:27
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