Farhad Manjoo is Right and I Will Go to This Barricade With Him
Posted on January 14, 2011 Posted by John Scalzi 175 Comments
The vile perniciousness that is the second space after a period. If you do this, you are everything that is wrong and bad in this world. That is all.
I used to, but Blaine made me stop. I will admit, sometimes I fall back on old habits. I was taught to type that way though. Oh man, I didn’t know I was like, evil ’cause of it!
Now I feel like Lenny.
OK, speaking as someone who learned touch-typing in the early 1980’s (with the second space, of course), Manjoo’s half-convinced me. Would a compromise be OK–that is, one space after a period except when using a monospaced font such as Courier?
I learned to type using the “two space” method. And as a programmer, I used courier constantly and two-spaced the documentation within my code for legibility. I’m getting better, though, and agree that one space is more pleasing to the eye, although I do still slip up every now and then. Obivously.
The two-space thing is how I was taught when I was a lad, and it did, indeed, take years to overcome. The rise of email and blog postings and other “quick-hit” communication helped rid me of the habit.
Here’s the thing, though: for submitting manuscripts, a lot of places still want you to use monospaced type (e.g. Courier, Courier New, etc.). What, then, to do about one space v. two? Since the advent of the two-space thing came about with the rise of monospace-type only typewriters…
‘Tis a silly little thing, ultimately, but inquiring minds want to know.
I agree with this, and wish to go a step further – I don’t think commas, periods, etc. belong inside quote marks. It’s bad for America.
Fortunately, HTML has solved that first problem rather handily, since it collapses multiple spaces upon display. :)
Put me in the two-space club. It just looks right to me. To quote that great American philosopher Bill the Cat: “Thbbft!”.
Guilty. Almost always. I don’t do it much online, but that’s because my typing slows down and I think to backspace over them. Thumb was trained in the 1960’s, two spaces after a terminal punctuation, one space after a non-terminal. It was (and still is, since I mostly edit using vim (and publish using TeX), a handy way to find the end of a sentence, search for a double blank. TeX fixes it up for me, computers are supposed to do such work. WYSIWYG editors, to my eye, mostly are not, and take far to long to fiddle with when they are not, such things should be done automagicly.
The problem is not people typing double spaces after terminals; the problem is editing programs that don’t properly adjust their output.
Double-spacing was how I was taught, and I never heard of anyone using single-spaces after a period until now. Who knew it could produce such vitriol. (And yes, I did just use two spaces after my first sentence. Muahahahaha!)
I learned to type on a cranky Remington manual; so shoot me if I’m a slave to tradition. I didn’t realize that this was a problem.
I still double space. I can’t help it. Perhaps it was being taught typing by nuns with their harsh discipline for non-compliance. Perhaps it’s just a sickness.
I gave up indenting paragraphs though, I think I deserve a “One Dumb Thing At A Time” pin or something. My name is Shawn, and I’m a spaceaholic…
Two spacers SUCK!
All you poor deluded victims of habit – have you no kerning tables? No understanding of typesetting? No appreciation of the greatness of the mind of Mergenthaler?
Apres de l’espace deuxieme, la deluge.
I was raised as a devout two-spacer but converted later. The conversion process was mostly informal and painless, and I don’t lapse much. As with all converts, the really hard part is learning to be tolerant of and indeed respectful to those who haven’t abandoned the old belief system.
@ #5 by Tumbleweed
Now, this is a punctuation struggle much more worthy of having a holy war than the one-space-versus-two-space squabble. I hate the rule that says the punctuation must be placed within the quotation marks, it makes no sense to me at all, and I try my very best to refuse to follow it – though I am sometimes forced to, because it is indeed The Rule.
I try, Mr. Scalzi, I try. But that second space just keeps appearing . . . how do you feel about spacing after colons and semi-colons?
You’ve been on Metafilter today, I presume?
Wow, I have to admit that I have been a 2 space person my whole life. The fact I was taught that way in grade school back in the, ahem, 60’s, doesn’t excuse it, but my Junior high English teacher, Mrs. Sanders, is probably doing high revs right now.
I think this is going to be tough to change. Oh well, I quit smoking, it can’t be as hard as that was.
No, he’s wrong. He admits that in the context of monospaced type, the double spacing is more legible. And expecting any typewriting to produce sophisticated typography is clearly misguided. So I type the way I was taught to in typing class, on a monospaced typewriter. I use LaTeX or other publishing software to produce the spacing appropriate to the font and the context, independent of how many spaces I typed where.
Can’t be bothered enough about this to post.
Single-space after period: BOOK BURNING
Oh wait, wrong thread…
(And not even using a proper ellipses, nyaah!)
I will fight along side you. But know that I have been fighting this losing battle for more than 15 years as a graphic designer. The astonishing thing — as Manjoo points out and his comment thread demonstrates— is how adamant people get in defending their flagrant wrongosity.
So I start a project and the VERY FIRST THING I do is open the client’s Word document and do a Find/Replace and strip out all the multiple spaces. (Unfortunately, this also destroys most people’s efforts at making indents and columns, so the SECOND THING I do is set tabs, which is another thing I find most people don’t know how to do on computers).
jp@4: Double-spacing after periods evolved to make obvious the space between sentences out of a typewriter, so it would still be appropriate for monospace fonts. For the other 99% of fonts, though, no. People who do then are wasting time, bits and atoms.
Hey, let’s talk about hyphens, en- and em- dashes next time!
I will double-space until my death! And if I’m wrong, there’s always Find/Replace.
(Note, double-space after the exclamation point. Nyah!)
I was a rabid two-spacer until I took a creative writing course with Warren Norwood in the late 80s. He recommended a book called Words into Type and stressed typographer rules during manuscript discussions. He taught us that typographers used the one-space rule. I’ve used it ever since.
Well, back in the days when I learned to type, two spaces was the rule. Doing anything less was wrong, and it’s so automatic that I do it even now. It would take too much valuable processing time in my brain to do otherwise.
But enough about such minutia as spacing after a full stop. What’s your view of the Oxford comma?
I haven’t been on Metafilter today, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if there’s a type-nerd war going on there on the subject right now.
I’m a former print journalist. That should be an answer for you.
Yes, let us stamp out the pernicious plague of two-spacing! And then, we stop people from saying “on accident!” Oh, wait a minute…
This is how they taught us in typing class. Blame the educators, not me!
Wow, I didn’t realize that people felt so strongly about this. I’ve been working on switching from two-space to one-space, but the aesthetics police will not be the driving force behind my conversion. What will change my ways is Twitter where every character counts.
When you send email or post on the net you don’t know what hardware and software your readers are going to be using to read it, therefore you don’t know how it will appear to them, therefore you don’t know whether one or two spaces will look better or be easier to read.
The typographical arguments only apply when you’re preparing hard copy.
I’d be much more convinced by any argument which referred to the needs of disabled readers such as the blind who rely on translation software.
I’ve only ever typed on two things: mechanical typewriters (which require two spaces) and computers. Generally, on computers, I’m writing for HTML, which ignores any spaces after the first unless you get funky with the ampersands. So, I tend to float between one or two spaces, because it just doesn’t matter on the web which I do: they’ll look the same anyway.
Despite the fact that I’m a life-long two-spacer, reading that article gave me such a sense of utter relief and peace that I’m a little giddy right now. I’ve been touch-typing for 40+ years now, and am finding it’s a very difficult habit to break. I try… I really do. But when I’m whizzing along at 95wpm, I don’t stop to think. I just two-space. And as @Jim C said, two spaces are much more necessary in the Courier world of coding (not that anyone ever reads my witty code documentation).
I agree. Two spacing must go!
Yet another personal flaw that I was not even aware of.
I’ll add it to the list…
Right or wrong, Mr. Manjoo’s tone makes me want to double-space after sentences just out of spite.
I guess I was actually taught correctly – two spaces on a typewriter, one on a computer. I’d have to think to double tap the space key now, as it’s been about twenty years since I used a typewriter.
Some editing/writing gigs want one space, some insist on two. Yeah, whatever, give the client what they want, et cetera, but it’s hard to keep it straight in the head sometimes if you switch from one to the other often enough. The thumbs — they just don’t know what to do!
Link to the MetaFilter thread, if you need it. (Do you? I didn’t think so.)
I feel like double spacing is mainly only relevant in fully justified text, and since all of you unlettered barbarians insist on using the vile right ragged justification, I don’t know what you are complaining about. Get rid of the copious whitespace at the end of your lines before you start complaining about an extra space after a period!
Oh, Scalzi. First the serial comma. Now this. I’m not sure I can buy your books anymore, sir, knowing the filthy, heinous deeds that go on while you’re typing them.
MZB forced me to learn to love two spaces after periods — would not read mss without them — and now it’s just habit.
Yes. One. We SHALL overcome.
I learned to type on a manual typewriter at a time when the term, “word processor,” would have been considered a non-sequitur. My teacher made it clear that to not put two spaces after a period was a crime second only to genocide. That was the last I heard on the matter until a couple of years ago when people started losing their shit over people who still followed the two space rule. I didn’t see what the big deal was, but I didn’t mind having an excuse to avoid extra keystrokes.
i was taught the two space rule in personal typing (high school). in college, the professors required it. in my legal writing courses it was required. i’m just so used to doing it that i even do it in texts and email. and i think i did it in this post, so now i am a pariah. ;)
I have to agree with MadLogician, that this is primarily, if not exclusively, an issue for typeset hard copy. In less formal (that is, the majority of) communication, it boils down mostly to two equally valid aesthetic choices — and/or is rendered moot by the automatic single-spacing that happens when, for instance, text is translated into HTML. That is, it’s arguing over a pet peeve that’s almost never an actual issue, all in the name adhering to the way you were taught, or to proving the way we were all taught was wrong.
When preparing manuscripts, which eventually will be typeset, most style guides suggest (or at least condone) double-spacing after a period, for the sake of readability. Given that the monospaced font Courier is still widely used, frequently suggested (including by SFWA’s format guidelines), and occasionally required — and is, in point of fact, more legible on the printed mss page than alternatives like Times New Roman — I’m not sure the whole “you two-spacers are all doing it wrong” argument holds a lot of weight there either.
Damn. I am in trouble. Double-spaced after each sentence on a 125,ooo word MS. I go now, to die.
I was taught in school to use two spaces. And then in my job, with manuscripts in the big publishing house that were being typeset and business documents, I was told to use two spaces, which was apparently required by the Manual of Style being used. But over time, people began to vary it, and I prefer to use only one space. But the typesetters can hardly go around claiming that one space has been the rule all along when everyone was being taught two spaces up until about the 1990’s.
I was also taught that you always use “who” in reference to a person and “that” in reference to an animal or object. And one of my bosses drilled it into me as well, so I’ve always been more comfortable with it. But around the end of the 1990’s, everyone started using “that” — the person that sold me my car instead of the person who sold me my car — in speech, in written correspondence, in print, newspapers, etc. And now it’s normal, although you can still use “who” and I do so.
I learned to touch type in the mid to late 70s and, of course, learned the two-space rule. When I got my first computer in 1985, it was pointed out somewhere or other that the period carried with it a trailing half-space and, thus, double-spacing was no longer necessary. There was even a book The Mac is Not a Typewriter that covered this and many other differences between the two machines. A PC version followed soon after. That was 25 years ago, people! Double -spacing after a period is as much a thing of the past as the monospaced fonts that require them ought to be. (And don’t talk to me about coding. There is nothing about coding that inherently requires a monospaced font. It does not make your code more legible or offer any other advantage. It’s just the way programmers learned and they’re too stuck in their ways to change.)
Also, serial commas FTW!
I’m with John Fiala @29 — since HTML strips out the redundant space(s) anyway (it does so, e.g., every time I post a comment on the Whatever), what the Sam Hill difference does it make? I suggest that Mr. Manjoo, et al., have too much time on their hands.
On the subject of periods inside or outside of quotes, I go with which ever I think looks right in a particular sentence, which is to say, sometimes in, sometimes out. If you don’t like my choice, don’t read it. :-p
gurnemanz @12: Most people (typography geeks excepted) wouldn’t know a kerning table from a kitchen table.
I’m a former double-spacer, because I learned to write on a manual typewriter. But of course single-space looks better in proportional type faces. I no longer double-space.
For heavens sakes, just get a browser to normalize text for you and don’t worry how many spaces people actually put between words and sentences. I am putting random spaces in here. You won’t see them, I bet. See?
I hadn’t even heard of two-spacing until I got to university. Sadly, now I have professors who absolutely insist on it for all reports.
I was so bummed when I read this today… In school it was pounded into my head, over and over, to put two spaces after a period. Now I find out it’s been considered wrong since BEFORE I WAS BORN???? HULK SMASH!! It’s going to take me a long time to get used to one space.
Oh, and it’s not “html” that normalizes space. It’s your browser. When I code my composition stylesheets (for print or online publication), I always, always, always normalize space. Don’t rely on your writers/typists to do it for you.
I avoided taking typing in school because in the ’70s all girls were supposed to take it as a precursor to becoming some-one’s secretary. Since I was going to be an engineer, I avoided it like the plague. Since the engineer I became was of type “software”, this was, in hind sight, a wee bit foolish.
I do, however, use two spaces. Always. I like the flow…
As a graphic designer, I have the unfortunate task of running Find/Replace on text to replace double spaces with single spaces. I don’t know why people seem to think, long after kerned letter-pairs showed up on word processors, that they still need to do the double-space thing after a period to give the next sentence some space. Gah.
I will note that I see this malfeasance more from academics than from people who didn’t go past a bachelor’s degree. Hooray, under-education!
I am everything that is wrong and bad in this world? Wow. I had no idea I had that much power. Two spaces is how my typing teacher taught our class waaaay back in high school. I don’t know if my thumb knows how NOT to do a double-tap. Note that I typed this and then went back and removed the extra space from between the sentences. I’m working on my wrong, bad self. It’s a process.
I’ve been reading too much of the previous comment threads. I want to blame double spaces on Sarah Palin. How’s that two-clicky thing goin’ for ya?
More white space, less eye strain. Any calls for three spacers?
Why is this an issue when nobody in the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed world seems to know the correct use of apostrophes? Now, THAT’S an issue.
I was five years old and I taught myself to type on a monospace-courier typewriter. And I used ONE space, because it was obvious that was all that was needed.
If a very small child can read it just fine, then a literate adult has no business claiming two spaces are “better.”
I also had print shop in 7th grade, learning proper typesetting technique, before I was subjected to typing class in 8th grade. At which point I announced to my teacher that two spaces was wasteful and stupid. She had to pass me anyway, since I argued that my one-space technique was NOT an error, since I was doing it on purpose.
Bear in mind that the two-space typewriter lame excuse is something that you hear only in America: in Italy (and I believe several other European countries) it always was just one space, no matter what, even on mechanical typewriters.
As a a translator I always have to remove spaces from text before adding the files to my translation environment tools.
I am trying to break myself of the two-space habit. But I’ve been typing for 30 years, and have had many a professor require 2 spaces in the papers I’ve turned in. And even now, APA format for drafts says to use 2 spaces. My school uses APA format for everything. Muscle memory is hard to break! Even in this short posting, I’ve had to go back and delete several spaces.
Ummm… maybe I’m just too young, but I’ve never heard of the two space “rule” before. Although extra spaces drive me crazy! I have the devil of a time teaching elementary-aged kids to keyboard when they’ve been taught by their regular teachers to put a finger space between each word when writing. It leads to smudges on all the computers in my lab, and 7-8 spaces between each word!
Oh, and perhaps the SFWA guidelines should match up with the estimable President’s take on .
Two spaces after a full-stop. TYPECRIME!!!!!!!11!!!!111!!eleventy!!1!!!
Sorry… Palin Equivalency Filter still active….
Two spaces for monospaced fonts, one space for proportional fonts. Not sure what the kerfuffle is about.
(My bona fides: I’ve written for newspapers for 25 years,and worked for a magazine for 20. I started typesetting on a Compugraphic that had a single line display and output paper tape to send copy to the phototypesetter unit.)
I don’t like his authoritarian attitude. I shall henceforth use triple spacing between all sentences in order to piss him off. And I don’t buy this looks better thing either. I often find myself having to fiddle about with the cursor to determine how many spaces there are when I suspect inconsistency. And as others have pointed out typing and typesetting are not the same. Full justification often does far more damage than a single extra space could ever hope to and I don’t see him calling for the end of full justification.
One space, two spaces… just hit Tab.
One space only after a full-stop: OPPRESSION!!
Ooh, Ooh! You’re oppressing me! Come see the oppression inherent in the system!!
Sorry, but the health of the universe is predicated on a double space after a full stop. Argue against at the risk of total existence failure. ;-)
As a former legal proofreader, university Humanities Department proofreader, advertising copywriter and proofreader, newspaper typesetter, and legal word-processing operator who took formal typing courses in high school, referred to Chicago Manual of Style and the AP Style Guide, and god knows what else for decades, this guy is wrong as shit. He can say he doesn’t like it, but he can’t say it’s incorrect.
Oh HTML, how you vex me with your removal of my “oh so right” double space after yon period.
Two ’til death!
The typographers and the style manual writers need to get together and iron this out. The MLB style I bought for school says 2 spaces after a period. I didn’t follow that rule because I’m lazy, but it does say 2:D.
Scalzi. Dude. Of all the things in this world to get upset about. Turn off the Intertubes, go have a snowball fight, write us a couple thou on zombies or superhuman green guys or unicorn kitties and geeks with bad sweaters or whatever. There is more than enough demonization in this world. We do NOT need to be adding to it. If singlespacers and doublespacers can’t just Get Along, what hope do we have for Muslims and Jews, flamers and fundamentalists, Sneetches with Stars Upon Thars and them as don’t? Let go of the hate. Have yourself a Bacon Chupaqueso, and contemplate all the love in the world.
“My Single Space style shall crush you!”
“Hah! My Double Space style has been perfected over centuries of study! You are to weak to beat it!”
Everyone was kung-fu fighting…
Next let’s talk about split infinitives!
You would be surprised–or not–to know how prevalent this is in business communication; not just email, but in endless presentations and formal documentation.
What I did not see in all of this, and in fact have not seen in . . . well, ever . . . is reference to the the practice of basing spacing and punctuation on musical notes (i.e., a comma represents a pause of one-half beat, a semicolon is a pause of three-fourths beat, a colon, period or space is equal to one full beat). Now in my second (of four) half-century of life, I am forced to conclude that rather than having learned this from some visionary 60s-era elementary school teacher with a name like Sunshine Zipser, I in fact just made it up. I guess some people spend their extra brain cycles on the STAR WARS canon; others. . . . –And hey: can we talk about n-dashes and m-dashes and the correct use three or four periods in sequence (and the correct spacing thereof)? Thank you.
I actually had to type a couple of sentences while deliberately not thinking about this to see if I was a one-spacer or a two-spacer. Two space 4 lyfe, yo!
I think it’s interesting that he even notes in there that a lot of it boils down to aesthetics. I was always taught to two space, and aesthetically speaking, that still looks right to me. As others have pointed out, HTML strips out extra spaces, so it looks like single spacing to everyone who likes it that way, and I still get the satisfaction of typing it ‘correctly’ as I see it. Win-win. I also find it easier to read double spaces, but that could be due to vision problems.
Tumbleweed @ #5 re: punctuation inside quotation marks – I have always wondered about that. Inside never looks right, but I’ve never really feel outside looks right either.
Like many of you, I was taught to double-space in school; in my case, on Bank Street Writer on the Apple //c in the early ’90s. It was a good fit for the monospace font we used back then. Today I still write nearly everything in a text editor with a mono font and rarely print, so two spaces it is.
You’ll have my second space at the same time you’ll pry the Model M from my rigor’d hands, Scalzi!
I didn’t know Mr. Manjoo had all those credits.
I’m sure it’s been said, but I learned how to type in 1967 in typing class on a manual typewriter. Drills, drills, drills, plus about forty-odd years of first graduating to an electric typewriter and then in about 1990 or so starting to use a computer. That’s at least 20 years of habit before the practice became obsolete. Like most people, I type without thinking. It is totally automatic. Therefor, correcting the problem would require considerable conscious reprogramming that I’m not willing to even consider for such a trivial, whimsical matter.
Interestingly, Adobe products won’t let you add a second space (or at least Dreamweaver). Maybe the answer is to program Word and other word processors the same way.
I am a true one-spacer who suffers the agony of being married to a deluded (if not actually evil!) two-spacer.
Bruce A. @79: Indeed. In this, the Age of Twitter, with its 140 character limit, we’re lucky that people still use spaces at all.
Well, that didn’t work at all, did it?
Let’s try again.
I am everything that is wrong and bad in this world. (extra spaces, just to make Scalzi’s head asplode!!!!Awesome, my evul plan iz wurking! Suffer, pwns!
When I learned to type in the late 80s and early 90s, I naturally used one space. My computer teacher flipped out and told me you ALWAYS put two spaces after a period. It took me some time to get used to it, but she drummed it into me so hard that now it’s muscle memory. I just have to set my word-processing software to strip out the extra space, and hope that my browser does it for me.
I’m trying to get used to just using one. But it’s hard. (My graphic designer husband throws a fit.)
Welcome to the future it is finally here; space the final frontier.
I admit that in the early days of word processing, I didn’t know this. It took a temp job with a local newspaper for me to get the message.
However, it wasn’t a difficult message to learn and within hours of being told it, I did change my ways.
Now I have to teach the rule to my son, who learned to do the double space from a rather pernicious touch typing program he has. But he is, after all, just 12 and I’ve only just started editing him. He may forgive me, someday.
I wonder if this is an American thing? I’m English, and I have been a one-spacer all my life, it’s how I was taught at school and at typing college, only encountering the two-space concept under an Idiot Boss at work (an ex-consultant…). The moment he left, I happily reverted to one-space…
As others have noted, it’s exactly because he’s a programmer that he types this way. The classic programmers’ text editors Emacs and VI define the end of a sentence as a period followed by two spaces (this avoids the ambiguity with cases such as the period following an abbreviation). So long as the programmer follows this convention, he or she gets handy commands like “delete sentence” that Just Work.
So while it may look bad in a Word document, for pure ASCII texts it’s pretty common. I’m among the many programmers who, like Assange, habitually hits the spacebar twice after a sentence.
You can have my second space when you pry it from my cold dead hands.
Hey! Look! Over There! Someone is using comic sans! Grab a pitchfork!
Never ever heard of the double space rule myself, but then I never had any formal typing classes and all my writing has been in variable fonts since forever.
People changing from double to single spaces can always donate them to people programming in whitespace.
I leared to type the REAL way on hulking, black, industrial strength, manual typewriter way back in 1977. Only the girls got the electric typewriters because manly-men did not worry about breaking nails. This was back in the stone age when REAL MEN used punch cards to write programs; when the only personal computer was black-and-white and used software written by some obscure company called Microsoft.
So for those of you who never learned to type the real way…I’m talking about the you loosers who do all their typing with 2 index-fingers or even worse your thumbs; I give you the alternate “Your Number 1” finger sign.
I do it. In fact, my transcription client REQUIRES it for all work I do for them. I don’t mind if other people get upset about it, I’ve been typing this way for 25 years, and the people who pay me Actual Money to type this way like it just fine.
Heh, anything I write for public consumption is either online, or formatted using LaTeX, so it’s entirely irrelevant how many spaces I put after a full stop. As it happens, I use two, as I was taught to do by my mother (who learnt to type in the 1960s).
I was taught to use two spaces in school in the 90s. Will have to work on not doing that. I think all of my one page single spaced essays would have been long enough without the extra space.
Am agreeing with all the others who learned the “two spaces” rule back when (in my case, in the early ’60s, and I had it enforced for a fair number of college papers and during the year I worked as a newspaper proofreader, to what was then AP style). Took me a lot of effort to overcome it, and wish the rule had changed after the advent of word processors/computers, which have made it easy to do a search and replace from “. ” to “. ” :) Older typewriters are much less forgiving of error. (Flashbacks to memories of typewriter erasers, which didn’t work that well, and so-called “erasable bond”…)
Bah, worrying about two spaces versus one is putting the blame in the wrong place. Software that presents words for print should format appropriately. LaTeX does it. Even HTML does it. If e.g. InDesign doesn’t, that’s a flaw in the software, not its input.
One advantage of double-spacing is that it makes it much easier to search for sentence-endings. Of course, using periods in abbreviations is also going out of style, so perhaps that’s obsolete too.
Giving a damn about this tends to be what I call a “weenie fit” — whose major purpose seems to be broadcasting that one is in the privileged inner circle where these important matters are actually respected, dammit! See also: conniptions about people using Arial instead of Helvetica.
Can we argue about the proper way to display a date next, I.E. what day is this 1/9/19? The spacing after a period is nothing more than convention, CONVENTION. Does it really matter that much?
Back to my first question, is it January 1, 1919; January 1, 2019; September 1, 1919, or September 1, 2019; or January 1, 19… or? We don’t know without the convention. To argue over this, to run to the barricades and single out others as “everything bad in the world” is to do nothing less than what people mock Ms. Palin for doing.
BTW, my team is better than yours!
Am I weird because I like four spaces? I think that its easier to read when slogging through email.
I’ve had people say something about it to me in the past, but really, I’m evil? I think I’m just being me. Maybe I’m like one of those individuals with a face tattoo. I just like to be different.
Well, you learn something new every day. I now despise myself for the tens of thousands of extraneous spaces I’ve wasted over the years.
And it seems that it doesn’t matter in this comment because all of my periods were followed by four spaces when I typed what I posted above. DAMN you Scalzi! (or WordPress). Please don’t Mallet Me!
Serial commas for the win.
I’d love to see that rule about punctuation marks alwasys inside quotes be nuked from outer space. Repeatedly.
Another thing I found hard to unlearn, was that the word after a colon should be capitalized. Every once in a while, I still goof up on that one, but usually catch it before hitting “Post Comment”. <–note broken rule, and I don't care.
Julia # 48:
A tip from my production word processing days, when people submitting electronic copy had… varied acquaintance with the single-space rule: just type the period-single space you're used to; run search & replace on that to change it to period-two spaces. Run it again for period plus three spaces, a couple of times, to clean up errors. Much easier than trying to remember a different set of rules for college, when you'll need to unlearn it for elsewhere.
(The program manager who submitted electronic copy in ALL CAPS FOR EVERYTHING are probably still alive. The German guy who capitalized every single noun was otherwise a good guy, so I was less irritated. Both aren't easy to fix via WP/search&replace – the all caps text, I converted to all lower case and then had to go through and eyeball it for what should be capitalized. Gah. Flashbacks again. :) )
Is this arbitrary? Sure it is.
Is this arbitrary? Sure it is.
Hey, wait a minute. Scalzi’s rigged the game. One of those two quotes above was supposed to have the second space.
Oh my! I’ve been feeling so wicked when I single-spaced, which has been my habit for years and years. I was first taught about extra space after the period at the end of a sentence in handwriting classes, by a NUN!! In the 1960’s, when nuns all still dressed like nuns. It was reinforced in the single typing class I ever took, by a teacher who made the nuns look like whimps!
And now, I learn that I wasn’t being wicked at all!
I think your tendency toward violent rhetoric would automatically be toned down if you had to insert two spaces after each sentence.
Quoting DemetriosX @44:
“And don’t talk to me about coding. There is nothing about coding that inherently requires a monospaced font. It does not make your code more legible or offer any other advantage. It’s just the way programmers learned and they’re too stuck in their ways to change.”
It does offer an advantage: having similar strings set up so they display similarly can draw your eyes to breaks in the patterns, and some languages (python) require code to be correctly indented to work properly. Coding is a language in which every character means something, as opposed to languages, where every word means something.
I didn’t realize that two spaces irritated people so much. In the past I tried to conserve my spaces but gave up due to the effort involved. I would have to remove a space after every sentence, without fail. I vow to try it again. It is ironic that one of the reasons given for 2 spaces is to make mono spaced fonts more readable and we don’t use those fonts anymore. The comment box I am typing in right now uses just such a font and it is taking all the concentration I can muster to keep my sentence separations to one space.
If one space is better than two, zero spaces must be even better. Surelythisisthemostefficientuseofspace.Hell,Icouldfit5or6keysinplaceofmynowuselessspacebar.
Wow. I never knew that was considered wrong nowadays. I learned to type in 1976, and at that time — at least in my high school — we were taught to put two spaces after a period. I’ve typed so much under this rule that it’s practically breaking my fingers for me to leave only one space after the periods in this comment. :-)
I administer a MUD, which delivers its content in a monospaced font. I have had people try to tell me that one space after a full stop is correct, due to the innovations of modern typography, even in this context, where modern typography clearly holds no sway.
They are all dead now.
I have always typed two spaces after a period. I always will. I think it makes it easier to find the ends of sentences, particularly in horrible fonts with no serifs, such as we see almost always on the infernet. (Yes, I did that on purpose.) I usually don’t go to the effort of ensuring that my internet content has two spaces after a period, except when I have a specific point to make, or when I’m particularly concerned with how it looks, rather than with its content.
And the Oxford comma should be used or omitted, whichever makes the text clearest.
One space. Two space. Red space. Blue space.
I was taught the two space convention in typing classes at the YMCA in the mid-sixties. Today’s post is the first ever I heard that there even is a competing one space convention.
After 46 years I am not switching over. So there!
No one cares, anyway. I personally wordprocessed a 155 page Master’s thesis for an English graduate degree in 2004. Since I needed some Middle English characters (Thorn and Yogh) I had to use the Microsoft Arial Unicode font. I used the two space convention throughout and my wordprocessing software didn’t blink or automatically change back to one space. Nary a peep from my three member faculty committee.
No one cares. So type away two spaces everytime, comrades. The one-spacers will not oppress us. We shall ignore them. We shall tolerate Scalzi and his cursed software that converts them here. Only because he is our gracious host.
I’m not bad. I just type this way.
About 1 1/2 spaces after sentence-ending punctuation would be about right. I personally think the space “character” in most modern fonts is actually too wide, so a double-space after a sentence will make the holes look too large. But a single-space often looks too narrow. In typesetting though, especially with justified layout, spaces are not all the same. Generally if a line is loose (it needs to be stretched to fit the column width), it is almost always better to stretch the space after a sentence more than the inter-word spaces. Likewise for tight lines, it is usually better to compress the inter-word spaces more than the sentence-ending spaces. Even with non-justified layout, traditionally English has been set with somewhat larger space after sentences than between words (though not twice as large). European/French style has traditionally been to use equal-sized spaces; and that apparently what the modern English one-space-rule is converging on.
Also, I find that in English prose, like novels, a single space after sentences is fine. There’s not much legibility need for inter-word and sentence-ending spaces to be different–except when justifying columns. But in more technical writing, where there may be higher frequency and diversity of punctuation being used, it is often more legible if the sentence-ending space is larger than other spaces.
The biggest problem causing the rift between the one or two-space camps is that when typing/computing a space is a “character” or more technically a glyph, e.g., a keystroke. Two consecutive spaces are generally rendered twice as wide as one. However, visually, spaces should just be a gap, and how big the gap should may depend on many things. Visually you can’t tell the difference between two 1-em spaces and one 2-em space. It is the size of the gap that matters most, not the number of characters, or keystrokes, it takes to approximate that size.
In the world of Unicode, there are many many different space characters, not just one. So really, the most common space character that everybody types is actually an inter-word space, and you should be using a different character for sentence-ending whitespace, and so on. The type of space indicates its purpose, and the computer will figure out the best width to use. But then, most operating systems and keyboards don’t make it very easy to type different kinds of spaces.
Also note that some computer software, especially older programs, would sometimes try to detect end-of-sentence punctuation by the presence of two spaces. Heuristics are mostly used with modern software, but that can sometimes be fooled and is often language-specific. For a bit more see the Wikipedia article Sentence spacing in digital media.
Oh, and for those mentioning kerning, it should be noted that kerning is intended for precisely setting the inter-letter spacing. It is not a substitute for inter-word or larger spaces; the widths of which often depend upon much more context, not the least of which is language and intent–something kerning pairs in a font can not possibly account for.
tom @ 93 — “when the only personal computer was black-and-white and used software written by some obscure company called Microsoft.”
The personal computer antedates Microsoft, and back then, the screens were black and green.
Learned two-spacing in the 6th grade, saw no reason to change. Interesting article, though — never considered the whole prooportional font deal would change the process of typing a sentence!
microsoft’s first excursion into operating system software, I believe was the Radio Shack Color Computer, which was, as the name indicates, displaying full color. I do believe the default colors for the command prompt was black text on a green background.
but it also plugged into a TV whereas the IBM PC XT’s plugged into a black and green monitor.
the coco came out in 1980. the XT in 1983.
I’m a doublespacer and probably always will be; I learned to type on a combination of electronic typewriter and a VT-100 terminal that displayed in monotype font (not Courier, I’m not sure which.)
I suppose now I’m going to have to start ing all over the internet to make my preference known.
(I note that the ‘ing’ in the last sentence of the previous comment did, in fact, contain an & nbsp; of course.)
If you want me to use one space after a period, you’ll have to take it up with my 8th-grade typing teacher, Mr. Tiberio. Best of luck, chief.
Sorry, I like my two spaces. Also, the MLA style guide linked to in the Slate article says, ahem:
“As a practical matter, however, there is nothing wrong with using two spaces after concluding punctuation marks unless an instructor or editor requests that you do otherwise.”
I always thought two spaces was the norm; now I feel like I’m a member of the resistance, fighting a battle against convention to keep the two spaces alive. Viva La Resistance!
I now understand why my Clash of the Geeks story was not selected. Two spaces after the period.
Yes, that was CLEARLY the only reason …
Oh, and I am now preparing a lawsuit against my former school district. I was taught (on an IBM Selectric, mind you) that two spaces went after the period. Any LAZY person who settled for one space received a lower grade. And now, some 30 years later, I am told that was wrong, that all I was taught was a lie.
I’m going to get rich on this.
Oh, wait. My former school district is in California.
Vile spawn of the nether realms! You will burn for your single-space heresy, and the flames will light the True Path for the faithful.
(I figure it’s about as appropriate to launch a holy war over this as it is over anything else, right?)
PS: I’m not wedded to the double-space after a full stop, but it is habitual and is not an obstacle to legibility. So those who take offense will just have to cope with my archaism, or write a GreaseMonkey script for themselves, or something.
PPS: However, I will spread the glory of the Oxford Comma with fire and sword if necessary.
This makes me so, so sad.
Even despite that, however, I will carry on with my two-spacing, and I will not feel the list bit guilty about it. In the world of HTML, it doesn’t matter to the reader, and when I’m not in the world of HTML, I’m in the world of non-proportional fonts. You can have my extra post-period space when you pry it from my…uh…proportional font-using fingers.
 This is, strictly speaking, not true. I will henceforth, because of this post, now feel very slightly guilty about it. Thanks for nothing, John Scalzi! ;)
May I respectfully suggest that Mr. Manjoo is just a bit obsessive-compulsive? I mean, aren’t there a few more important things in the world to get excercised about?
In any case, I learned to type on a manual typewriter (a Remington Rand, which I miss a great deal, by the way) when I was about eight years old. I’m 54 now. My thumb is trained, thouroughly and irreversibly. The only reason there are single spaces after the periods in this post is that I concentrated hard on only spacing once, and in fact I had to go back a couple of times and take an extra space out, even with that concentration.
Isn’t it bad enough that we have the PC police and the food police, without having the keyboarding police as well?
Consistency. That’s the key. I’m a double spacer myself, like most in my generation, but as long as you don’t mix single and double spacing after a full stop, the vast majority of readers and technologies will cope. But a mix of both in a document is a sign of an amateur.
More contentiously, the indented first line seems to be making a comeback in Instructional Writing – it helps people to scan more quickly and effectively, as long as the writer knows how to construct a paragraph in the first place, which many of my students don’t.
In 1996, I learned to double-space in my handwriting while attending first grade. We had these enormously large sheets of paper, so that one finger’s width = one space. After a sentence, we had to put two fingers down before beginning the next sentence. To this day, my inner voice insists “Two spaces after a period!” which just tells you how easily a 6-year-old mind can be brainwashed.
The “computer lab” was introduced to us in those elementary school years, and the teachers tried and miserably failed to teach touch-typing to our class. I voluntarily took an elective class called “Keyboarding” in 2003, in junior high (because otherwise I probably would never have learned to touch-type), and there I was told that single- or double-spacing is a matter of preference. But two years later, in high school, I had a different class that insisted on single-spacing after a full stop. I guess I’m a child of the transition. Ambitextrious.
However, I have a secret love for double-spacing, and I think I’ve figured out why. I’m a speed reader, and a rapid skimmer. That white space after a sentence makes speed-reading so much easier for me. I “think” the words while I’m reading instead of “saying” them, and the white space is enough of a visual jitter to make a difference to my brain. For example, I have a terrible time speed-reading these WordPress comments, or Scalzi’s entries. I have to sloooow down and let my brain process or else everythingrunstogetherandIhavetogobackandreadthewholethingagaingoddammit.
I don’t have this problem while reading most textbooks or even novels, which makes me wonder if typesetters fiddle with the amount of space after full stops to improve readability. At certain places on the internet, though, single spaces are the kryptonite to my speed-reading superpowers.
No fair! I learned to type on a type writer and no one sent out corrections through the years of keyboarding and programming. This is going to be a hard change, I might even continue to do it out of spite.
I absolutely refuse to allow someone else make me feel ashamed of my double-spacing. As others have noted, to me it is not only aesthetically preferable, it is vital in efficient reading. While I generally do not mind browsers not displaying the extra space, my eyesight is poor enough that I sometimes have a hard time telling a period from a comma, and having that extra post-period space as the standard would make my life easier. I feel something similar regarding serial commas, that they make reading far more efficient when one needn’t stop to ponder whether the last two items of a list are actually a single item with “and” in its name. That just totally kills the flow for me.
Also, I tend to think anyone who doesn’t use fixed-width font for their email is submitting to the same effete barbarism that makes people think that having music (or “music”) plugged into their heads all the time even when in public when both courtesy and common sense should mandate some actual attention to their surroundings. I’m not sure why those two seem to be related in my mind’s chamber of contempt.
To return to the spacing, as at least one person above noted, consistency is the real issue. As a sometime proofreader myself (often of things which have a page limit) I can handle single spaces after periods if they’re consistent throughout and if they’re required to get the text under the limit. I can’t stand mixtures, though. Always end up making me use my valuable last-minute-editing minutes fixing them, in one way or another.
When Tex typesets a line, it adds up the widths of the glyphs (characters and spaces), puts “glue” between them, and stretches the width of the bits of glue to fill up the length of the line. It also puts a 1/3 m space after punctuation marks that are followed by whitespace (unless it’s escaped.) … It’s actually more complicated than that, of course (that’s from memory) but the result is that intraword spaces have two bits of stretchy glue, while intrasentence spaces have three (and the extra 1/3 m space.)
An ellipsis has three dots “…” and is stood off by spaces before and after, unless it occurs at the end of a sentence, when the terminal punctuation is supposed to replace the leading space…. You rarely see people actually using that rule for anything but the period, however!… Why?…. Who knows. (Some computer languages use a double period to indicate a range 1..5; two is sufficient for the parser, so that’s all that’s accepted. You can have fun testing to see what a compiler does with a construct like 0…5; some claim an error, some ignore the third period (generating code like you’d typed 0..5), others use it to create floating point limits (0.0 .. 0.5); the language rules should specify, but frequently it’s ambiguous or implied.)
Serial comma ++, of course!
Well, he’s certainly dissuaded me from writing him email. No amount of aesthetically pleasing typography could ever make up for that level of personal obnoxiousness.
I was brought up on the two space method and have read plenty of times that it’s wrong, but the problem is that I’m just plain used to it now. My natural typing rhythm puts in two spaces unless I seriously take time to think about it, like I am for this post. It’s actually a bit jarring to not type the two spaces, which is a problem in my line of work (programming). I need the throughput most of the time, so having to remember a single space is going to slow me down. I’ll get it one of these days though.
Having learned to type on an “old-fashioned” typewriter, with monospaced font, I couldn’t read my (or anyone else’s) type-written documents without a second space after the period. Now, it is so natural to put two spaces at the end of a sentence that it would be quite wasteful time-wise for me to do so.
Besides, I use LaTeX for all of my important typesetting needs; LaTeX just takes care of silly little things like that and allows me to focus on my writing.
Let’s see how this works. Can I throw in a lot of spaces?
Guess not. Rats.
Heh. I’ve not only retrained myself to the single-space method (which I found in a graphic design book lo these many years ago), I’ve trained myself to be able to spot double-spacing after a period in a manuscript full of single spaces. Likewise, I can spot an incorrect indent (spaces instead of tabs.)
These tricks came in very useful when copyediting a friend’s manuscript. She’d typed the thing in Word, which is Evil™. (I once saw some advice from a writer that you should get a basic notepad program and type in that and only when done transfer to a word processor. Very helpful for those of us who HATE Word’s oh-so-helpful formatting tricks with the white-hot passion of a thousand flaming suns.)
Incidentally, Xopher brought up sans-serif fonts on the Internet vs. more readable serif fonts elsewhere. This is primarily due to the fact that studies have shown that legibility is slightly higher for sans-serif fonts when on a computer screen. The reason is probably bad pixelation. Not everybody has a wonderful flat-panel yet. (Like my work, where I do Photoshop…)
I learned touch-typing on a manual typewriter and can crank out 80wpm when I really get in the groove (so, never) and I can not break myself of the “two spaces after the period” habit. Please (geez, I just did it), have mercy.
If, as Fred posted upthread, SFWA guidelines suggest use of monospaced Courier font, then the organization would seem to be condoning use of the two-space sentence break–at least implicitly. If so, isn’t SFWA then perpetuating this whole space opera?
I love you.
I stopped doing the double-space after a period because Colleen Lindsay said I’d better if I wanted to send her a manuscript. And let me tell you–it was harder to do than learning Dvorak after twenty years of typing QWERTY.
I tell you all that I have suffered for my art.
Like so many others, I learned to put in two spaces when I started to learn to type, and really don’t see what all the kerfluffle is about. With the rise of HTML and word processing programs that conveniently adjust spacing for you, though, I honestly can’t tell what I do anymore. I think I’m down to one space after a period, but is that only because I’m paying more attention? How can I know what I’m doing when I’m observing myself? I need an outside auditor to make sure I’m living up to the demands of our typographic overlords.
Okay. No more commenting with a fever….
I’m waaayyy late to this thread, but per Randall Munroe, someone on the Internet is (partly) WRONG.
Demetrios @44 — Fixed width fonts are not optional when writing code, and only marginally so when writing markup or metadata. The point to the requirement is that fixed width fonts maintain an equivalence between the width of tab stop intervals, and the width of characters, that’s vital to code/markup/data readability. In the case of Python — which is pretty ubiquitous — the number of tabs at the beginning of a line defines the nesting level of the code, and if that’s not readily obvious, then you’re [insert appropriate vernacular for coercive intercourse here].
…So while programmers might be stuck in their ways, I feel it’s for a very good reason.
Avdi @90 — You learn something new every day. (I tend to write my code offline, so.)
Do I care about typography? Yes, and enough to use it properly in this comment (and most of my comments in fact), at least as much as the limitations of the Web will allow. Given that I avoid Word with all the ferocity I can muster, I’ve yet to adjust. Please forgive me. (Phthbbtt!)
It’s easy to remember to single space after a period if you are typing with your nose because you’re in a straight jacket. now, hitting the shift and ctrl buttons is another matter…….
Obviously, the one-space, two-space debate dates back to whether you learned under a monospace tool like a typewriter or a proportional space tool like a printing press. Different strokes for different folks. The computer gives us the choice of mono vs. proportional, one space or two spaces. When you become my style editor, I’ll let you take away my choices. Until then, peace folks — de gustibus, etc.
#143, #108 — Now why would python use a whitespace character like TAB to represent the code level, when a visible character would be so much easier to visualize? I feel like I’m taking a step back to when BASIC code had line numbers. Looks like I’m still stuck with Java, C++ and the other languages of my youth.
Oh god what will I do? I learned to type this way after submitting a Freshman English paper and getting a grade drop over not having two spaces after each period. Now 20 years later it is hard wired in me. I think I’ll need electroshock therapy or something to unlearn this. Can’t we all just get along. I don’t claim I am right. I just don’t think I will ever be able to stop. I promise to teach my son to type properly and let this affliction die with me. Just don’t make me stop.
#145 Bozo — one of the oddities of life is that I learned to set type before I learned to type. Typing, for me, is a much more useful skill, and TeX is much better at typesetting than I ever was. Well, TeX doesn’t set type at all, but you know what I mean.
I put in two spaces, but then I take them out again.
My sixth grade English teacher attempted to force the double-space rule on me. My attempt to break my single-spacing ways lasted all of half an assignment before my inherent laziness set in and I decided that the rule was pointless and could burn in Hell. Throughout the remainder of my school years, that was the only time I ever encountered the rule. That’s years of countless reports and essays, as well as a couple typing classes and digital publishing courses, without a single mention of this double-spacing crud that still stands out as being extra work with no gain.
I was a double space offender until I was working with an editor and reformatting manuscripts for him. It got to the point that I would turn on the formatting button in word and want to tear my hair out when I saw extra spaces, tabs all over the place and the dreaded section break. Send some love to your editors and get rid of the double space.
Riccardo @ 58: in Italy (and I believe several other European countries) it always was just one space, no matter what, even on mechanical typewriters.
Yeah, I learned typing on typewriters (albeit electronic ones) in Norway but have never heard of using two spaces.
i am in the “learned it that way in school” double spacers camp (and i am 30 now so yes, we had computers and word processors then). of course, i only type formally in work emails or stuff that needs to be presentable, if its just internet chat or comments then you get crap like this..
also, maybe it’s just me, but every article i read about typography or that mentions something like “kerning” that person seems like a major blow-hard. do they feel the need to sound like douchebags just because nobody else gives a damn about their chosen area of expertise?
Non-item: Julian Assange delivered the Dutch cables about Afghanistan *before* the voting on it, so we — the Dutch — can make
an informed decision about it (link is to a Dutch newspaper reporting Wikileaks sent the Dutch embassy cables intentionally before the voting, indeed to let people make an informed choice).
Our previous government fell over the ‘continuing-the-Afghanistan-mission-or-not’. Never mind if Assange used to type with two spaces after a period (which I see all the time with submissions: replace “. ” with “. ” and it’s solved in 10 seconds flat, if that), he keeps fighting for transparency.
I can’t emphasize enough how important transparency is, even if a grand old cyberpunk master, who supposedly up with the times, disagrees.
I haven’t gotten through all the comments, but #44 DemetriosX says “And don’t talk to me about coding. There is nothing about coding that inherently requires a monospaced font. It does not make your code more legible or offer any other advantage. It’s just the way programmers learned and they’re too stuck in their ways to change.”
As a FORTRAN programmer, I beg to differ. Using a proportional font for column alignment would be folly, though technically it could be done. But why make things harder? There are already enough ways to make a compiler complain about a program, than to be typing in the wrong columns. (grin)
(Yes, I am aware I am being archaic and still using an F77/F90 compiler. It still works and the numbers calculated by my programs are still valid.)
I used to double space out of force of habit. Now I do it to tick off people who are shallow enough to be ticked off by it. And yes, I’m shallow enough that the idea delights me every time I type. Ha ha! It really is the little things that make life worthwhile.
Double-spacing after a period throws me out of a story so badly that I actually have to do a “find and replace” before I can read a manuscript file.
This is actually the first time I’ve even heard it mentioned that one space was the correct number, through gradeschool, and an engineering undergraduate and beginning graduate education. I was taught to type with two from the get-go (around 1995-6) and never told otherwise. And as a result of reading my own writing, two looks right to me. >.>
As for programming and monospaced fonts – even though I don’t use FORTRAN, I find that a monospaced font makes it much easier to scan through code and notice errors. (Why is my output weird? Well, I missed a character on that variable call, and it’s actually referencing the wrong variable…) If I see code in a non-monospaced font that I have to read and comprehend, I convert it to Courier. :P
I have always used two spaces after a period — that’s the way I learned it. And after the rather douchebaggy way this guy presented his argument, there is no way in hell I am going to change anytime soon.
“I learned it that way in school.”
You know what, so did I. I learned a LOT of dumb things in school. But then I left school and got an education, and I’m mostly better now. Mostly.
Tumbleweed @160: Most of us picked up questionable habits in our youth, and most of us will at least make an attempt to break those habits if given a compelling reason to do so. Catering to some self-appointed arbiter’s sense of aesthetics is NOT a sufficiently compelling reason.
I never put a second space after a period. Only the first and third ones.
#151 Sherri: “It got to the point that I would turn on the formatting button in word and want to tear my hair out when I saw extra spaces, tabs all over the place and the dreaded section break.”
I admit to being boggled whenever I learn that someone uses Word *without* having the formatting button turned on. It’s the only thing standing between the user and complete (rather than simply partial) befuddlement at Word’s bizarre actions and interpretations. On the rare occasions I turn it off I feel about as if I’d just put blinkers off from the sheer lack of data now in front of me.
Besides avoiding and/or straightening out one’s own formatting infelicities it is invaluable in reviewing resumes to see who doesn’t know how to set tabs or has italicized spaces in the middle of sentences, etc. (If that seems unnecessarily harsh, bear in mind that said resumes are usually those of potential undergraduate assistants, who are told in the job listing that attention to detail is required. I learned how to use that stupid program on my own and they can darn well do the same or work for someone else.) And yes, I too want to tear my hair out when I see the documents that come my way that I’m supposed to actually take seriously, such as forms from department offices or other official sorts, that have lines made from underscores, masses of spaces that run off the edge of the page, dozens of tabs…
Huh. Who knew?
My husband and I just had this very discussion last week as we were helping our son edit his history paper. My husband is a solid two space guy and I am a staunch one spacer. My son is now confused and never wants us to help him edit anything again.
Two space or not two space….who knew it would elicit such impassioned dialogue?
I spent last week in Monterey and Carmel, California, so I’m late to the game. I would note in passing, in a somewhat related fashion, that Wikipedia’s editors are currently having a somewhat pointless dust-up over whether Carmel’s proper article name should be “Carmel”, “Carmel, California”, “Carmel-by-the-Sea”, or “Carmel-by-the-Sea, California”. (The Highway 1 turnoff signs read “Carmel-by-the-Sea” and that’s the legal town name.)
I am not a typography expert, but the argument that one space looks better is, to my eyes, wrong. I like the extra space. The claim that text flows better without seems to fail my test of how many words can I read at once, as I do in my normal fast / low-speed speed reading pace. It’s too hard to notice the periods if there’s no extra space there. Modern typographic software seems to add a bit to non fixed width fonts anyways, but it just seems to work more smoothly for my reading for there to be two.
I appreciate that there are those who prefer the other way, but I’d like to see some serious studies on how reading comprehension and speed are affected both ways, in both fixed and variable width fonts, and see whether my impression of my own preference stands up to statistical measurement of my preference. Perhaps there’s a good science argument to be made to change.
Until then – based on my ancedotal preference – two forever.
GWH: “Until then … forever.”
You want completely well formed, logically consistent rhetorical flourish, while I’m at work?
(Though, at least in retrospect, I claim at least a veneer of funny ha ha in the end result, and not a total descent into funny sad 8-)
George — memory says that it’s line length that slows you down. Optimal (again, IIRC) is about two alphabets in whatever the font (face and size) is used. (An alphabet being one each of the lower case letters in a row, no spaces.) Much larger or much smaller slows you down (why wasn’t given; I suspect it has to do, in both cases, with tracking the sentence, and more hyphenated words in the shorter lines.)
I learned double-space-after-a-period in my keyboarding class in school, and I’m not likely to change. Frankly, i’ve got better things to do with my time.
I never got to the point that I could read whole-line-at-a-time for book sized lines (newspaper or even medium magazine format lines, though, yes). But I can typically read a sentence or line in 2-3 chunks when going fast.
A lot of people don’t speed read groups of words at all; I did naturally before anyone told me about it, and when I learned of the formal technique learned it and sped up somewhat in my casual reading.
I also find that reading speed at end of the day / nighttime is more affected by oddities in type or failure to adequately space (between lines, at end of sentence, etc). Eye fatigue gets ya. Worse if you’re reading non-words text. I’ve been staring at LDAP query output and syntax for several hours this afternoon and evening, and it’s gotten me tonight, for example.
I’ll stop using two spaces when my keyboard gets a 1/2 space key. All that whining that two spaces are only because of manual typewriters is only partially correct. Yes, traditionally there was only one space after the period before that. To be precise, it was normally the width of a ‘m’. BUT, the space between words was smaller. 1/2 or 1/3 of the width of the ‘m’. So there.
Besides, I mostly use monospaced fonts.
George — when I used to have to do a lot of reading of other people’s code, I had some TeX routines that I used to pretty print them into more eye-comfortable form, bashing their indentations and nestings, using descent fonts and spacing. No longer have them to share, but I can give you the idea.
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Not to beat a horse’s leathery corpse, but an interesting article on the history of full-stop/single-or-double-space, including what the actual practices have been over the years (including debunking the because of typewriters meme.)