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I just need some space (between sentences)
January 14, 2011 9:26 AM   Subscribe

Slate says putting more than one space between sentences is "totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong." Microsoft's Bill Hall agrees. LaTex does not. The American Psychological Association used to agree but has changed its mind. The exhaustive Wikipedia article on sentence spacing has a predictably prickly discussion page.
posted by escabeche (273 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:29 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


. . . .
posted by kmz at 9:30 AM on January 14, 2011


Old habits die hard.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 9:30 AM on January 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


What galls me about two-spacers isn't just their numbers. It's their certainty that they're right.

as a two-space person, myself, I notice that one of us is livin' his life without making a thing of it and the other is being a dick on slate.com
posted by Greg Nog at 9:30 AM on January 14, 2011 [167 favorites]


So basically it's a fight between Word and HTML. Because the former is the only place where my inherent instinct to double space remains... and everywhere else uses HTML that automatically it.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:31 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


(oops...)

. .  .   .    .
posted by kmz at 9:31 AM on January 14, 2011


*automatically fixes it /irony
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:31 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Put me in the camp of "people old enough to have been taught by people who used manual typewriters in the 50's, and who realize that only one space is needed now, but don't care to expend the effort to break a decades-long habit over something this minor."
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:32 AM on January 14, 2011 [71 favorites]


"What's the secret of typogra..."

"KERNING!"
posted by BeerFilter at 9:34 AM on January 14, 2011 [42 favorites]


Is this arbitrary? Sure it is. But so are a lot of our conventions for writing. It's arbitrary that we write shop instead of shoppe, or phone instead of fone, or that we use ! to emphasize a sentence rather than %.
Speak for yourself%
posted by Flunkie at 9:34 AM on January 14, 2011 [14 favorites]


In seriousness, I only ever use one space consciously, but I'm fine with LaTeX's automatic double-spaces. (Though of course I do escape it when the period isn't the end of a sentence.)
posted by kmz at 9:35 AM on January 14, 2011


Is this like a super-recent thing? I'm 32 and work in a field where I write reports a lot, and I always use 2 spaces as I was taught in high school and college. Some of the younger folks have started to correct me down to one space, and it makes me feel old and stupid. I like the 2-spaces, damnit.
posted by tryniti at 9:35 AM on January 14, 2011


My dear young man, don't take it too hard. Your work is ingenious. It's quality work. And there are simply too many spaces, that's all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect.
posted by Comrade_robot at 9:35 AM on January 14, 2011 [19 favorites]


A journalism prof teaches two spaces?

The first thing anyone should learn in j-school is how to follow a fucking stylebook, and every stylebook in Christendom uses one space because it's shorter and part of journalism is making shit fit in as tight as you can.
posted by klangklangston at 9:36 AM on January 14, 2011 [12 favorites]


Separation of style and content people!
posted by Artw at 9:36 AM on January 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


Greg Nog: "I notice that one of us is livin' his life without making a thing of it and the other is being a dick on slate.com"

Did you notice he's also quote-unquote being a dick on NPR and Wired after madickulating from Cornell?
Manjoo graduated from Cornell University in 2000. While there, he wrote for and then served as editor-in-chief of the Cornell Daily Sun student newspaper. He wrote for Wired News before taking a staff position at Salon.com. In July 2008, Manjoo announced he had accepted a job at Slate magazine, writing a twice-weekly technology column.
posted by boo_radley at 9:36 AM on January 14, 2011


Whenever I receive a story submission, the first thing I do is a find-and-replace to change "  " to " ".
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:37 AM on January 14, 2011 [14 favorites]


Tryniti, I'm 31 and learned two spaces in high school, but every college class I took mandated single spaces (though double spacing between lines).
posted by klangklangston at 9:37 AM on January 14, 2011


There are people in my office who triple-space each sentence. A firing squad is too good for them, frankly.

Also, Wikipedia discussion pages have helped me through many a long, tedious day at the DMV/post office/airport/office. My current favourite is probably the toilet paper roll orientation page.
posted by elizardbits at 9:38 AM on January 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


This strikes me as a lot of drama over nothing.
posted by pombe at 9:39 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


And as a 35-year-old, I was taught single-spaces from an iron-bunned harridan while in high-school. I guess the nice thing about standards is that there's so many of them.
posted by boo_radley at 9:39 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


If THE MAN is telling me to use a single space I'm going to double space. Fuck THE MAN.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 9:39 AM on January 14, 2011 [12 favorites]


I was taught to use two spaces learning how to type in elementary school. In fact, I would rather rewrite Twitter posts than remove one of the spaces if I'm over by one character.

Besides, it just all runs together if you don't have the extra space - it's a good visual break.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:40 AM on January 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


I use two spaces just for the dramatic effect.
posted by Flashman at 9:40 AM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'll repeat the comment I wrote on Slate -- My eyesight is kinda shitty and I read a lot and very quickly for work and for pleasure. In Word documents, and in other contexts, I use the capital at the beginning of sentences and the two spaces between sentences to navigate. When style mavens and others insist on one space between sentences, I feel frustrated because for me that makes the text less accessible and harder to read.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:40 AM on January 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


Also -- I wonder how many of the one-spacers have under-40 year old eyes.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:41 AM on January 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I like two-spaces because it encodes metadata into typed language: here is the beginning of a new sentence.

Any display process can trivially remove the extra display space automatically, so the extra space creates no burden for the typographer or reader; extracting that information from a document that doesn't contain it is less trivial.

So it's a neat thing, and I'm sticking with it, and as a gesture of good will and understanding I have refrained from typing this whole comment in emphatic CAPS.
posted by cortex at 9:41 AM on January 14, 2011 [42 favorites]


Clearly hanging on to an old typewriter tradition of using two spaces instead of one is wrong, but the old newspaper convention of continuing an article on a second page is perfectly reasonable to carry over to an online-only magazine with no physical space constraints whatsoever.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:42 AM on January 14, 2011 [120 favorites]


As an editor, one of the first things I always did was a find-and-replace on double-spaces.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:42 AM on January 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Do single space, then, if you're at the end of the paper and you need to make it longer, do a find and replace for every ". " and replace it with ". " (so as to replace single spaces with double spaces without messing up any URLs in your footnotes) before you do any of the other tricks (switching the font to Arial, changing the width of the margins, etc) to make it seem longer. This seems quite obvious to me.
posted by NoraReed at 9:43 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Punctuation is for sissy-Marys

Real men start a new paragraph when the sentence is over
posted by uncleozzy at 9:43 AM on January 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


It is a wise man who comments in this thread with only one sentence.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:43 AM on January 14, 2011 [20 favorites]


I thought two spaces looked dumb when I was a kid and I think it looks dumb now. I'm just me, though.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 9:43 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I only use single space when using Comic Sans.

ba-zing!
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:44 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've never heard that it's correct to use one space instead of two. At what point did this change? The "Well, anybody with any smarts at all knows to use just one space" tone of the article made me want to smack that whippersnapper writer.
posted by medeine at 9:45 AM on January 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Tryniti, I'm 31 and learned two spaces in high school, but every college class I took mandated single spaces (though double spacing between lines).

I'm 39 and had the same experience as Klang and I work in publishing. A freelancer turned in a piece with double spaces about 5 or six years ago. We still mock him to this day and pray, every morning, that he doesn't have children or isn't a teacher.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:45 AM on January 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've always used two spaces between sentences; I learned to do that as a word processor in my youth. Most web forums (like MeFi) automatically strip out one space, but I still type them, and will until I die.

I don't particularly care whether other people do it or not. I don't even care if *I* do it. But I ain't changing.
posted by Malor at 9:45 AM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


And I guess Metafilter automatically takes my second space out.
posted by medeine at 9:45 AM on January 14, 2011


I am a part time teacher and what bothers me the most is when my freshmen and sophomore (college) students try to make their papers longer by putting THREE spaces after the period. It is noticeable. This is extra frustrating if they are being taught to use only one space in high school now
posted by Diotima at 9:45 AM on January 14, 2011


Did you notice he's also quote-unquote being a dick on NPR and Wired after madickulating from Cornell?

Manjoo ain't payin' me to notice his CV
posted by Greg Nog at 9:45 AM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Farhad Manjoo? Uh, I can't stand his opinions. He seems to perennially confuse his preferences for objective truths.
posted by oddman at 9:46 AM on January 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


Hundreds of years ago some typesetters would end sentences with a double space, others would use a single space, and a few renegades would use three or four spaces.

I have found my new, rebellious typographical statement!

Also, how are iDevice users supposed to place periods if we can't type two spaces at the end of a sentence?
posted by TedW at 9:47 AM on January 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Periods are small. Extra space after a period emphasizes the end of the sentence. Text benefits from existing as chunks shorter than a paragraph, and a good verbal rendition reflects this -- as does having a little, almost inconsequential gap after a period.

My understanding is that some proportional fonts mimic this double-space gap by building extra space into the period character. In a way, this tension between having the typist put the space in himself or having the software "just take care of it" is emblematic of an overarching tension in software design in general: the degree to which software does everything for the user, giving the user not only less flexibility but also, over time, less understanding of how things really work under the hood and the kinds of decisions that are being made for him -- but that's another discussion (one in which I'd be interested, though).

I don't think it's a given that two spaces are wrong. In a way, they reflect the same kind of awareness that being able to hand-code HTML or change your own oil does. If I hand-letter something, I'm more likely to think (consciously or not) about extra space not only after a sentence end but elsewhere.

The article's author himself points out that grammar rules are, in a sense, arbitrary. Single-space absolutism seems unjustifiable by those lights. If anything, those who use double-spaces seem likely to have been taught to pay more attention to detail. Mocking them? That seems...shortsighted.

Also -- isn't there some kind of mail reader plug-in he could get to automatically change [period][space][space] into [period][space]?
posted by amtho at 9:47 AM on January 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


Complaints about two-spacers are ageist. Just wait for the boomers to die out and you can have your wasted space back.

Perhaps this is what Loughner was complaining about in his rants. I couldn't tell.
posted by milkfish at 9:47 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree with the general idea of the slate article. Double spaces after periods are appropriate only when using monospaced fonts. Meaning: practically never. Single spaces when using fonts with proper kerning. It's the typographer's job to make sure the text reads and flows nicely, don't try to second guess them.
posted by arcolz at 9:47 AM on January 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


I had never come across the "one space" standard until, like, two years ago when I was editing a paper. I had always been taught two spaces. To me the debate is just funny though. One is "right" and one is "wrong"? No. It is arbitrary. How 'bout "one scans better and the other, well, there might be an upside to the one-space rule, I guess."
posted by Navelgazer at 9:48 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


From now on I'm putting &nbsp between my sentences, just to make sure it doesn't get stripped out.  Like that.  How ya like me now?!
posted by echo target at 9:48 AM on January 14, 2011 [18 favorites]


Thisarticledoesn'tgofarenough,inmyhumbleopinion.Wearealmostatthepointofpeakspace-hence,the"greenest"optionistoonlyusesustainablepunctuationmarks,likeexclamationpoints!!!!!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:48 AM on January 14, 2011 [18 favorites]


He seems to perennially confuse his preferences for objective truths.

So he would fit in really well around here, basically.
posted by elizardbits at 9:49 AM on January 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


I am 35 and was taught to use single-spaces sometime in my late teens. I had been a double-spacer, and when I learned the single-space rule and the reasons for it, I switched. It wasn't difficult. It made sense.

Now when I get emails from a friend who consistently double-spaces, it looks funny to me.
posted by statolith at 9:49 AM on January 14, 2011


Most web forums (like MeFi) automatically strip out one space, but I still type them, and will until I die.

Mefi does not; I'd guess most do not. It is web browsers, in accordance with the HTML spec, that when nothing tells them not to will collapse concurrent spaces in displayed text to a single space.
posted by cortex at 9:49 AM on January 14, 2011 [15 favorites]


I will give up the extra space between sentences when they pry my cold dead right thumb from atop my space bar.
posted by Danf at 9:50 AM on January 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Most web forums (like MeFi) automatically strip out one space, but I still type them, and will until I die

Your two spaces survive, actually, and are dutifully downloaded by all browser clients visiting this page. They are, however, regarded as "extra whitespace" and are ignored when the browser renders the page.

View the source! You'll see!
posted by tapesonthefloor at 9:50 AM on January 14, 2011


What he said.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 9:50 AM on January 14, 2011


And I guess Metafilter automatically takes my second space out.

In HTML all whitespace is rendered as a single space - carriage returns are also ignored, but MeFi helpfully reinserts them for you.

If you absolutely have to add a space into HTML use the character code   for non-breaking space.
posted by Artw at 9:50 AM on January 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Full stops are lame; I never use them . . .
posted by The World Famous at 9:51 AM on January 14, 2011


You know all those things you hate in the deepest, darkest parts of your heart that you hope will go away when the Baby Boomers all finally die?

You're going to have to wait until all of Generation X has died off for this one to go away.

Sorry.

I've seen pre-teen relatives typing with a confidence and speed that I didn't get until my late college years. And I have an English degree and wrote a helluva lot of papers to get it.

Oh yeah, Pre-Teen Relative? You think you're hot shit? Type that fast with a crushing hangover two hours before the paper is due. That's right. Go back to your texting...

I took a trimester long typing class in high school. Do they still even have those? Because if you don't like two spaces, that's where you need to start your Jihad. I can no less change that reflexive motion any more than I can change the way I hit the brakes when I drive a car.
posted by Cyrano at 9:51 AM on January 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


What they said.
posted by Artw at 9:51 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyone else notice the spelling in the article of "Ay yi yi" as "Aye yay yay", which would be pronounced, I-as-in-myself, yay-as-in-I'm-excited, yay-as-in-I'm-excited instead of I-as-in-myself, yi-as-in-yippee-ki-blank-yay, yi-as-in-yippee-ki-blank-yay? Glass houses and all that (guaranteeing I made an egregious typo). [sic] Chalk me up on the "much ado about nothing" slate.
posted by notsnot at 9:51 AM on January 14, 2011


Greg Nog: "Manjoo ain't payin' me to notice his CV"

Look, am I getting my latte or not?
posted by boo_radley at 9:51 AM on January 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't really care which way it is, as long as it's that way through the whole document.

And at work, I do whatever the particular person who I'm giving the product to wants. Which is true of everything, and a total pain in the ass.
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:51 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is nonsense.  Even in this modern age, a pair of spaces is pleasing to the eye.  The profligation of this foolishness has decreased general legibility.  Who are these people?  What are their credentials?  Who elected them emperors of print elocution?  I will continue to use two spaces wherever I can.  If it was good enough for my faather it is good enough for me.  As well it should be for you, whippersnapper.
posted by clarknova at 9:54 AM on January 14, 2011 [14 favorites]


Look, am I getting my latte or not?

*furiously pours drink into grande cup instead of venti, quickly goes on break to avoid confrontation*
posted by Greg Nog at 9:54 AM on January 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


As I see it there are three cases to consider:

1) Typewriter or monospaced font. The convention has always been two spaces so you might as well stick to that. It's not like it comes up very often anymore anyway.

2) Typesetting. Whatever the typesetter chooses is going to look good and stay consistent. By the way, I don't believe TeX (LaTeX) uses two spaces as there is no unit of measurement called a "space", instead it just pads the space after a period. Anyway, trust your typesetter (or in the case of TeX you can change the spacing rule -- it's totally up to you and will look good regardless of your decision).

3) Word processor (and by default, HTML). Word processor output looks like crap. There are all sorts of issues with kerning and spacing in general such that whatever you produce will, by definition, be an informal looking paper. So use however many spaces you want and if you actually care about how it looks then get it typeset.
posted by bfootdav at 9:54 AM on January 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


This strikes me as a lot of drama over nothing.

Over nothing, or twice as much nothing?
posted by never used baby shoes at 9:54 AM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


My second space has been removed against my will in violation of my copyright? Someone is gonna pay for this.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:54 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


You are one of my favorite people, Greg.
posted by boo_radley at 9:55 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm just coming up on 33, I was taught in elementary school that 2 spaces was the standard for after a period. I only recently heard that people are now considering a single space to be the "correct" standard. Having said that, add me to this:

Put me in the camp of "people old enough to have been taught by people who used manual typewriters in the 50's, and who realize that only one space is needed now, but don't care to expend the effort to break a decades-long habit over something this minor."

And also...

Anyone else notice the spelling in the article of "Ay yi yi" as "Aye yay yay", which would be pronounced, I-as-in-myself, yay-as-in-I'm-excited, yay-as-in-I'm-excited instead of I-as-in-myself, yi-as-in-yippee-ki-blank-yay, yi-as-in-yippee-ki-blank-yay? Glass houses and all that (guaranteeing I made an egregious typo). [sic] Chalk me up on the "much ado about nothing" slate.

One of the thing that drives me INSANE is people that type "yeah" instead of "yay". To me, "yeah" is pronounced like "ya", as in the slang for "yes". I could care less about double spacers vs single spacers, but this is one that drives me BONKERS, and I have no idea why.
posted by antifuse at 9:59 AM on January 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


I keep all my crappy genre stories in double-space-after-period form because it's easier to do a find-and-replace to change " " to " " than vice versa. You have to read submission guidelines on these magazines with a magnifying glass, sometimes...
posted by Scattercat at 9:59 AM on January 14, 2011


What is this idea about two spaces? I don't even have a concept of one space - there's just space. How large this space should be is not my concern - I leave this kind of thing to my stylesheet, typesetting software or formatting flunkie as appropriate.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:00 AM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I prefer two spaces for the following reasons:

First, punctuation (in this case the period) does double-duty, serving as both an indication of abbreviation as well as a stand-in for the auditory cue of a pause. Consider the sentence, "I wrote a letter to M. Blavatsky clarifying my comments about Theosophy. As of yet, I have received no response." Do we desire a pause of equal length between "M" and "Blavatsky" versus between the two sentences? No.

Naturally, this does not apply for something like a question mark — abbreviations are not conducted with them — but to separate some sentences with two spaces and others with only one seems a little odd. As a somewhat lesser point, the exclamation mark can occasionally serve another duty for click consonants in languages on at least two continents and would therefore be in a similar situation as the period.

I realize that another "helper" signal exists, namely the capitalization of the first letter of the first word in the next sentence, but given how fast and loose some people are playing with capitalization rules these days, that isn't something on which we can count.

As an additional, never-to-be-realized benefit, two spaces would be a nice hint (at least in a fuzzy-logic sense) for any machine language parsing of text.

Punctuation is used ambiguously; the additional space helps clarify matters.

Also, my thumb just does that.
posted by adipocere at 10:01 AM on January 14, 2011 [10 favorites]


Count me in the double-space after a period crowd. That's how I was taught in TYPING class in high school.

It bothers me the business program I am in requires APA. Every year APA seems to have changes.
posted by 6:1 at 10:01 AM on January 14, 2011


Two spaces highly increases the legibility of paragraphs.  One space makes everything look like a single run-on sentence.  You one-spacers can suck it, because you are wrong.
posted by Aquaman at 10:02 AM on January 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


With TEX, doesn't matter at all how many spaces you type in your input document. When typesetting, it will just "do the right thing" as always---it fiddles space as it thinks necessary. By default, it puts more space after terminal punctuation, but you can turn that off as an option if you want. The link in the post describes how to remove "the quaint end-of-sentence spacing" from your output.

Blackberries kind of perpetuate the double space. Hitting the space bar twice runs a macro that types a period, then a space and capitalizes the next letter you type. In effect, on a BB, two spaces means "end my sentance and start the next". Quite a brilliant shortcut, I've always thought.
posted by bonehead at 10:03 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I space it will be trouble
Double space -- it will be double
So you've got to let me know
HTML, LaTeX or Mono?
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:03 AM on January 14, 2011 [13 favorites]


The other thing I was taught in typing class was to use the lowercase l for the numeral 1 which had been left off of the keyboard for reasons of economy. That habit didn't stick even through the era of card punching machines however.
posted by milkfish at 10:04 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, if that <line> </line> stuff ever makes its way over from XHTML 2.0 to HTML 6 or whatever, you can bet my stylesheets are gonna jam some nice, fluffy spaces between sentences. Hell, yeah.
posted by adipocere at 10:05 AM on January 14, 2011


"View the source! You'll see!"

This is my all-purpose conspiracy theory retort from here on out.

Google Ron Paul?

View the source! You'll see!
posted by klangklangston at 10:06 AM on January 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


I would fight someone for bringing this up to me.
posted by cmoj at 10:06 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sigh. If there's any place that this holy war would have been fought and won by the masses, it's Wikipedia. Their solution? Use one or two and carry on adhering to whichever dogma you believe is right. Either way, it doesn't matter because software will select the most readable* presentation for modern displays.

(* i.e. one space, so there)
posted by rh at 10:07 AM on January 14, 2011


Even in this modern age, a pair of spaces is pleasing to the eye

Sure, in print media. On my screen it's an anachronism, like reading a first-edition Dickens in Verdana.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 10:07 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love MeFi because people here not only have though-out opinions on double-space vs. single-space, but also Farhad Manjoo.
posted by defenestration at 10:08 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


WENT TO TELEGRAM SCHOOL IN NINETEEN TWENTY EIGHT STOP WAS NOT TAUGHT PERIODS STOP CONFUSED AT CURRENT FUROR
posted by Comrade_robot at 10:11 AM on January 14, 2011 [63 favorites]


Also: data point —

I was born in 1984 and, in my experience, every time someone has brought up double-spacing after a sentence, there's been someone else to say "uh, actually..."
posted by defenestration at 10:11 AM on January 14, 2011


Wow, I totally never knew this was a thing.
The 2 spaces after a period thing was absolutely drilled into us when we had to take "typing" classes in junior high in the early '80's. I remember the teacher's red pen circles on my page, around the periods that only had one space after them. It's one of those things like comma, then end quote that's just in my brain and I don't think I could ever get it out. I'm pretty sure it was still the method at University when we had to follow that essay-writing style Bible.
But now I'll be all conscious of it and it will take me even longer to write emails.
posted by chococat at 10:11 AM on January 14, 2011


When I saw this conversation I assumed I was part of the old guard that clung to double spacing out of habit. But without even thinking about it I single-spaced after the period. Then I looked at some things I've written over the past fifteen years and it looks I subconsciously made the switch about a decade. Weird, because I don't remember ever consciously acknowledging the new norm and switiching to just one space. it just happened.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 10:12 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you absolutely have to add a space into HTML use the character code   for non-breaking space. --artW

Great. Look at what you've done. What's next? Directions for a child's anthrax A-bomb?
posted by cccorlew at 10:14 AM on January 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


I work for a large printing company. I just asked the guy that designed the markup language for our typesetting application. Our house stylesheets use "one space" (I don't know our typesetting system but it's just a number of picas whitespace)
posted by Ad hominem at 10:14 AM on January 14, 2011


It is every copy editor's moral duty to stamp fast and hard on the abomination of double spaces. Do not be fooled by apologists and the apathetic, this is not an inconsequential matter of taste, it is the front line. We are in the trenches of punctuation here. Double spacing is the thin end of the wedge. You let that passed and you open the flood gates for the eye-burning horror of hyphens as dashes, inexplicable semi-colons and capitalised bullet points. Before you know it, you're running on sentences and dropping apostrophes in plurals. Think people, think!
posted by londonmark at 10:14 AM on January 14, 2011 [10 favorites]


Yes we use the equiv of nbsp on say, French text where it is sometimes required.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:15 AM on January 14, 2011


I started a summer school course in typing -- on a massive manual typewriter that still makes my poor pinkies twinge when I think about it -- between grades 10 and 11. I dropped it after a week when I had the chance to spend the summer with my older sister in Montreal, where I got to drink rum and cokes and bought my cherished vinyl copy of Another Green World. I never took formal instruction in typing again and developed my own fairly speedy hunt and peck technique.

So not only has my inefficient and non-standard typing technique saved me from carpal tunnel syndrome, but it hasn't made me dogmatic about two spaces versus one space after a period. I'm currently using one space and am fine with that.
posted by maudlin at 10:17 AM on January 14, 2011


You got yourprescritptivism in my des c r i p t i vism
posted by blue_beetle at 10:18 AM on January 14, 2011


I have to say that I've never heard of using two spaces, but I love the fact that people are fighting over it. Because geek fights are funny.
posted by ob at 10:18 AM on January 14, 2011


I was taught that the reason for the switch is that a good word processor automatically puts extra space after periods. Is that wrong? Shouldn't we blame word processors or other text-display protocols?

All of my mentors have insisted on 2 spaces in grants, but I don't tell them that our use of full justification makes this moot anyway.
posted by Jorus at 10:21 AM on January 14, 2011


I'm old enough to recall when there was no indentation for paragraphs and the first letter was painted in colors to signify a paragraph.

Wikipedia and Slate hardly places one would turn to for authoritative judgments on such matters.
I used to be annoyed with single spalcze. Now I am not. Not even sure what I do use. Ah..there it is. Or is this it?

After age 30 most people can't tell if there is one or two paces so forgetaboutit.
ps: in "the old days," a title for an article would NEVER begin with a numeral. Now they all do on the net, as in

Ten Minutes to To D-Day
10 minutes to D-Day

as my grandmother used to say: the more things alter, the more they change.
posted by Postroad at 10:21 AM on January 14, 2011


(not an extra space, but the space takes up more room, so to speak)
posted by Jorus at 10:22 AM on January 14, 2011


As Adipocere points out above, until there is a separate character which looks like a period but doesn't have as much space beyond it (for use with abbreviations in the middle of a sentence), the double-spaced period serves a distinct need for a clear end to sentences.

I read really, really fast, always have.  Single spaced paragraphs make my brain hurt as it tries to figure out which text chunks belong together.  Double spaces allow me to digest sentences effortlessly in two or three bites; single spaces make me take an extra moment to determine whether that's the end of a sentence or just a mid-sentence period.

People who care about how text looks without equal consideration of how easy it is to read are visual artist, not typographers, and should be roundly ignored.
posted by Aquaman at 10:23 AM on January 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Most web forums (like MeFi) automatically strip out one space,

Waitaminute. Really?

*checks preview*

YOU BASTARDS!
posted by backseatpilot at 10:23 AM on January 14, 2011


Wait, an American journalist thinks I should only use one space? Well, this changes everything!
posted by Hoopo at 10:23 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of the thing that drives me INSANE is people that type "yeah" instead of "yay". To me, "yeah" is pronounced like "ya", as in the slang for "yes". I could care less about double spacers vs single spacers, but this is one that drives me BONKERS, and I have no idea why.

I have nearly the opposite peeve: people who write "yea" when they mean "yeah". Ugh.
posted by rifflesby at 10:25 AM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Huh, I should read more carefully before I start cursing people out.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:26 AM on January 14, 2011


In this of all recent threads, I'm handing out favorites like they're molly at a rave to my two-space compadres. (Please don't memail songs to thank me, it's really not necessary).

I think adipocere said it best: the extra space is a nice visual indicator for readability and cleanliness that also properly distinguishes "Mr." or "Dr." from the actual end of a sentence. Since most of us are not hand-setting type or trying to cram as many words into newsprint, using double spaces is like being able easily italicize or bold your words, so as to convey additional emphasis and verbal stresses that occur in speech but are lost in the written word.
posted by hincandenza at 10:27 AM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Can we also discuss 'woah'?
posted by shakespeherian at 10:28 AM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


So... when are we gonna hash out the Oxford comma business?

I can do it this afternoon, tomorrow morning, or Monday evening.
posted by kmz at 10:29 AM on January 14, 2011 [12 favorites]


Waitaminute. Really?

Apparently not; cortex corrected me upthread. It's the web browser itself doing it, rather than the forum software. I noticed it a couple times, checked to be sure I really had put in two spaces, assumed it was something about the forum software, and then just shrugged and forgot about it. Doesn't really matter to me either way. But I do type them, and I will never, ever change.

You single-spacers will just have to outlive me. :)
posted by Malor at 10:30 AM on January 14, 2011


Speak for yourself%

One of the stranger things about reading modern Greek, even after you get used to the alphabet, is the fact that the punctuation mark known to English readers as a semicolon is used to mark questions.

I wonder: how long does it take to get used to that;
posted by kenko at 10:30 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I will double my spaces except when required to do otherwise. Amongst other things, this is a way to tell whether it was me that wrote something or touched it last - I can always tell when someone's modified my contracts, legislation and correspondence. Boo freaking yah.
posted by SMPA at 10:31 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I learned to double space and now it's a habit. I'll keep doing it because it's not hurting anybody.
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:32 AM on January 14, 2011


I really hope everyone can be calm about this issue and it doesn't regress into toxic name calling and violence.

Change begins with you.
posted by Skygazer at 10:32 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can we also discuss 'woah'?

Whoa.

Also, it's y'all, not ya'll.
posted by kmz at 10:33 AM on January 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


kmz, you can join my club.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:36 AM on January 14, 2011


I think you'll find that the dissonance also comes from the fact that people who advocate two spaces actually took typing classes as part of their education. When I started high school, typing was a mandatory elective needed for graduation, so I took it my freshman year. The next year, the policy was changed, and none of my classmates took typing after that.

I believe the thinking (back in 1991) was that only secretaries really needed to learn how to type. (The class Typing 2 focused on 10-key pad usage; basically those accounting calculators that printed out the calculations.)

Most of my peers did not take a typing class growing up, and think it's quaint that I learned how to center type manually by calculating how many letters is in an inch. And that I still occasionally put in two spaces after a sentence. And that I can type up something without looking at the keyboard and having a conversation on a completely different topic.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:41 AM on January 14, 2011


If LaTeX does it then it is correct. If LaTeX does not do it then that is correct. That is all.
posted by vbfg at 10:42 AM on January 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Cyrano: You're going to have to wait until all of Generation X has died off for this one to go away.

Yeah Boyee!! WORD.

*Fist bump*
posted by Skygazer at 10:47 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just a heads up: the fact that double spacing pisses you off so much makes me love doing it even more.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 10:47 AM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


*Double Fist Bump*
posted by Skygazer at 10:48 AM on January 14, 2011


You let that passed and you open the flood gates for the eye-burning horror of hyphens as dashes, inexplicable semi-colons and capitalised bullet points.

Hold on. You're not supposed to capitalize bullet points? So the following is wrong?


  • This is the first item.
  • This is the second item.


  • Or is it just the following that's wrong?

  • First item
  • Second item


  • Please hope me!
    posted by mr_roboto at 10:49 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


    If LaTeX does it then it is correct. If LaTeX does not do it then that is correct. That is all.

    It's an option in LaTeX.
    posted by mr_roboto at 10:50 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Is this some sort of a... space war? Yae?
    posted by fuq at 10:51 AM on January 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


    Is this arbitrary?  Sure it is.  But so are a lot of our conventions for writing.  It's arbitrary that we write shop instead of shoppe, or phone instead of fone, or that we use ! to emphasize a sentence rather than %.  We adopted these standards because practitioners of publishing—writers, editors, typographers, and others—settled on them after decades of experience.  Among their rules was that we should use one space after a period instead of two—so that's how we should do it.
    posted by The Devil Tesla at 10:51 AM on January 14, 2011


    It's an option in LaTeX.

    Fucking moral relativists.
    posted by kenko at 10:51 AM on January 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


    I believe the thinking (back in 1991) was that only secretaries really needed to learn how to type.

    I can't remember in what context, but I saw a resume fairly recently in which someone had "typing" under their set of skills (not a words-per-minute count or anything like that, just that they could indeed type) and I thought "How quaint!" It's interesting that, within a generation, typing has gone from being a skill to something that's just assumed.
    posted by ob at 10:53 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


    I was taught to single-space. And then I was taught that some people prefer to double space, and that it's no big deal. Ah, for those halcyon days of tolerant innocence...
    posted by tyllwin at 10:53 AM on January 14, 2011


    Personally I don't really care.     It is entirely arbitrary and deciding to only accept one as legitimate is a silly limitation.     If the way something is set makes you not want to read it there is something wrong with you.     There are far more legitimate reasons not to read something.
    posted by The Devil Tesla at 10:56 AM on January 14, 2011


    Metafilter:
    posted by Sourisnoire at 10:59 AM on January 14, 2011


    LaTeX is correct to offer options.
    posted by vbfg at 10:59 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


    When I started high school, typing was a mandatory elective needed for graduation, so I took it my freshman year.

    Forget double or single-spacers: let's go after people who say "mandatory elective!" I have torches. Who has pitchforks?
    posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:02 AM on January 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


    I love you, jabberjaw, but some things are beyond the pale.
    posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:03 AM on January 14, 2011


                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
    posted by willF at 11:04 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


    And let us not forget Whitespace, the programming language.
    posted by willF at 11:05 AM on January 14, 2011


    antifuse: "I'm just coming up on 33, I was taught in elementary school that 2 spaces was the standard for after a period."

    I was too. Since it's also standard format for press releases and I write those every day, I add two spaces after sentences automatically to everything I write. It takes conscious effort not to do so.
    posted by zarq at 11:07 AM on January 14, 2011


    In editing somebody else's work, and writing my own, I'm less concerned about the space after a period than the space between two ears.
    posted by Astro Zombie at 11:08 AM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


    I went all through undergrad and graduate school (finished in 2002) with people that adhered to the two-space school of thought. Maybe we are just slow to catch on down south?

    Now that I think about it, the people who insist on deleting the extra space in my technical writing are all in the mid-west. Regardless, I hate getting reports back with a zillion red marks where the second space has been deleted. I'm doing it correctly, damnit!
    posted by tryniti at 11:08 AM on January 14, 2011


    Man I always used to do two spaces and then I read somewhere (probably here) that one was considered correct these days, so I up and switched to one. It took like a week of reminding myself and then it was ingrained. What I did not have any of about it were Feelings.
    posted by little cow make small moo at 11:11 AM on January 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


    Intellectually I understand that it's wrong to add two spaces after a period. But as a force of habit, two spaces is an unbreakable one. Believe me; I have tried. In fact, as I am typing this right now I am trying my hardest only to type one space. Trying, and failing.

    I guess I never realized how many people actually notice the two spaces. That's a little embarrassing. Maybe I should try harder to only type one. I didn't realize it was a Comic Sans-level blunder.

    Or perhaps I shall just keep the two spaces and bear them proudly as the flag of my advanced years, along with my rapidly-graying hair, my yellowed collection of Lisa Frank stickers, and my nostalgia for Smurf Berries cereal.
    posted by ErikaB at 11:12 AM on January 14, 2011


    ... People care about this? Seriously?

    I'm a professional writer and I don't care about this. I don't even have a preference. Both are obviously in common use, so the only thing that matters is consistency throughout a document. (Probably. I'm not even completely sure I'd notice if it was inconsistent.)
    posted by kyrademon at 11:16 AM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


    It is definitely age/computer literacy thing. In elementary school I was taught to double space after a period, but some time in middle or high school it switched. At the last company I worked it was disproportionately younger folks, but we had the entire age range represented. I never saw anyone use the double space intentionally in an email or otherwise. However the system we were working with had been originally designed in the late 70's, but was still in use. It had a text editor that automatically put in two spaces, when you were writing help text and our style guide required that we only had one space after a period. There was an enhancement request to get it fixed, but I don't think anyone ever got around to it since it was so low priority. I also remember helping a coworker to write a macro to find all the places in our help text were it had two spaces and write QA notes for them and then having the head of development chew him out for writing QA notes that were a waste of time.
    Now were I work everyone is over 40 and everyone puts in two spaces. It kind of grates my nerves, but it's probably the fact that none of them have taken a computer class and they need me to teach them everything.
    posted by roguewraith at 11:17 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


    In LaTeX, use \frenchspacing to turn off this unfortunate default. And Knuth does not know everything about typography.
    posted by grouse at 11:17 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Period. Space. Capital. That seems like plenty of signal that one sentence has ended and another has begun.

    Do these people also advocate for ¶ before every new paragraph?
    posted by Sys Rq at 11:19 AM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


    I had some typing programs that required 2 spaces, and some that required 1, and it would always screw with my speed trying to figure out which one they wanted, because it was never clear until the end of the first sentence.

    One of the thing that drives me INSANE is people that type "yeah" instead of "yay". To me, "yeah" is pronounced like "ya", as in the slang for "yes". I could care less about double spacers vs single spacers, but this is one that drives me BONKERS, and I have no idea why.

    I have nearly the opposite peeve: people who write "yea" when they mean "yeah". Ugh.


    I dislike the places where you are supposed to vote for something, yay or nay. I am usually just not that excited about the options -- we could try for three, yay, meh or nay.
    posted by jeather at 11:19 AM on January 14, 2011


    I definitely two space. I also learned how to type on a typewriter.
    posted by empath at 11:20 AM on January 14, 2011


    And Knuth does not know everything about typography.

    Heretic.
    posted by Malor at 11:20 AM on January 14, 2011


    36, learned how to type in junior high / high school in '89-90 or so, on a real IBM Selectric II dammit (although we also had fancy e-lec-tronic typewriters too) and it was two spaces. Period.

    Same in Typing III and as it changed to "Keyboarding" - it might have been Wordperfect 5.1 on a PS/2 Model 25, but it was still TWO SPACES.
    posted by mrbill at 11:20 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


    It seems that you can't have Word autocorrect two spaces to one. But you can set it to flag two spaces with the green squiggle grammar check.
    posted by ErikaB at 11:25 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


    This just isn't a big deal.
    posted by millions at 11:25 AM on January 14, 2011


    (I suspect this one/two space philosophical division maps nicely to whether you call the line break key "Enter" or "Return.")
    posted by ErikaB at 11:26 AM on January 14, 2011


    I work with someone who uses one space, but he puts it before the period .Like this .And then starts the next sentence without a space .It makes me sad .
    posted by notmydesk at 11:26 AM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


    I can't get excited about the number of spaces after the period unless it's more than two. Follow your style guide and be done with it. (The real problem is the lack of a style guide in many workplaces, said the tech writer who's been the sole writer in the past.)
    posted by immlass at 11:27 AM on January 14, 2011


    (Also: Typesetters have never done the two-spaces thing. Printed matter gets an en-quad between sentences, not an em-quad. The two-spaces thing is strictly for typewritten manuscripts.)
    posted by Sys Rq at 11:29 AM on January 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


    The only question I have , is what to do with people who put spaces before the punctuation ?
    posted by Rock Steady at 11:33 AM on January 14, 2011


    Yup. I work in publishing and we use single spaces in all our journals and our newspaper. Double spacing? Oh hell no.
    posted by Windigo at 11:35 AM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Space is a continuous quantity. To argue about 1 versus 2 spaces is too narrow a view of the problem.
    posted by polymodus at 11:36 AM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


    If you get used to reading two spaces, you think that's the way it should be. You can also get used to reading text with a single space between sentences, though. Do all of you people claiming that it's so much easier to read two spaces between sentences regularly throw down every published book, newspaper, website and magazine article in a huff over their failure to follow your convention? Do you even notice?

    Single spaces when using fonts with proper kerning. It's the typographer's job to make sure the text reads and flows nicely, don't try to second guess them.

    QFT.
    posted by girih knot at 11:37 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Now this is a topic worth 1500 comments.
    posted by jfuller at 11:38 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Postroad wrote "After age 30 most people can't tell if there is one or two paces so forgetaboutit."

    Speak for yourself. I can spot double-spaces even in fully justified text. Well, let me clarify - I can spot inconsistent use of spacing between sentences even in fully justified text. I circle it in red pen and tell people to fix it. When using Word, I automatically work with hidden characters visible; when editing the work of others this way, I routinely strip double spaces, spaces at the end of sentences which are followed by a carriage return, spaces and tab marks left hanging in otherwise empty lines, carriage returns used where page breaks should have been used instead, and on, and on, and on. It's horrifying. It's enough to make me agree that 95% of people who use a word processing program keep trying to format the text when they should be focusing on writing it.

    I am a single spacer. My wife habitually uses two. I keep gently correcting her, because it's pointless to have the extra space included. In high school, she took a typing class which I skipped - simply because I felt I had no need for it. They called it "Computing" but they didn't do a damn thing with the computers except run typing programs on them. She has a pretty good WPM after all her years of typing. Me, I can damn-near touch type with my two-fingered approach. Might be a bit slower than her but what with grad school and a science career I am pretty sure I have written way more than she has over the years, so it works for me.

    Oh wait I am doing this incorrectly, what I meant to say was TWO SPACES BAD ONE SPACE GOOD GRAR.
    posted by caution live frogs at 11:46 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


    I just type everything one line at a time

    That's how we do it on IRC!


    (but seriously, I learned to type two spaces after a period, and it's just what I do now. I think. I forget. Okay, yeah, I type two.)
    posted by rubah at 12:09 PM on January 14, 2011


    Besides, it just all runs together if you don't have the extra space - it's a good visual break.

    Period. Space. Capital. That seems like plenty of signal that one sentence has ended and another has begun.

    Type it however you want. If you send it to me to have it typeset, it's going to get one space.
    posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 12:11 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Now that Oprah has recommended single space, I type double spaces while driving just to spite her.
    posted by hermitosis at 12:11 PM on January 14, 2011 [14 favorites]


    This just isn't a big deal.

    But look at the huge difference! 1 - 2


    When using Word, I automatically work with hidden characters visible; when editing the work of others this way, I routinely strip double spaces, spaces at the end of sentences which are followed by a carriage return, spaces and tab marks left hanging in otherwise empty lines, carriage returns used where page breaks should have been used instead, and on, and on, and on. It's horrifying.

    I do the same, but not sure I'd call it horrifying. What I like is when people use the space bar to make tables. Joy.
    posted by zennie at 12:17 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Idontseewhyyoushouldfeelobligatedtouseanyspaceswhatsoeveranyway.Theyjustmakeyourtextlongerfornoapparenreason.

    posted by jenkinsEar at 12:18 PM on January 14, 2011


    "Mr." or "Dr."

    I was under the impression that neither of these would attract a full stop as the concluding letter of the abbreviation is also the concluding letter of the abbreviated word. Don't tell me I made that up.
    posted by tigrefacile at 12:26 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Which—for the record—is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong.

    Manufactured nerdrage for the sake of getting page hits. Since multiple spaces between sentences is something that can be fixed in 10 seconds with a quick regex, I don't find it worth getting worked up over.
    posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:26 PM on January 14, 2011


    Wow. A punctuation issue not even I care about.
    posted by steambadger at 12:30 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


    You know who else wanted extra space...
    posted by tigrefacile at 12:37 PM on January 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


    I have not read this thread or the article and I'm probably not going to. I just wanted to say how much I love Metafilter.

    For some reason it just makes me happy to glance at the front page and see a post about punctuation with 160 comments. That is exactly what I expected and I love being part of a community that does shit like that.

    As you were.

    For formal righting I was brought up as a two-space guy, but I just realized with internet writing I use one space.
    posted by marxchivist at 12:39 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Overthinking a plate of periods.
    posted by Splunge at 12:43 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Overthinking a plate of periods.

    Ew.
    posted by Sys Rq at 12:50 PM on January 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


    I was under the impression that neither of these would attract a full stop as the concluding letter of the abbreviation is also the concluding letter of the abbreviated word. Don't tell me I made that up.

    That's the rule in Britain.
    posted by kenko at 12:50 PM on January 14, 2011


    "It is every copy editor's moral duty to stamp fast and hard on the abomination of double spaces... You let that passed and you open the flood gates for the eye-burning horror..."

    londonmark, are you a copy editor?
    posted by MsVader at 12:52 PM on January 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


    One of the thing that drives me INSANE is people that type "yeah" instead of "yay". To me, "yeah" is pronounced like "ya", as in the slang for "yes". I could care less about double spacers vs single spacers, but this is one that drives me BONKERS, and I have no idea why.

    I have nearly the opposite peeve: people who write "yea" when they mean "yeah". Ugh.


    Or worse, people who use "ya" for "yeah". To me "ya" is the phonetic equivalent to "ja", the German affirmative. It's fine for an informal version of "you", as in "See ya!", but it just doesn't work for "yeah", which has a distinctly different vowel sound.

    woah vs whoa -- Oh my, yes.

    And in conclusion, two spaces.
    posted by briank at 12:54 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


    For your reference:

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla vestibulum congue metus sed rhoncus. Suspendisse nulla massa, lobortis vestibulum interdum eget, pretium ac massa. Fusce sit amet ante vitae arcu mollis consectetur in ut neque. Suspendisse fringilla, sem vel ultricies fermentum, est tortor tempor ipsum, eu mattis eros velit sit amet elit. Donec volutpat elementum dui, nec euismod tortor consectetur a. Aliquam massa erat, posuere vel tempus eu, tempor et augue. Donec fermentum eros eu risus malesuada luctus molestie lectus scelerisque. Pellentesque a tincidunt tortor. Integer viverra lacinia nisi, a fermentum erat iaculis non. Suspendisse orci magna, pharetra sit amet mattis eget, imperdiet a ligula. Fusce luctus viverra ultrices. Proin porttitor pellentesque arcu non convallis. Nullam risus tortor, semper eu ultrices nec, interdum eu risus. Nunc vestibulum aliquet lectus, ut fermentum tellus egestas in. Donec leo nunc, iaculis in mollis non, fermentum sed turpis. Maecenas quis lacus sit amet erat elementum ultrices eget id neque. Fusce quis libero porta velit porta accumsan quis id ligula.

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.  Nulla vestibulum congue metus sed rhoncus.  Suspendisse nulla massa, lobortis vestibulum interdum eget, pretium ac massa.  Fusce sit amet ante vitae arcu mollis consectetur in ut neque. Suspendisse fringilla, sem vel ultricies fermentum, est tortor tempor ipsum, eu mattis eros velit sit amet elit.  Donec volutpat elementum dui, nec euismod tortor consectetur a.  Aliquam massa erat, posuere vel tempus eu, tempor et augue.  Donec fermentum eros eu risus malesuada luctus molestie lectus scelerisque. Pellentesque a tincidunt tortor.  Integer viverra lacinia nisi, a fermentum erat iaculis non.  Suspendisse orci magna, pharetra sit amet mattis eget, imperdiet a ligula.  Fusce luctus viverra ultrices.  Proin porttitor pellentesque arcu non convallis.  Nullam risus tortor, semper eu ultrices nec, interdum eu risus.  Nunc vestibulum aliquet lectus, ut fermentum tellus egestas in.  Donec leo nunc, iaculis in mollis non, fermentum sed turpis.  Maecenas quis lacus sit amet erat elementum ultrices eget id neque.  Fusce quis libero porta velit porta accumsan quis id ligula.
    posted by mhum at 12:56 PM on January 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


    Mrs. Richter is not going to like this at all.

    I was taught to double-space after a period in Junior High, and that's the last I thought about it until a couple of weeks ago when I started seeing a little bit of this argument around on the internet. I have a degree in English, and wrote papers on and off at the college level between 1990 and 2004 in MLA style, and no one ever said 'boo' to me about this. Then I went to Graduate School for Public Administration and had to switch to APA style and it never even occurred to me to even look this up. Of course you double space at the end of a sentence. We're not barbarians.
    posted by Shohn at 12:56 PM on January 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


    I was taught by my creative writing instructor in high school to use two spaces. Everything I've read since then has said otherwise, and I'm not exactly sure when I stopped doing it. I think this book may have had something to do with it.
    posted by brundlefly at 1:04 PM on January 14, 2011


    Oh, and thanks for posting this. As soon as I came across the article I wanted to see MetaFilter overthink this particular plate of beans.
    posted by brundlefly at 1:07 PM on January 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


    And Manjoo here from Slate starts his discussion with three big bits of stupidity.

    First, he points email messages attributed to Assange reported at Gawker as an example but the messages don't demonstrate double-spacing between sentences. In fact, there's consistently a single space after each period. Manjoo is fooled by the fact that the messages are typeset in a monospace typeface, so the period gets more space than it would in a proportional typeface.

    In fact, if those images come from a webmail program we likely can't say anything about Assange's typing habits because HTML canonically crunches whitespace.

    The second big problem is he's bitching about typography in email messages (as presented by Gawker who may or may not have doctored the images), which is a communication mode that's pretty much broken typographically, starting with the arbitrary and antique 80-character wrap leading up to unpredictable wrapping algorithms in modern email systems. It's like criticizing a McDonald's Happy Meal on plate presentation.

    And finally, WTF? A guy sends a series of creepy messages to a woman he barely knows and Manjoo is using illusionary multiple spaces to launch his own nerdrage on typing habits?

    Manjoo should have just stuck with the tedious cliche of using conversations at dinner and cocktail parties as evidence for the impending fall of the tower of babel.
    posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:23 PM on January 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


    MeFi isn't taking out your double spaces. HTML is.
    posted by readyfreddy at 1:44 PM on January 14, 2011


    Learned on a Selectric in the early 80's. Two spaces after the period, dammit. Hammered out on my Model M, and yes it's noisy. You leave my spaces alone whippersnapper and I'll try to ignore your inability to distinguish loose/lose, discrete/discreet, etc.

    Humph.
    posted by bitmage at 1:59 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


    briank, kmz, shakespeherian: I heart you.
    posted by operalass at 2:00 PM on January 14, 2011


    I'd way rather have this level of debate about toilet paper roll orientation.
    posted by theora55 at 2:04 PM on January 14, 2011


    I'd always thought Metafilter was fully committed to the two space solution.
    posted by Flashman at 2:04 PM on January 14, 2011


    I have had to teach myself, consciously, to not put two spaces after a sentence in TEXT MESSAGES. Clearly, despite my biological age, I am some kind of protohuman living fossil.
    posted by penduluum at 2:08 PM on January 14, 2011


    Forehead Manjuice has silly opinions on damn near everything. I stopped reading Slate when they dropped the Today's Papers column, but most of the folks that write for them who aren't named Dahlia Lithwick just seem to be horrible, shallow people (especially the advice column lady).
    posted by Robin Kestrel at 2:09 PM on January 14, 2011


    Everybody go work off some typing-related stress with a rousing game of Z-Type. It doesn't care how many spaces you type between words.
    posted by cortex at 2:15 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


    I'd way rather have this level of debate about toilet paper roll orientation.

    No need, "under" is absurd.
    posted by ob at 2:19 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


    I was taught to type on a manual typewriter, and I don't double space after terminal periods. nor do I pick up my keyboard off the floor after every 72 characters.

    Putting the space into the '.' character messes up ellipses.

    No double space after terminal periods makes them only contextually distinguishable from abbreviating periods, and not easily machine distinguishable. So once again we're mixing style and content in a bad way. However, a double space is going to screw with software that's not expecting it (moronic given the frequency of the convention). Personally I'd like a 1.5 space kind of thing aesthetically, and a double space as a signifier to a machine interpreter. Above all I want consistency though, and I the lack of it is jarring.

    If we were starting from scratch, a smarter convention might have probably been to crowd the period up against the beginning of the next sentence or line break after a terminal space so that the abbreviating period and terminal period could be easily distinguished both by human and machine readers .I'm looking at my example here and absolutely hating it .Such is the effect of tradition on aesthetics .

    A separate punctuation for abbreviation and terminal periods would be preferable.
    posted by BrotherCaine at 2:22 PM on January 14, 2011


    I've never heard that it's correct to use one space instead of two. At what point did this change? The "Well, anybody with any smarts at all knows to use just one space" tone of the article made me want to smack that whippersnapper writer.

    Well, for me (graduated college 1996) my chief reference librarian boss broke me of the double-space typewriter/word processor habit (and by 'word processor,' I mean one of these babies...mine was dark blue) by giving me a copy of The Mac Is Not A Typewriter. It used the typographic "not necessary" argument for single-spacing, which made plenty of sense to me, and I broke the habit fairly easily.

    In fact, working for him is when I finally learned to touch type instead of hunt-and-peck, so yay for librarian bosses who also head up the local Mac users group and are awesome.
    posted by bitter-girl.com at 2:23 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


    I always ever only use a single space, because I only have a limited amount of time on this planet and I'm not going to waste it double-tapping at the end of a sentence. That shit could add up to several whole seconds after a while!
    posted by quin at 2:24 PM on January 14, 2011


    Email should be plain-text. Plain-text should be set in a monospaced font. Monospaced fonts look best with two spaces after a period. QED.

    It's like Manjoo doesn't even realize that there are people who use terminal windows and command-line tools.
    posted by grimmelm at 2:36 PM on January 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


    Apparently, I do however have a lot of typos between . and , and edit poorly leaving superfluous characters like 'I' lying around in a document. Frankly, I only edit well when high on correction fluid fumes. Kind of like guys who play pool better when slightly tipsy.

    Also, I prefer strongly typed computer languages.

    Randall Monroe, you are a shitty cartographer if you don't start putting MeFi in the Bay of Grammar Pedantry next edition.
    posted by BrotherCaine at 2:37 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Hmm. Just in terms of visual preference, I'm supporting the single space. I've looked at a couple of replies on this thread which use the double, and it just looks like a sort of limping paragraph. I'm not saying I could handwrite any better, but hey, there we are. The full stop and single space before a new sentence starts gives the eye a subtle but very distinct sense of more space before it, anyway.

    (I also experimented with others' use of a double-dash instead of a single one in emails -- it was vaguely endearing but always a little too pedantic.)
    posted by paperpete at 2:38 PM on January 14, 2011


    It's just natural for my thumb to hammer down two times on the space bar after a sentence. *thud* *thud* I'm not gonna change now.
    posted by jefbla at 2:43 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


    I've been typing with two spaces for about 18 years and have found it nearly effortless to change - I also thought it would be really difficult to make that adaptation. I do find the tone of that article grating, though.
    posted by neuromodulator at 3:08 PM on January 14, 2011


    LaTeX makes some typographic mistakes, like say the formating of enumerates. TeX does not. Ergo mr. slate guy is wrong.
    posted by jeffburdges at 3:32 PM on January 14, 2011


    Don't forget the History of sentence spacing which has this quote that proves my side right:
    The 1885 edition of The American Printer stated the practice of spacing text with "two thick spaces" between words "in wide-leaded matter" had gone out of fashion.
    posted by jewzilla at 3:36 PM on January 14, 2011


    One of the stranger things about reading modern Greek, even after you get used to the alphabet, is the fact that the punctuation mark known to English readers as a semicolon is used to mark questions.

    I wonder: how long does it take to get used to that;


    I cannot answer that. However, I used to chuckle pretending people stuck question marks in the middle of sentences. (In modern Greek an "upper dot" or a comma takes up the duties of the semicolon.)
    posted by ersatz at 3:44 PM on January 14, 2011


    As kind of an extension of what ClaudiaCenter mentioned earlier, when I make materials for my junior high level EFL students, I tend to put two spaces after each sentence. For second language learners (especially those from a non-phonetic language background) the second space is a real help in decoding the text. I used to be a pretty religious two space person, but it seems like it's not really the thing anymore, so most of the time, I just use the single. Double has its place, though.
    posted by Ghidorah at 3:51 PM on January 14, 2011


    At the mall, or the grocery store, I always park diagonally across two spaces as I have a very sweet ride.
    posted by barrett caulk at 3:53 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


    As a prepress person, let me just say that all you double-spacers make my job harder. Sure, I can do a search-and-replace for double spaces, but if it's a layout with just a little bit of text, and not worth the time to s&r, I have to notice and manually remove those extra spaces. And inevitably I miss one or two, and the proofreaders mark up my nice layout with their evil red pen. And it makes you look outdated, two-spacers, and old. And I'm 45 years old; I learned to type two spaces in junior high, but it was no big deal to learn to type one.

    Also, designers, if you don't quit typing a handful of spaces instead of using a tab, and doing two hard returns when you could just adjust paragraph spacing, I will come to your desk and spit in your coffee when you're not around.
    posted by TochterAusElysium at 4:32 PM on January 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


    meta meta people arguing about linguistic variation on the internet on the internet, oh yah!
    posted by iamkimiam at 4:45 PM on January 14, 2011


    I DON'T SEE WHAT ALL THE FUSS IS ABOUT.

    THE REAL ISSUE IS WHY YOU BUGGERS WEAKLINGS USE
    lower case LETTERS, RATHER THAN MAJUSCULES, AS IS RIGHT AND PROPER. DOING THIS ROBS YOUR SPEECH OF ALL IMPACT AND POWER. LOWER CASE LETTERS ARE FOR TRIVIAL SPEECH AND TRIVIAL PEOPLE.

    THE GREAT RUNES. USE THEM OR FEAR THEM.

    posted by sebastienbailard at 4:56 PM on January 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


    You're doing it wrong if your software cares soo much about multiple spaces.

    TeX takes the viewpoint that all spaces after periods are slightly enlarged, but one may prevent this by typing ~ instead, which also prevents breaking across lines. You don't want stuff like Mr. Meow broken across lines anyways. So any real typesetting system requires separate intar-noun and inter-sentance spaces. It follows that giving slightly more space between sentences costs the writer nothing.
    posted by jeffburdges at 5:13 PM on January 14, 2011


    Ah, the kids these days. If you try to have a conversation in person with one of them and their cell goes off, then you just get slotted down to the next lower level. And they single space after periods, too.
    posted by ovvl at 5:16 PM on January 14, 2011


    Shit. I took two years of typing in high school and thinking back on it, I think I used to be a two spacer. Somewhere, over time, as I moved from electric typewriters to a Mac LS to a PC, I think I slowly morphed into a one spacer without ever realizing it. I guess I'm no purist. :/
    posted by PuppyCat at 5:21 PM on January 14, 2011


    God help me if this is the new thing that self-important people bitch about like they do with comic sans.
    posted by Rarebit Fiend at 6:10 PM on January 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


    Oh wow, I hate to break it to you all, and I sincerely mean no offense, but this conversation seems really one-sided so I feel obliged to speak up: when I see two spaces, I instantly think "old person." I'm 27 and I learned to type with Mavis Beacon when I was six. I'm not one of those texting/facebook pod people, either - I just recently got my first (crappy) cell phone and I don't use facebook at all. I actually feel kind of strange about this, because I frequently loathe Gen Y culture and feel much more comfortable with my Gen X friends, but apparently I side with the kids on this one.
    posted by dialetheia at 6:11 PM on January 14, 2011


    5 or six

    posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:45 AM on January 14


    for the win, or there you have it. Or something. Love U man.
    posted by yesster at 6:41 PM on January 14, 2011


    God help me if this is the new thing that self-important people bitch about like they do with comic sans.

    We prefer the term pedantic.
    posted by girih knot at 6:42 PM on January 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


    She who wields the red pen (or search-and-replace function) shall dictate the spacing.

    I love being an editor!
    posted by Unicorn on the cob at 7:12 PM on January 14, 2011


    Your work is ingenious. It's quality work. And there are simply too many notes, that's all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect.

    Notes or spaces or some such thing.
    posted by Capt. Renault at 7:27 PM on January 14, 2011


    I don't agree with the article.   Three spaces is clearly superior.   It allows for the sentences to expand and contract in extreme weather without cra

    cking.
    posted by spongeboy at 7:27 PM on January 14, 2011


    People bitch about comic sans?
    posted by PuppyCat at 7:49 PM on January 14, 2011


    I simply *cannot* understand why this is such as big issue other than the "I was told to do it this way when I was young and stupid."

    Sure, being told to do something while young and stupid usually really sticks with you, I see threads here about fonts where "I was told to do this" doesn't fly so well.

    Anyway, this is all about kerning (I'm sorry, is character spacing included in kerning? am I using the wrong word?) - the spacing of words and sentences so that it's easier to read; so, <shrug>. A double space after a sentence doesn't have any value add - unless one's hard of seeing - after a period. The period is the first space, the following space finishes the job.
    posted by porpoise at 8:25 PM on January 14, 2011


    In high school in the early ’90s I was a type nerd with a copy of The Mac is Not a Typewriter, by Robin Williams. I successfully defended myself from receiving an F on an English paper — technical merits: I was only using one space to separate sentences — by waving it and a small library of other books on the subject under the nose of the teacher, ranting in a fashion not unlike Mr. Manjoo's linked article.

    Since then I've felt quite smug about the issue and choose friends primarily on the basis of their opinion on the topic.
    posted by scelerat at 9:07 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Tapping the space bar with the thumb feels good. It feels good to tap the space bar quickly and hard and -- most importantly -- twice. It demonstrates with every sentence you write that you are at your very core a reflexive being capable of moving at lightning-quick speed if you just don't think about what you are doing. If you think about what you are doing, and especially if your conscious mind is interfering with your subconscious mind by reminding you like a school marm to type one space not two, your writing is going to suffer. You need to tap that damn space bar twice to keep up your cadence, your groove, your juju.

    After you write your magical language and it's time to slow down and enjoy what you just produced, that extra white space will soothe your soul, and the souls of your readers. I know. I've been living this deviant lifestyle all my life. The publications manager at work reminds me at least every six months that we use one space, not two, in our communications. I lie with my nodding, fully aware that I'd just as soon become a right-hander than a one-spacer. Both seem equally alien to my being. I stare at Manjoo blankly as he fulminates in his self-righteousness.
    posted by vverse23 at 10:52 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


    I've been making my living doing some form of writing or another for close to three decades. Every single client I have / have had, everyone I've ever worked for, save two (out of the hundreds and hundreds of clients I've worked with), insist on two spaces after end-of-sentence punctuation.

    This includes universities (including English departments), teachers, writers, graduate students, doctors, hospitals, publishers, financeers, newspapers and news agencies, corporations large and small, interviewers, insurance agencies and the United States government, just to name a few right off the top of my head. Every single client I've ever had also insists on end punctuation being placed inside quotes and not outside, which is another new and obnoxious thing (at least in the States) that people like to get all superior over everyone else about. Colleagues in my field all take the same professional position: Proper formatting includes, among other things, two spaces between sentences and punctuation inside quotation marks.

    Only recently has this "one space uber alles" mentality come into play, and I pay no mind to it whatsoever. As far as I'm concerned it's a completely arbitrary crock of shit; kind of a "we're changing it 'cause we can" sort of deal. I don't know where these people are getting it from, but it sure as hell isn't standard by any stretch of the imagination, regardless of what they insist.
    posted by perilous at 11:05 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Only recently has this "one space uber alles" mentality come into play, and I pay no mind to it whatsoever. As far as I'm concerned it's a completely arbitrary crock of shit; kind of a "we're changing it 'cause we can" sort of deal. I don't know where these people are getting it from, but it sure as hell isn't standard by any stretch of the imagination, regardless of what they insist.

    Two spaces came and went with typewriters. Sorry. Acceptable exceptions: Screenplays, teleplays, plays.

    Books predate typewriters. Books use one space. Books are good. What, you don't like books? What did books ever do to you!?
    posted by Sys Rq at 12:55 AM on January 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


    Bunch of wimps. I'm 43, I learnt two spaces on manual typewriter and CHANGED my ways, mostly, I think, due to Mavis Fucking Beacon not knowing that we Aussies used two spaces.(Clearly, it wasn't an Aussie thing, and I did learn to type in the 100wpm range, thank you Mavis, and I did learn about the real reason).

    Now follows one of the sentences I hate most:


    If I can do it, anyone can.
    posted by b33j at 2:49 AM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


    This thread reminds me how much I hate my job.
    posted by doublehappy at 3:51 AM on January 15, 2011


    If you want to continue putting two spaces after a period when you're writing for yourself, that's certainly fine. If you like it better, I can't imagine how anyone else could possibly care. This is not worth ... anything, really, anger-wise.

    But when you argue that it looks terrible and unreadable to use only one, it is, as some have noted, important to be aware that HTML habitually ignores double spaces in lots of contexts, unless you are inserting special extra-defiant nonbreaking spaces after every sentence, which is not a good idea. So you can leave them there, but understand that in some circumstances, it's merely for your own amusement, because they're invisible.

    And if you are writing for an editor who will publish what you write online, there's a good chance that either they're going to pull the double spaces or they're going to ask you to, because they won't display anyway, and they shouldn't be lying around fallow in the code. This is how I went from being a two-spacer to a one-spacer -- an editor I was trying to impress issued multiple reminders that their house style was one space. I thought it would take forever to learn. It didn't.
    posted by Linda_Holmes at 4:27 AM on January 15, 2011


    All this time. Writing two spaces, when one was fine. All those wasted extra bytes sigh.
    posted by humanfont at 4:35 AM on January 15, 2011


    I had never noticed that LATEX does this. I shall be using /frenchspacing from now on. I'm puzzled that two spaces is the default.
    posted by alby at 5:54 AM on January 15, 2011


    Just popping into this thread to say IBM Selectric II Composer muthufuckaz!

    You type the whole text with spacing and line breaks from memory, and it better be right, cuz when you press Enter, the type ball starts typing, chattering away on the page, until your entire entry, perfect or flawed, is before you on the page.

    And then if you have to make corrections you have to backstep the right number of character spaces, again from memory, go one space further back, press the "Correct" key, press the letter key you should have pressed in the first place, then press Enter and watch the type ball again chatter back over your text and smack a tab of correction, then the right letter (or not - did you count right?) over your fuckup, making the whole thing (hopefully), perfect.

    Rinse, repeat, for every following item to be inserted into this month's high school poetry magazine.
    posted by toodleydoodley at 6:15 AM on January 15, 2011


    Death to superfluous 'u's
    posted by MrLint at 7:34 AM on January 15, 2011


    I just remembered what it was that taught me to single-space: it was the book The Mac Is Not A Typewriter. I think I read that in high school, but it may have been in college. Sometime in the '90s, anyway. I can't believe people still double-space.
    posted by statolith at 7:40 AM on January 15, 2011


    I have a chit that excuses me from reading any more Farhad Manjoo.
    posted by Trochanter at 8:29 AM on January 15, 2011


    As a baby-boomer who learned typing in high school, two spaces is hard-wired into my genes. As a grandfather with 3 pairs of reading glasses, thank you to all others whose similar punctuation makes 10 point type readable.

    Does anyone else find it kinky that the Slate author is getting off on Asange's typography and not his penchant for little girls?
    posted by birdwatcher at 8:55 AM on January 15, 2011


    I simply *cannot* understand why this is such as big issue other than the "I was told to do it this way when I was young and stupid."

    It's nerdrage for people lacking the technical abilities to properly engage in vi/emacs or Windows/Mac these days. It's also one of the few cases where would-be defenders of the dubious virginal purity of language and editorial style can posture about older people being the barbarians.
    posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:56 AM on January 15, 2011


    It's also one of the few cases where would-be defenders of the dubious virginal purity of language and editorial style can posture about older people being the barbarians.

    That or the fact that ennobling formatting tricks for 50-year old office equipment is some kind of twisted, insane, hipsterism.
    posted by device55 at 12:34 PM on January 15, 2011


    device55: That or the fact that ennobling formatting tricks for 50-year old office equipment is some kind of twisted, insane, hipsterism.

    As demonstrated in this thread, it's a "both/and" rather than "either/or."
    posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:30 PM on January 15, 2011


    rifflesby: I have nearly the opposite peeve: people who write "yea" when they mean "yeah". Ugh.

    The thing that's like nails on a chalkboard to me is when people leave a period (eg: "yeah".) outside the end of a quotation.

    It looks obscene, that period just hanging out of the quotation marks like that, and it makes me a little bit cuckoo-bananas.

    Periods and comma's go inside quotation marks.



    *Goes searching for a Xanax.*
    posted by Skygazer at 4:10 PM on January 15, 2011


    Periods and comma's go inside quotation marks.

    My biggest pet peeve is using apostrophes to make words plural. Different strokes, I guess.
    posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 4:13 PM on January 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


    230 comments and no one actually gave the reason for the single space after the period that is the convention in typesetting: Two spaces messes up full justification and you get huge, ugly gaps between sentences.

    Step one on every document I proof: Ctrl+H Space Space Tab Space (Repeat as needed until 0 occurrences found. Some people really love extra spaces. Ugh.)

    And of course punctuation goes inside the closing quotation mark. In the USA that is. Other countries have different conventions.

    (Back to another few years of lurking...)

    posted by AstroGuy at 4:21 PM on January 15, 2011


    And if you are writing for an editor who will publish what you write online, there's a good chance that either they're going to pull the double spaces or they're going to ask you to, because they won't display anyway, and they shouldn't be lying around fallow in the code.

    I am an editor who publishes things online, have been for a while now, and really do not have an issue with "fallow spaces."

    You know what's fucking horrible?

    When people don't know what h2, h3 etc. are for and instead write headings by using a paragraph tag, a bold tag, some text, and then a line break tag to control vertical space. Next to that, "fallow spaces" seem sort of minor.

    And even when I'm dealing with a pseudo-head writer, the scripts needed to deal with their filth took less time to write than returning the copy would require.
    posted by mph at 6:02 PM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Joke's on them.&nbsp;&nbsp;
    posted by chairface at 6:05 PM on January 15, 2011


    mph - well, they could just have Word convert it to HTML for them...
    posted by Artw at 6:06 PM on January 15, 2011


    Personally, I didn't find this a particularly hard switch to make. I had been taught two spaces in middle school typing class, used two spaces all through college, and didn't learn to one-space until I had a boss who had previously worked in publishing. It only took me a week or so before it was natural - I don't even think about it now. I assume that if standards shifted back to two spaces, I'd be able to switch back ok. Unfortunately, not everyone I worked with had such an easy time of it, and because it was common for documents to pass through 3-5 different people, each making their own edits, things were often a messy mix of one and two spaces by the time they made it all the way up the chain. If there is anything worse than two-spacing, it's inconsistency.
    posted by naoko at 8:56 PM on January 15, 2011


    I would also like to add the following to this weighty discussion:

    gray
    grey

    One of these spellings is CORRECT. The other is inarguably WRONG.

    Tim hit Bob.
    Bob was hit by Tim.

    One of these grammatical constructions is CORRECT. The other is inarguably WRONG.

    afterward
    afterwards

    One of these usages is CORRECT. The other is inarguably WRONG.

    sick
    ill

    One of these words is CORRECT. The other is inarguably WRONG.

    route
    route

    The way one of the above words is pronounced is CORRECT. The other is inarguably WRONG.

    When there are two (or more!) ways of doing something, one obviously must be wrong. Saying otherwise is exactly the same as arguing that style, grammar, and structure have no purpose and we might as well be ending our sentences with percentage signs% Completely rigid rules probably make language more useful rather than less, I am very sure indeed!

    Also, I am sure such intelligent persons as yourselves have correctly identified with of the above choices is correct, just as you did with after-sentence spacing. Welcome to the secret club. Let's make fun of the wrong people now!
    posted by kyrademon at 6:12 AM on January 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Also, I am sure such intelligent persons as yourselves have correctly identified with of the above choices is correct

    It was inevitable that this post contain an example of Muphry's Law. Because it's a law. (You did mean "as correct," right?) (This post too inevitably contains an example of same, though I haven't found it yet.)
    posted by Wordwoman at 8:29 AM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


    It's not so much that using two spaces is wrong per se, it's just that it's a carryover from an outmoded system of publication, i.e. typewritten manuscripts submitted to editors to edit in red pencil before passing along to typesetters, then a printer.

    With modern digital technology™, the 'manuscript' is the very same digital file* that ends up on the printer's computer. If there are two spaces after every sentence in the manuscript, they're just going to be edited out; this is work that an editor wouldn't have to do if the first-drafters would simply get their heads out of their asses.

    *Okay, yeah, it'll generally be cut/pasted into an InDesign layout or whatever, but you get my drift.
    posted by Sys Rq at 10:06 AM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


    (You did mean "as correct," right?)

    I think kyrademon actually meant "which of the above". Mornington Crescent!
    posted by cortex at 10:23 AM on January 16, 2011


    Nosense, Wordwoman. Every word I typed is correct, and grammar abslutely perfect. If you see problem's, that is because you ignorant one, not I!
    posted by kyrademon at 10:24 AM on January 16, 2011


    I regularly jump between the spellings of "gray" and "grey" because I can't decide which I like more and really it's just a great neutral, grey, with its neither white nor black capabilities and its ability to compliment any color so beautifully and set it off and gray is just fantastic no matter how you spell it.

    But the two space vs. one space thing is a standards issue. One space is correct. Sorry!
    posted by girih knot at 10:27 AM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


    "which of the above".

    Oh, cortex, cortex. It's "which of the above."
    posted by Wordwoman at 10:50 AM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Aha! At long last, cortex carelessly gives away his secret Britishness!
    posted by Sys Rq at 11:43 AM on January 16, 2011


    gray
    grey

    One of these spellings is CORRECT. The other is inarguably WRONG.


    BOTH FORMS ARE WRONG, TRIVIAL
    lower-case PERSON.

    DO NOT USE MAJUSCULE SPEECH LIGHTLY.

    posted by sebastienbailard at 6:55 PM on January 16, 2011


    "which of the above".


    Please don't do this. I see one more punctuation mark outside quotations and I am going to pop a vein in head.

    America is the laughing stock of the world for so many reasons (lack of universal affordable healthcare, obesity, reality TV), but one bright spot is that we at least know to safely tuck our punctuation inside quotations. Nice and decent and everything in the right place like. Yes. And the Brits can kiss my ass when it comes to this, by golly...
    posted by Skygazer at 12:00 AM on January 17, 2011


    "Brits can kiss my ass".

    I'm a New Zealander. You can kiss mine.
    posted by doublehappy at 12:31 AM on January 17, 2011


    but one bright spot is that we at least know to safely tuck our punctuation inside quotations.

    The quotation marks actually convey some meaning you know, they are not just for decoration. If you think it is ok to include the period, why don't you throw in a couple of words from the next sentence while you're at it?
    posted by Dr Dracator at 1:00 AM on January 17, 2011



    posted by doublehappy at 1:54 AM on January 17, 2011


    Okay so I accidentally deleted my awesome and convincing comment about why the British way of doing inverted commas, &c. is more logical and more meaningful and just better. It would have changed your mind, believe me.
    posted by doublehappy at 1:56 AM on January 17, 2011


    The quotation marks actually convey some meaning you know, they are not just for decoration. If you think it is ok to include the period, why don't you throw in a couple of words from the next sentence while you're at it?

    Now you see, this is a classic example of a prescriptivist not only demonstrating a knee-jerk disrespect for language, but also a disrespect for human psychology where meaning-making happens. The messy and wet organs that translate a stream of symbols into meaning can get the gist of it via grammar and pragmatics, and choices about the exact order of quotation marks and periods are just arbitrary stylistic conventions.

    Unless you're one of the poor people who find that every error or quirk in style disrupts their interpretation of the text. But that's a self-inflicted learning disability affected in the service of being an asshole. Sensible people can recognize that a quotation in a UK style and an American style roughly mean the same thing.

    Now granted, I am draconian on issues of style professionally, because it's my job and it's important that we're consistent across what we publish. But I have no illusions that our Chicago-mandated punctuation has much more impact on meaning than the color of the web page it appears on.
    posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:21 AM on January 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Now you see, this is a classic example of a prescriptivist not only demonstrating a knee-jerk disrespect for language, but also a disrespect for human psychology where meaning-making happens.

    Oh, the p-word again. Why am I being a prescriptivist (which I am guessing must be a bad thing) when I want to get rid of an outdated convention with no inherent value that clashes with my new way of using language?

    The reason I dislike the British style is that, to anyone that has spent any time looking at source code, it sticks out like a sore thumb and disrupts the flow of the text. I am pretty sure this was not a concern for the people who came up with it, so why am I not allowed to change their prescription to better fit my mode of communication?

    The messy and wet organs that translate a stream of symbols into meaning can get the gist of it via grammar and pragmatics, and choices about the exact order of quotation marks and periods are just arbitrary stylistic conventions.

    I am sorry, but your argument is false: If the messy and wet organs can translate any input equally well, why not choose a convention that makes sense? At some level, quotation marks mean something: that this part of text comes from somewhere else. What do we gain by going out of our way to create an exception to this?

    But that's a self-inflicted learning disability affected in the service of being an asshole. Sensible people can recognize that a quotation in a UK style and an American style roughly mean the same thing.

    Until now I have been counting myself among the sensible people who can, yet I think even assholes with learning disabilities are entitled to an opinion.
    posted by Dr Dracator at 9:43 AM on January 17, 2011


    This thread is getting dangerously entertaining.
    posted by Skygazer at 10:37 AM on January 17, 2011


    Dr Dracator: "Now granted, I am draconian."
    posted by doublehappy at 1:08 PM on January 17, 2011


    Hilariously, it wasn't Dr Dracator that said that!
    posted by doublehappy at 1:10 PM on January 17, 2011


    Dr Dracator: Why am I being a prescriptivist (which I am guessing must be a bad thing) when I want to get rid of an outdated convention with no inherent value that clashes with my new way of using language?

    If the convention is a convention, then it's certainly not outdated. But the problem here is that you frame your entirely arbitrary, aesthetic, style preferences in terms of meaning. Although it could have been worse, you could have called it an issue of English grammar which is a certain sign that someone doesn't really understand what they're trying to defend.

    The reason I dislike the British style is that, to anyone that has spent any time looking at source code, it sticks out like a sore thumb and disrupts the flow of the text.

    Which is something that is empirically false for most people. Reading is fairly robust not only to stylistic differences and misprints, but inserted errors as well. The problem is 90% between your two ears.

    And, as a lisp dabbler, I decree that language would be much easier if we just wrote it as a series of nested verb-object-object statements!

    I am pretty sure this was not a concern for the people who came up with it...

    And I'm not certain style decisions should be made out of concern for your inability to adapt to different editorial styles.

    ...so why am I not allowed to change their prescription to better fit my mode of communication?

    If you're an editor you can set the standard however you want. It's the privilege of a red pin after all. Just don't pretend that your fetish for a particular style of quotation or Oxford commas is some grand military action on the ramparts of the meaning of language.

    I am sorry, but your argument is false: If the messy and wet organs can translate any input equally well, why not choose a convention that makes sense? At some level, quotation marks mean something: that this part of text comes from somewhere else. What do we gain by going out of our way to create an exception to this?

    If your concern is adding superfluous punctuation to quoted passages, well, don't do that. And I'd argue that most responsible people don't because it's natural to begin a quote at the start of a phrase and end it at a place where punctuation is reasonable or mandatory. When you do quote a fragment, we have punctuation for that as well.

    But punctuation is only a secondary marker of grammatical structure. Commas are hopelessly overloaded, periods are getting there, and I suspect that it's only a matter of time before the grocers' apostrophe joins its possessive sibling as a formally adopted mistake. Let's take a pretty standard case:

    The cards were marked, "cat," "dog," and "rabbit."
    The cards were marked: "cat", "dog", and "rabbit".

    I doubt that anyone is really going to be confused that both sentences present a list of quoted items.
    posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:21 PM on January 17, 2011


    tigrefacile: ""Mr." or "Dr."

    I was under the impression that neither of these would attract a full stop as the concluding letter of the abbreviation is also the concluding letter of the abbreviated word. Don't tell me I made that up
    "

    Dr.   No
    posted by bwg at 4:35 PM on January 17, 2011


    KirkJobSluder: The cards were marked: "cat", "dog", and "rabbit".


    *Head asplodes*
    posted by Skygazer at 6:17 PM on January 17, 2011


    The cards were marked, "cat," "dog," and "rabbit."
    The cards were marked: "cat", "dog", and "rabbit".

    I doubt that anyone is really going to be confused that both sentences present a list of quoted items.


    Yes, but the items are different. In the first instance, the cards are marked as follows:

    Card 1: cat,
    Card 2: dog,
    Card 3: rabbit.

    In the second, the cards are marked as follows:

    Card 1: cat
    Card 2: dog
    Card 3: rabbit.
    posted by doublehappy at 6:39 PM on January 17, 2011


    Errant full stop at the end there. Nice.
    posted by doublehappy at 6:42 PM on January 17, 2011


    If the convention is a convention, then it's certainly not outdated.

    I do not get this - do you mean that nothing should ever change? Or that conventions just disappear overnight?

    But the problem here is that you frame your entirely arbitrary, aesthetic, style preferences in terms of meaning.

    No, the problem is that you are in some way offended that I have a specific reason for not liking one of the two ways of doing this thing.

    Although it could have been worse, you could have called it an issue of English grammar which is a certain sign that someone doesn't really understand what they're trying to defend.

    I could also have called it a sin against god, but I didn't because that would be a stupid. Let's stick to discussing what we are actually saying.

    Reading is fairly robust not only to stylistic differences and misprints, but inserted errors as well.

    Again, I do not get this. That something is possible does not make it a good idea. How about omitting every third letter? Let's do that, it sounds like fun.

    The problem is 90% between your two ears.

    I have been suspecting this for some time now, thank you for taking the time to confirm it.

    And I'm not certain style decisions should be made out of concern for your inability to adapt to different editorial styles.

    Did I ask you to make any kind of style decision? You can go ahead and make whatever style decision you like - what I as a reader think about it is unfortunately not under your control.

    If you're an editor you can set the standard however you want. It's the privilege of a red pin after all.

    Now I wasn't aware you need an editor license to make a decision about how you want to write, but at least it seems I have been cleared of the charges of prescriptivism.

    I find it otherwise very amusing that you get so worked up over me expressing my preference with respect to this, which apparently does not bother you in the least.
    posted by Dr Dracator at 10:06 PM on January 17, 2011


    I could also have called it a sin against g God...

    That is exactly what it is, as I'm pretty sure that God (big G), would want all the wayward lamb-like punctuation symbols of this world to be safely within the loving arms of quotation marks. That's why he created them in the first place. It's in the Bible. I'm pretty sure.

    Anyhow, I challenge anyone who feels otherwise in this matter to a duel at daybreak with red sharpie.
    posted by Skygazer at 11:00 PM on January 17, 2011


    My daybreak or your? I think you are in the wrong time zone.
    posted by Dr Dracator at 11:30 PM on January 17, 2011


    doublehappy: Yes, but the items are different.

    Only if you're suffering from an inability to interpret using context using a conventional style. But I'm curious, do you object to the addition of punctation to Obama's speech? Do you object to the deletion of nonverbal and audible cues that are not easily conveyed in written language?

    Now of course this is a case where I likely wouldn't use quotation marks at all.

    Dr Dracator: I do not get this - do you mean that nothing should ever change? Or that conventions just disappear overnight?

    If something is a convention in language, then it's read/understood through common use and therefore, not outdated. The informal "thou" is outdated, unless you happen to be the plain-speaking religious sort. Punctuation/quotation order depends on which publication you're writing for at this moment.

    Dr Dracator: No, the problem is that you are in some way offended that I have a specific reason for not liking one of the two ways of doing this thing.

    No, I'm amused that you've chosen to frame your argument in terms of some sort of objective utility regarding meaning which doesn't apply to most cases where having punctation inside quotation marks is entirely reasonable. Both styles are understood to mean exactly the same thing.

    Dr Dracator: Again, I do not get this. That something is possible does not make it a good idea. How about omitting every third letter? Let's do that, it sounds like fun.

    Or to use a more properly related example, do you object to the use of typographic ligatures or the use of abbreviations like "Dr."? It's really the same thing. Just as it's understood that Dr. in context stands for doctor and not driver, it's understood in context that ." ends both a quotation and the enclosing sentence.

    Dr Dracator: Now I wasn't aware you need an editor license to make a decision about how you want to write, but at least it seems I have been cleared of the charges of prescriptivism.

    Sure, and that license is granted, quite simply, by publishing your own work.

    Dr Dracator: I find it otherwise very amusing that you get so worked up over me expressing my preference with respect to this, which apparently does not bother you in the least.

    Because it was quite obviously a joke.
    posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:49 AM on January 18, 2011


    And on this issue, I'm torn by sympathies to both sides in that there are exceptional cases where periods outside the quote are reasonable but they always look ugly when printed and kerned. I have distinctly less sympathy for the argument that it's some big violation of meaning should one choose one style over the other.
    posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:57 AM on January 18, 2011


    265 comments and nobody mentioned the other bane of publishing's existence... The decision whether or not to have a comma before "and" when listing more than two items.

    red, white, and blue

    or

    red, white and blue

    If you said the second one you are, of course, completely and unquestionably wrong.
    posted by Snowflake at 7:20 AM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Comma before "and"!?

    Slowly I turn...
    posted by Trochanter at 8:51 AM on January 18, 2011


    265 comments and nobody mentioned the other bane of publishing's existence... The decision whether or not to have a comma before "and" when listing more than two items.

    You might want to look here and here, then.

    Also, I thought this was a good take on the subject, via The Atlantic.
    posted by TedW at 10:50 AM on January 18, 2011


    If you said the second one you are, of course, completely and unquestionably wrong.

    Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma? I seen those English dramas too; they're cruel.

    SORRY HAD TO
    posted by girih knot at 12:26 PM on January 18, 2011


    backseatpilot: " In fact, I would rather rewrite Twitter posts than remove one of the spaces if I'm over by one character."

    Bad news. In most contexts that the tweet is being viewed, that second space is a goner anyway. So you might as well excise it.
    posted by Deathalicious at 9:33 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Why you gotta hurt me like that?
    posted by backseatpilot at 9:56 AM on January 21, 2011




    I gotta sheepishly admit that I do sometimes type two spaces after a period. I thought I only did one, probably because I do most of my typing in text input boxes now.
    posted by BrotherCaine at 6:15 PM on January 29, 2011


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