Sunday, January 23, 2011

Period. Space Space. New Sentence

I always follow the pattern when typing. In fact, I'm even a little anal retentive about it. I will go through every sentence in my papers, emails, blogs, etc. to make sure I've spaced properly. Every period that ends a sentence must have two spaces after it before a new sentence can begin. It's the way I was taught; and I don't plan on changing any time soon.

But some people adamantly argue against this practice.

Farhad Manjoo proclaims why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period by explaining why we started doing it in the first place--and not surprisingly we can blame those wretched typewriters.
The problem with typewriters was that they used monospaced type—that is, every character occupied an equal amount of horizontal space. This bucked a long tradition of proportional typesetting, in which skinny characters (like I or 1) were given less space than fat ones (like W or M). Monospaced type gives you text that looks "loose" and uneven; there's a lot of white space between characters and words, so it's more difficult to spot the spaces between sentences immediately. Hence the adoption of the two-space rule—on a typewriter, an extra space after a sentence makes text easier to read. Here's the thing, though: Monospaced fonts went out in the 1970s. First electric typewriters and then computers began to offer people ways to create text using proportional fonts. Today nearly every font on your PC is proportional. (Courier is the one major exception.) Because we've all switched to modern fonts, adding two spaces after a period no longer enhances readability, typographers say. It diminishes it.
Ok, I get that it's an outdated practice, but I still think two spaces (in our digital age) makes it easier to distiguish sentence stops and starts. There's no way that two spaces diminishes readability. Obviously more space equals more demarcation between thoughts. Thereisareasonweusepunctuationandspacestohelpourreadersunderstandwhatweintendedtotype. Two spaces are like an additional tool in our typing toolboxes to help us deliver our messages with clarity. Why take away the tools that help us do our jobs as writers? Plus, I think the extra space is more visually appealing than one space. There is definitely something to be said about the aesthetics of readability.

I agree with Megan McArdle's statement, You Can Have My Double Space When You Pry it From My Cold, Dead Hands

Old habits die hard. [space][space] Haha. And I like my double spaces.

P.S. Ironically, you've probably noticed that this post, and all my others for that matter, don't have two spaces between sentences. That's not because I didn't put them there, but because I use Blogger's html editor which does not publish double spaces, even if you painstakingly type them in. I guess they're trying to teach us two spacers something...

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