We are obliged not to tolerate their wanton and conscious blasphemy
May 5, 2018 5:49 AM   Subscribe

Is it better to have one or two spaces after a period? The first study investigating this hotly contested issue is here, and it supposedly gives the win to the two-spacers. But a closer look at the research suggests that the only reasonable interpretation is that double spacing after a period remains bad. It’s ugly, it doesn’t help when it comes to what matters most (reading comprehension), and the experiment that supports its benefits uses an outdated font style.

Further discussion by Avi Selk in the Washington Post.
posted by Johnny Wallflower (204 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
Good heavens. People do pick the oddest things to fly into a snit about, when they could turn their irritation to more important things such as cracking your gum with your mouth open on the bus, or taking your shoes off in an airplane.

[disclaimer: retired English teacher who has had it up to *here* with typographical peeves of all sorts]
posted by Peach at 6:03 AM on May 5, 2018 [22 favorites]


If you have a period (or question mark or exclamation point) followed by a capitalized letter beginning another sentence, why do you need any spaces at all?Seriously.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:12 AM on May 5, 2018 [9 favorites]


In my uneducated opinion (IANAL), legal documents, full of names and abbreviations (and thus periods and capital letters that have nothing to do with the ends and beginnings of sentences), are the worst place for single-spacing.
posted by clawsoon at 6:18 AM on May 5, 2018 [16 favorites]


retired English teacher who has had it up to *here* here with typographical peeves of all sorts
FTFY
posted by grouse at 6:18 AM on May 5, 2018 [18 favorites]


Ahaha, this is so timely because I just got docked points on a project for single spacing when the style called for double, which I didn't even think to check because seriously, who double spaces?

The APA, apparently.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 6:25 AM on May 5, 2018 [16 favorites]


From that WaPo article (which is a gem): Note: An earlier version of this story published incorrectly because, seriously, putting two spaces in the headline broke the web code. Ahahaha
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:26 AM on May 5, 2018 [52 favorites]


The whole "readability" issue is a red herring. I don't two-space to make text more readable, I do it because I'm not gonna shorten my sentence breaks to satisfy somebody's pedantic rule.
posted by escabeche at 6:29 AM on May 5, 2018 [20 favorites]


I will only say this on the subject: though mostly neutral on the question because yes, why argue over something so damn trivial—it chaps my ass just the tiniest bit every time I use it that MetaFilter's comment box strips my elegant double-spaced stops. It's just ever so slightly user-hostile, which does not fit well with the place.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 6:36 AM on May 5, 2018 [24 favorites]


Argh, I *hate* double spacing, mostly because my PI intends to double space but is a terrible typist so it's occasionally actually only one space, occasionally actually three spaces, and she also justifies text so you basically never have any idea.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:39 AM on May 5, 2018 [17 favorites]


The "two space" rule comes from a misunderstanding of layout conventions and the role of personal technology. If one has a printing press, one can use any number of fonts, and a variety of widths of spacing. However, typewriters use(d) mono-width characters. An "i" is as wide as an "m," and spaces were all the same width. In order to have a wider space after a period (which was also equally wide as an "m"), you pressed the space bar twice.

Even saying "two spaces" sounds funny. It's like the concept of "half a hole." Two holes together aren't "two holes," but one larger hole. There aren't two spaces, it's a wider space, created by two "space" characters.

Moving on to modern technology, we have computers, a variety of variable-width fonts, and word processor software that understands the context of spaces by way of punctuation. Inserting a second space after a period is strictly unnecessary, because the word processor will automatically widen the space after, if necessary.

Imagine your old front door was kinda wonky, and required you to bump it with your hip before turning the key to unlock it. I understand your parents taught you the hip bump, and you're in the habit of the hip bump. But "hip bump before key turn" is a rule for your old front door, and not for unlocking doors in general.
posted by explosion at 6:40 AM on May 5, 2018 [116 favorites]


I do it because I'm not gonna shorten my sentence breaks to satisfy somebody's pedantic rule.

Meanwhile others are refusing to lengthen their sentence breaks to satisfy somebody's pedantic rule.
posted by howfar at 6:42 AM on May 5, 2018 [14 favorites]


los pantalones del muerte - That's a function of HTML. More than one space gets collapsed into a single space as a feature.
posted by explosion at 6:42 AM on May 5, 2018 [15 favorites]


That settles it. I'm using three spaces.
posted by oddman at 6:48 AM on May 5, 2018 [20 favorites]


and the experiment that supports its benefits uses an outdated font style. - Classic. Also damning.
posted by SkinnerSan at 6:49 AM on May 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


explosion: Inserting a second space after a period is strictly unnecessary, because the word processor will automatically widen the space after, if necessary.

I don't want extra space after all periods. I want extra space at the end of sentences. There are lots of periods that don't go at the end of sentences, and I don't want extra space after them.

I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that word processor software spacing algorithms (not to mention HTML layout engines) don't have that level of sophistication yet.
posted by clawsoon at 6:49 AM on May 5, 2018 [17 favorites]


here
*here*
posted by Peach at 6:50 AM on May 5, 2018 [8 favorites]


Meanwhile others are refusing to lengthen their sentence breaks to satisfy somebody's pedantic rule.

And that's fine. What's not fine is policing a pedantic rule.

Inserting a second space after a period is strictly unnecessary, because the word processor will automatically widen the space after, if necessary.

Then the word processor, or web browser, or... can bloody well say: 1 space? 2 space? I'm doing the right thing.
posted by wotsac at 6:51 AM on May 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


I was a two spacer until I got a job in publishing and worked alongside a page designer whose low moans of defeat I can still hear echoing through the halls.
posted by notyou at 6:54 AM on May 5, 2018 [29 favorites]


I double space because it's more convenient to use a monospaced font in the text editor I mostly use.

I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that word processor software spacing algorithms (not to mention HTML layout engines) don't have that level of sophistication yet.

LaTeX mostly does but isn't a word processor.

Which reminds me that a debate about what habits generate better-looking results from proper word processors are a bit silly; like arguing about which model-year of Trabant is best for racing. If you want pretty output, feed it to more-or-less-proper typesetting software.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 6:55 AM on May 5, 2018 [13 favorites]


But "hip bump before key turn" is a rule for your old front door, and not for unlocking doors in general.

See also cutting the ends off the roast.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:57 AM on May 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


explosion: Even saying "two spaces" sounds funny. It's like the concept of "half a hole." Two holes together aren't "two holes," but one larger hole. There aren't two spaces, it's a wider space, created by two "space" characters.

Wasn't the traditional, pre-typewriter typography rule an em-space after sentences and a half em-space after words?

In other words, two half-ems of space at the end of a sentence?

Single spacing at the end of sentences is a brutalist "innovation".
posted by clawsoon at 6:57 AM on May 5, 2018 [8 favorites]


GCU Sweet and Full of Grace: LaTeX mostly does but isn't a word processor.

Software released in 1983 has an AI engine sophisticated enough to recognize the difference between abbreviations and the ends of sentences?
posted by clawsoon at 6:59 AM on May 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


In this brave new world of unicode, there is no reason you can't have spaces as large or small as you want. There's something like eleven different spaces (although in practice there are only five or six different sizes). So if you want giant gaps between your sentences, this is possible.
posted by Pyry at 7:00 AM on May 5, 2018 [17 favorites]


In grad school, I followed this easy rule to end the spacing debate in group projects: whoever submits the final draft of the paper can do a Find & Replace to make the spacing whatever they damn well please, because at that point nobody cares.

(Remarkably none of my professors cared about the spacing, or at least none of them noticed)
posted by Tehhund at 7:00 AM on May 5, 2018 [9 favorites]


I use tabs.
posted by phooky at 7:00 AM on May 5, 2018 [13 favorites]


If you're using a monospaced font, press the space bar twice. If you're using a variable-width font, press the space bar once. It's not difficult, people.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:01 AM on May 5, 2018 [11 favorites]


Software released in 1983 has an AI engine sophisticated enough to recognize the difference between abbreviations and the ends of sentences?

If the character before the period is a capital letter, TeX assumes it's an abbreviation rather than the end of a sentence.
posted by grouse at 7:02 AM on May 5, 2018 [13 favorites]


That seems reasonable, says I.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:08 AM on May 5, 2018 [9 favorites]


grouse: If the character before the period is a capital letter, TeX assumes it's an abbreviation rather than the end of a sentence.

So "M." would be interpreted as an abbreviation, but "Mr." and "e.g." would be interpreted as the end of a sentence?
posted by clawsoon at 7:09 AM on May 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


Well, in the pedantic rule category, my pedantic rule is that unless you're on the committee writing the style guide or picking the style guide, your opinion doesn't really matter. Professionally putting your own aesthetics ahead of the fucking style guide is rather like leaving your dirty underpants on the bedroom floor for your mom or your partner to pick up. And professionally, I'm not your mom or your partner, and reserve the right to think you're a git for submitting work I need to clean up. I don't agree with everything the style guide says, but I do it anyway because it's not about my personal artistic expression, it's about publishing to a consistent standard.

LaTeX prefers a double space after a period because algorithmic attempts to infer semantic meaning from ambiguous orthography are a mess. But, LaTeX is a WYTIWYM programming language rather than word processor. HTML treats multiple whitespace as a single space because some source code uses indentation and line breaks at 80 characters. Typographically speaking end-of-sentence spacing should be a bit larger than inter-word spacing, but with contemporary variable-width formatting it's a minor difference. The convention was arguably important for typewritten documents, but no one uses them anymore.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 7:18 AM on May 5, 2018 [18 favorites]


> I do it because I'm not gonna shorten my sentence breaks to satisfy somebody's pedantic rule.

Doublespacing is a product of typewriter use, not typography. Once we were able to create documents in real-time using proportional fonts, doublespacing became pointless and useless. For over thirty years software developers have taken pains to disguise, hide, or throw away sentence-termination doublespaces. International document standards specify that extra spaces should be discarded.

Your double-spacing efforts are of no consequence.
posted by ardgedee at 7:18 AM on May 5, 2018 [22 favorites]


When I started at my old department in 2007 they used single spacing and I still used double spaces. It took me about a month to train myself out of it and maybe a year and several articles like this one to come to terms with the reasoning for using single spacing. Now I am firmly in the single space camp. We're not monospaced anymore!

But now I've just realized that the department that I am applying for jobs in still uses double spaces and I don't want to retrain myself to go backwards!
posted by elsietheeel at 7:18 AM on May 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


Relevant XKCD (and the Buzzfeed poll it refers to).
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:18 AM on May 5, 2018 [12 favorites]


The APA, apparently.

God bless mid-century academics and their righteous decision to desecrate hundreds of years of typesetting tradition under the belief that the pinnacle of human achievement was the IBM Selectric.
posted by 7segment at 7:20 AM on May 5, 2018 [27 favorites]


I love how, as the non-prescriptivist view of vocabulary and usage is becoming a bit trendy, all the pent up pedantry seems to get concentrated in every smaller bits like fonts and kerning.

I can't imagine a study on "different from" / "different than" let alone the horrors of the singular "they" getting any respect here but the exact amount of space between words is where we draw the line.
posted by mark k at 7:20 AM on May 5, 2018 [10 favorites]


All "science" proved is that monospace fonts behave like monospace fonts. The eye tracker software tracked readers of monospace fonts better than the fonts people typically use. So they only tested monospace fonts. That's a test, but it's far from science.
posted by eustacescrubb at 7:22 AM on May 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


ardgedee: Doublespacing is a product of typewriter use, not typography.

That's flat-out wrong. Double-spacing comes from using em-spacing after sentences and half or third em-spacing after words. What happened is that typography as a discipline changed its preferences during the time that typewriters were in use.

By-the-by, it surprises me that people who care so much about how the end product looks would say "trust the computer, it'll get it right," when it so often gets it wrong. I guess the computer gets it wrong less often than the rest of us do, which is what makes it okay?
posted by clawsoon at 7:24 AM on May 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


I t h i n k t h a t I ' v e f o u n d a c o m p r o m i s e e v e r y o n e

p l s s t o p f i g h t i n g :(
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:31 AM on May 5, 2018 [22 favorites]


Once when I was in middle school I was given a test with a bunch of stupid time-wasting instructions, and the last instruction was to disregard all the previous instructions. It was intended to teach us something subtle about the absurdity of life.

I think requiring double-spacing and other typographical anomalies on essays is similar; the lesson isn't the content of the rules, but the thoughtfulness and submission to following them.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 7:41 AM on May 5, 2018 [8 favorites]


I learned to type on a typewriter, then relearned on an electric typewriter, then relearned on WordPerfect, and then relearned on Word. Right now I am trying to figure out how to text. I suppose I will relearn typing a few more times before I die. However, it is useful to my brain to put two spaces between sentences because it helps me structure the sentence. I'm putting two spaces in this text as I type, and the computer is welcome to strip them out after I'm done.
posted by acrasis at 7:46 AM on May 5, 2018 [7 favorites]


It’s not “trusting the computer.” It’s trusting the styles layer. If we agree to use one space at the sentence level, we can encode that space to be any width we like, and do so repeatedly across hundreds of pages of text. Same as with CSS. Keep the style and the content separate!
posted by notyou at 7:47 AM on May 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


God bless mid-century academics

So not to make you feel old, but at some point between 7 and 15 years from now we are going to be midcentury again.

As for spacing, I teach English and tell the students that they can do whatever they please as long as they do it with consistency.

Also, I am on a single-handed crusade to remove non terminating periods from use. If anyone can give me an example where it is actually useful from a communicative standpoint I would be glad to consider it, but so far I can't come up with a reason. I mean should we write U.S.A.? And then have two punctuation marks? Or L.A.S.E.R.? Forget it, Mr..
posted by Literaryhero at 7:48 AM on May 5, 2018 [9 favorites]


Pyry: In this brave new world of unicode, there is no reason you can't have spaces as large or small as you want.

Brilliant! I shall use this knowledge to torment you all. And then I'll get bored.

(I suspect that it's what we're not used to which slows us down. The details of the study seem to support that. It's probably why this looks weird to me even as I argue for double-spacing; I'm not used to seeing double-spacing on a web page.)
posted by clawsoon at 7:49 AM on May 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


I think requiring double-spacing and other typographical anomalies on essays is similar; the lesson isn't the content of the rules, but the thoughtfulness and submission of following them.

The reason why we have those rules, even the trivial ones, is to ensure that all of text published by the organization has a similar style and voice, and we don't surprise the reader by changing rules from section to section. When it's your own stuff, you can do what you like. But English classes in school don't teach English. They don't need to except out of an ESL context. You likely already know English before you enroll in primary school. They teach you some of the standards of submitting professional and academic work.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 7:52 AM on May 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


So "M." would be interpreted as an abbreviation, but "Mr." and "e.g." would be interpreted as the end of a sentence?

Yes. You're supposed to use a non-breaking space in those conditions, as Mr.~Haughey or e.g.~cameras, partly as a message that this is an interword rather than intersentence space. Also avoids having "Mr." at the end of a line which is awkward.
posted by grouse at 7:54 AM on May 5, 2018 [14 favorites]


My staff insist on one space after a sentence. They usually strip my extra spaces out before filing my documents. We don’t have an official style guide, so it’s all up to personal preference. They’ve tried feeding me that crap about how they computer automatically adjusts, but the fact is it doesn’t - I’ve measured and there’s the same amount of space after a period as between words in the documents they produce. I find their documents harder to parse because of the lack of the extra space. If the word processor really automatically adjusted, surely we wouldn’t be able to tell from looking how many times the user pressed the space bar, right?

Anyway, as I think I’ve mentioned here before, we have reached a detente where they can edit my space before submitting my filings if they really feel that’s a good use of their time, but God help them if I catch them using “impact” as a verb.
posted by nickmark at 7:56 AM on May 5, 2018 [7 favorites]


My 11th grade business typing teacher insisted on 2 spaces on the IBM Selectrics that we learned on and it took me until grad school to undo that muscle memory.
posted by octothorpe at 7:56 AM on May 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


Yes, GendNullPointerException, but my point is that every org has its own style guide, so when you're being taught to use MLA style or APA style it's not because you're going to need those specific rules, but rather you're being imprinted to follow such rules at all.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 7:57 AM on May 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


It'sreallyaslipperyslopeargumenttokeeptwospaces.Otherwiseit'sjustamatteroftimeuntilwejustdon'thavespaces.

ANDFROMTHEREITSUNCIALALLOVERAGAINIFITWASGOODENOUGHFORTHEANCIENTBUTNOTTHATANCIENTGREEKSANDMAYBESOMEOFTHEROMANSSOMEOFTHETIMEITSGOODFORALLOFUS

Hey, that broke the Comment window! It kept enlarging to try to fit it all on one line!
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:57 AM on May 5, 2018 [8 favorites]


Software released in 1983 has an AI engine sophisticated enough to recognize the difference between abbreviations and the ends of sentences?

Well, it helps that it's software released in 1983 by Don Knuth, but I did only mean "mostly." For sure if you were using LaTeX to produce an actual book (instead of a conference paper or thesis where "close enough for government work" is fine and "better than default Word output" is above and beyond the call of duty), you would absolutely need to go in and manually fix some of the instances.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 8:00 AM on May 5, 2018 [10 favorites]


It’s not “trusting the computer.” It’s trusting the styles layer. If we agree to use one space at the sentence level, we can encode that space to be any width we like, and do so repeatedly across hundreds of pages of text. Same as with CSS. Keep the style and the content separate!

In order for the styles layer to work, the content needs to unambiguously communicate its semantics. A period followed by a single space is ambiguous and the style layer has no reliable method of distinguishing what kind of typographic space should be inserted. LaTeX gets around that by making the full stop period-space-space, and offering up other ascii characters for the special case of "Mr. Rogers." Most everything else deals with the matter by just treating all spaces as roughly equivalent.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 8:04 AM on May 5, 2018 [9 favorites]


the last instruction was to disregard all the previous instructions. It was intended to teach us something subtle about the absurdity of life.

As I recall, that test was to teach you to follow instructions. The first instruction was "Read all instructions before beginning the test" or some such.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:05 AM on May 5, 2018 [14 favorites]


notyou: It’s not “trusting the computer.” It’s trusting the styles layer. If we agree to use one space at the sentence level, we can encode that space to be any width we like, and do so repeatedly across hundreds of pages of text. Same as with CSS. Keep the style and the content separate!

It's trusting the computer to know the difference between the end of a sentence and the other uses of a space which aren't the end of a sentence. That can be a hard problem for humans, given a document with enough abbreviations, let alone computers.

To separate style from presentation, what your typesetting system needs is a way to semantically indicate the difference between end-of-sentence spaces and other spaces. Interesting use of "~" in LaTex to do that, as per grouse's comment, though it looks like you have to apply it inconsistently in order to get a consistent result.

If only there were an easy, consistent way to semantically differentiate between the two kinds of spaces in a way which would be easy for a style layer algorithm to unambiguously interpret as end-of-sentence or not space. Hmm. I can't think of any possible rule that your style layer could use that would be easy for users to enter and computers to recognize. ;-) (On preview: What GenderNullPointerException said.)

An interesting thing I've noticed popping up here and there is not using spaces after some abbreviations, as in M.Belliveau. I assume that it's a result of discomfort with seeing the same width of space after an abbreviation as after a sentence.
posted by clawsoon at 8:11 AM on May 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


On old typewriters with monospaced fonts, the spacing between words was rather variable - the letter I at the end of a sentence effectively has 1+1/2 spaces while the letter M at the end of a sentence effectively has only 1/2 space. Adding a second space at the end of a sentence therefore makes a proper distinction between the sentence end and all the other janky spaces between words.

On modern systems with proportional fonts this is completely unnecessary, but old habits die hard.
Word processors like Microsoft Word don't do anything special with the space, they don't have to - the work is already done by the proportional font which makes an I narrower than an M.

The Elements of Typographic style and the Chicago manual of style both recommend using proportional fonts and single spaces.
posted by Lanark at 8:12 AM on May 5, 2018 [10 favorites]


Lanark: On modern systems with proportional fonts this is completely unnecessary, but old habits die hard.

Proportional fonts solve the issue you're talking about, but they don't solve the issue I'm talking about.
posted by clawsoon at 8:16 AM on May 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


As we all know, double spacers are the worst sort of narcissistic evil. It's well known that they have short-sheeted single spacers beds, voted republican, and will order complicated drinks at Starbucks and your local bar. And ALWAYS are ahead of you in line. This sort of all pervasive evil must stop before western civilization is destroyed.
posted by evilDoug at 8:23 AM on May 5, 2018 [12 favorites]


I’ve measured and there’s the same amount of space after a period as between words in the documents they produce. I find their documents harder to parse because of the lack of the extra space.

As it happens, this was the comment I chose to "view source" on just to make sure that metafilter is preserving the two spaces that most commenters in this thread are correctly using at the end of their sentences, even though HTML ignores them.

I will continue two do the two-space thing here and elsewhere on the web. The extra bytes used cost so little that I judge them outweighed by the potential benefit to any future data archaeologists who have the good luck to come from a civilization whose web browsers can properly render them.
posted by sfenders at 8:24 AM on May 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


I don't care what conventional thinking is, I got penalized in touch typing class in High School for NOT using 2 spaces after a period, and I will go to my grave with that muscle memory intact.

FWIW, if you cast it to HTML and back, the multiple-spaces are collapsed. I invite anyone who takes exception to my style to avail themselves of that feature.
posted by mikelieman at 8:28 AM on May 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


Single-spacing gives text which looks better as art, at the cost of ambiguity in a small number of situations. If you prefer to never risk ambiguity if you can help it at the cost of not looking good, you'll prefer double-spacing.

In other words, single-spacing is for those who prefer style over substance. ;-)
posted by clawsoon at 8:31 AM on May 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


I suppose if you really want your text formatted the way you've typed it,
     there is always.  The option.  To use.   The <pre> tag.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:35 AM on May 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


The ability to unambiguously parse sentences is useful for more than typographic rendering. It's also useful for speech synthesis, accessibility navigation, and semantic text processing.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 8:42 AM on May 5, 2018 [7 favorites]


GenderNullPointerException: and semantic text processing.

Maybe single-spacers are just doing their part to hold off the AI apocalypse by slowing down how quickly the computers can learn.
posted by clawsoon at 8:47 AM on May 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


>>Argh, I *hate* double spacing, mostly because my PI intends to double space but is a terrible typist so it's occasionally actually only one space, occasionally actually three spaces

>As for spacing, I teach English and tell the students that they can do whatever they please as long as they do it with consistency.


This was my peeve, after about the millionth manuscript I proofed; I don't think I ever worked with a single manuscript that used more than one space after sentences, in which the writer had been consistent about the number. Doing one pass of Find/Replace All was never sufficient.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:47 AM on May 5, 2018 [9 favorites]


This was my peeve, after about the millionth manuscript I proofed; I don't think I ever worked with a single manuscript that used more than one space after sentences, in which the writer had been consistent about the number. Doing one pass of Find/Replace All was never sufficient.

This is a job for REGEX!

( This is meant as a humorous reply! )
posted by mikelieman at 8:53 AM on May 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


You will have to pry the second space from my cold dead hands.

Just like the Oxford comma.
posted by sexyrobot at 9:01 AM on May 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


I still can't get over the fact that the researchers went to all this trouble to set up a test with controls and eye tracking and, like, head restraints, all to try to solve this issue once and for all—and then used Courier New.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:03 AM on May 5, 2018 [17 favorites]


mikelieman: This is a job for REGEX!
s/\. +/.  /g
posted by clawsoon at 9:07 AM on May 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


I rejoice in the many hours in my life I have saved by not putting in that extra space.

Once when I was in middle school I was given a test with a bunch of stupid time-wasting instructions, and the last instruction was to disregard all the previous instructions. It was intended to teach us something subtle about the absurdity of life.

I had that test in grade school. The teacher told us to read it all the way through before we started. Of course no one did. The point, we were told, was to teach us the importance of paying attention to and following instructions all the way through. So we wouldn't grow up to be the normal guy who turns to the owner's manual as a last resort. Or something.

(I tell a lie. One girl did do exactly as we were told, and the last question was to do number 3, 5, and 7, and not all 25. She was about as well liked as that kind of kid normally is in fourth grade. Here's hoping she's found peace in this life.)

(Now I think back, I seem to recall that the test was some kind of punishment for a group infraction, real or concocted. The tests, as I recall, were ostentatiously trashed without being read or graded.)
posted by BWA at 9:16 AM on May 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


My husband is a monster. Often, three, four, or more spaces will be spammed-in to his draft prose after any given full-stop.

If he asks me to sub-edit something then it goes to my one-space personal standard. If someone else is doing that, it's their problem.

Despite all this, he has still managed to change the world, so my personal conclusion is that it really doesn't matter in the end.
posted by BuxtonTheRed at 9:23 AM on May 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


We gave those tests in order to teach reading the directions before you start. Students persistently refuse to follow directions no matter how much it costs them, and no matter how often their teachers remind them.
posted by Peach at 9:25 AM on May 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


I'm just here because the thought of getting slightly angry over something harmless on the internet seemed like a fun throwback. (Okay I didn't get angry, but I did roll my eyes and move on really quickly, which was nice. I've been on team one space for years -- because I'm very susceptible to all kinds of Slate takes -- but I don't actually care.)
posted by grandiloquiet at 9:28 AM on May 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


I've decided something. , Since I like the Oxford comma and the double space so much, I'm going to start using them together. , That sounds like a good idea. , Right?
posted by sexyrobot at 9:37 AM on May 5, 2018 [7 favorites]


I had that follow-the-instructions test in a science class around 7th grade or so and I was That Kid who actually read all the instructions and handed it in correctly with, if I remember, just my name at the top of the page and nothing else.

Insufferable.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:38 AM on May 5, 2018 [11 favorites]


METAFILTER: If you prefer to never risk ambiguity

I was schooled to use two spaces. Over the past five years or so, I've transitioned to one. So much so that two space breaks now just look wrong. So it is with some authority that I can say perhaps loudly You Are All Wrong If You Use Two Spaces. You Just Are.
posted by philip-random at 9:39 AM on May 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


grandiloquiet: I'm just here because the thought of getting slightly angry over something harmless on the internet seemed like a fun throwback.

Ah, for the days when you could loudly disagree with someone and still be friends. There don't seem to be many of those issues left, what with the darkest timeline and all.

because I'm very susceptible to all kinds of Slate takes

I think it was that very Slate take which made it clear to me that single-spacing was the triumph of style over substance:
Typographers can point to no studies or any other evidence proving that single spaces improve readability. When you press them on it, they tend to cite their aesthetic sensibilities. As Jury says, "It's so bloody ugly."

But I actually think aesthetics are the best argument in favor of one space over two. One space is simpler, cleaner, and more visually pleasing. (It also requires less work, which isn't nothing.) A page of text with two spaces between every sentence looks riddled with holes; a page of text with an ordinary space looks just as it should.
posted by clawsoon at 9:43 AM on May 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: Your double-spacing efforts are of no consequence.
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 9:43 AM on May 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


How about zero width spaces‌‌‌‌‍‍‍‌‌‌‌‌‍‬‌‍‌‌‌‌‍‬‌‬‌‌‌‌‍.‌‌‌‌‌‌‬‌‌‌‌‌‌‍‬‌‍‌‌‌‌‍‌‬‌‌‌‌‍‬‍‍‌‌‌‌‌‬‌‌‌‌‌‌‍‬‌‬‌‌‌‌‍‬‍‍‌‌‌‌‍‍‌‌‌‌‌‍‍‌‌‌‌‌‍‬‍‍‌‌‌‌‍‌‬‌‌‌‌‌‬‌‌‌‌‌‌‍‍‌‌‌‌‌‍‬‬‌‌‌‌‌‍‬‌‍‌‌‌‌‍‬‬‌‌‌‌‌‬‌‌‌‌‌‌‍‌‌‌‌‌‍‌‌‌‌‌‌‍‬‌‍‌‌‌‌‍‬‌‌‌‌‌‍‬‍‍‌‌‌‌‍‌
posted by smcameron at 9:46 AM on May 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


the last instruction was to disregard all the previous instructions. It was intended to teach us something subtle about the absurdity of life.

As I recall, that test was to teach you to follow instructions. The first instruction was "Read all instructions before beginning the test" or some such.

We gave those tests in order to teach reading the directions before you start. Students persistently refuse to follow directions no matter how much it costs them, and no matter how often their teachers remind them.



Well, the stated intent was to teach the importance of reading the directions before you start. But the functional intent was to show that teachers could sometimes arbitrarily give you a heavily weighted assignment that basically broke all of the standard conventions and expectations in school assignments that you’d been trained for years to recognize and follow, and nevertheless penalize you when you got it wrong.

So, in that sense, it probably taught far more about the absurdity of life and the arbitrariness of authority than it did about the importance of following directions.

The assignment was sui generis in the whole curriculum, in the way that it formatted numbered instructions that were then explicitly countermanded by the final instruction. Which was designed to take advantage of students’ expectations of how assignments had been formatted conventionally prior to that, to trap them, in order to make a point.

Can anyone imagine any reasonably competent set of instructions given to anyone on the planet to do literally any set of tasks that, if it had on its 25th line a note that said “Now that you’ve read this far, don’t do anything on this list”? I mean really.


Still pissed about that assignment 38 years later.
posted by darkstar at 9:53 AM on May 5, 2018 [20 favorites]


My earliest programming, as an editor, was my way of coping with the many, many ways people just sorta go their own way on style conventions. Each of my writers had their own set of idiosyncrasies, and then all my colleagues, who were each managing a set of websites, had their own set of idiosyncrasies, which made sharing articles between sites irritating. So each time I found myself hand-correcting something, either to cope with Word's god-awful HTML converter, or some author's idea of how things were supposed to be, I just wrote a little script and turned it into a filter.

There are so many ways people can express "level 3 heading" in HTML, and I learned most of them. There's only one proper way to express it. But holy cow do people get inventive. Our own corporate CMS had a WYSIWYG editor. If you selected a heading and clicked the "h3" button, the underlying HTML was rendered as
<span class="h3">Foo</span>
which ... I have no words. In addition to that corporate take on h3, there was also the "bold text followed by a br tag with no p to start the actual paragraph," the slightly more sophisticated "bold text followed by a br tag with no p to start the actual paragraph, but with a span to make the heading text size "correct," and the very sophisticated and super cheeky "fuck it, most browsers seem to honor a <style> tag, even if it's not inside <head>, and I can't get at <head> because that's in the CMS template, so I'ma go with writing my own style sheet at the top of my article then wrapping this heading in <h3 class="larrys_article_blue_h3">.

And then there were the double-spacers. Probably experienced freelancers who came up in typewriters, had the double-space convention drilled into their skulls in high school typing classes, and who were often actually still writing in a monospace font because they were all former or current sysadmins, developers, or network admins who were using vim or Emacs, composing in HTML or Markdown, and for whom that extra space did make things more scannable. They were absolutely the least of my worries and they didn't warrant a script: HTML calls for redundant spaces to be compressed into one on render. Why bother?

As a book editor, well ... no ... our weird "Word but with a set of markup conventions" production pipeline hated the extra spaces, and that particular tic occupied one line of a very complex macro we had to run on every chapter file anyhow. It was too trivial to complain about. We just made the problem go away with five minutes' worth of macro code.

I'm way more fond of people losing their minds over the series comma, because people who aren't writers or editors are usually only slightly less confused by that than they are, like, the question of passive voice, and they just steer clear. 5.5 years at a software company, a couple of which spent managing the docs team, and only one dev ever dared to "actually" any of the tech writers over the series comma, but they all love to weigh in on the two-space thing even though they should be off writing localization libraries for whatever language they all adopted without bothering to see if you could even fucking separate strings without needing to waste eight fucking sprints writing an externalization library for it.
posted by mph at 9:54 AM on May 5, 2018 [11 favorites]


With that rant being vented, I now teach university level chemistry, and require my students to demonstrate they have read all the lab instructions before they begin an experiment, and am generally perpetually disappointed that they do not.


(But of course, there’s never a step in the instructions that says to ignore the previous page, so...)
posted by darkstar at 9:57 AM on May 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


I now teach university level chemistry, and require my students to demonstrate they have read all the lab instructions before they begin an experiment, and am generally perpetually disappointed that they do not

Leaving all mention of the fume hood until last will slowly but surely weed out the disappointments.
posted by flabdablet at 10:02 AM on May 5, 2018 [14 favorites]


This is a whole lot of bother about nothing. Or two nothings.
posted by srboisvert at 10:02 AM on May 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


Are these spaces too narrow? Am I doing this wrong?
posted by clawsoon at 10:02 AM on May 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


I rejoice in the many hours in my life I have saved by not putting in that extra space.

Wow, you must be a really slow typist...
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:02 AM on May 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


OK, so maybe I'm still That Kid but I encounter instructions all the time that are written such that you're going to get yourself in trouble if you don't read them all the way through before you start. How many times have you gone to make a recipe and found out halfway through the procedure that there's some ingredient or piece of cookware that the writer just assumed you had on hand, but you don't, and now you're boned? Good instructions can be followed by just working your way down the list, but the world is full of bad ones. Plus sometimes you're going to have to do something complicated or exacting and it's good to have a heads-up that that's coming so that you can prepare yourself.

I'm not saying I have a perfect track record of always reading the instructions before beginning work, but there've definitely been times when I haven't and then ended up wishing I had.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:02 AM on May 5, 2018 [17 favorites]


I do a lot of editing of other people's writing at work. We still have a number of double-spacers. I don't even bring it up anymore -- I just do a find/replace for [period space space] --> [period space]. Then I judge the writer silently but harshly every time I smile and nod to them in the hallway.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:11 AM on May 5, 2018 [9 favorites]


Personally, I put part of the blame on Microsoft Word for this. 20-odd years and it's still a broken system where you can have entire paragraphs rendered in 10pt Times New Roman tagged Heading 1. It consistently barfs on any list with more than a single level of organization, and only conditionally accepts table edits if you're tracking changes or have comments in the table.

Now I work in a single-space organization and use single-space style because the fucking style guide is law. (And it doesn't matter when it all gets shoved into HTML anyway.) But, a full stop is a distinct marker of semantic meaning in English, and it probably should get its own character sequence to distinguish it from other uses of the period mark. Otherwise we're just kicking problems of accessibility and presentation where the space between sentences matters down the road to other people who will need to fill in that meaning.

The argument for aesthetics confuses me because your audience shouldn't see your WYTIWYM drafts. (Which again, is where Microsoft word has been a plague.) They should be looking at the typeset text, where the full stops are rendered aesthetically (hopefully automatically) for page flow, along with whatever marks you use for emphasis vs. citation vs. foreign-language text, (and yes, they should be marked up differently behind the scenes), and your mandatory alternate image descriptions. APA style is a WYTIWYM submission format, not for use by anyone outside of the submission, editing, and review process.

And I believe that WYTIWYM is going to be more important as we move to an increasingly multi-platform and multi-media universe where your creative work will be on a web page, downloaded to flowed MOBI or EPUB, printed as PS or PDF, spoken by a reader, automatically translated into spoken and maybe signed languages, and even performed in virtual reality by digital avatars.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 10:12 AM on May 5, 2018 [10 favorites]


It's interesting that the APA guide switched back to double-spacing in 2009.
posted by clawsoon at 10:12 AM on May 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


Personally, I put part of the blame on Microsoft Word for this.


THANK you. I am still aggravated by Word arbitrarily deciding it would not accept “traveller” with two Ls back in the late 80s, basically establishing a standard that resulted in a perfectly cromulent spelling being consigned to the dustbin of History. (Just now, when I was typing it in, it was “autocorrected” to remove the second L. Hmf.)


Yes, I hold my grudges a long time.
posted by darkstar at 10:18 AM on May 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


Fuck it.     I'm doing five spaces.     
posted by glonous keming at 10:21 AM on May 5, 2018 [9 favorites]


Insufferable.

See, I remember those tests/gags/koans myself and at the time, in the flush of preening youth, did believe that the lesson was "read and follow every instruction carefully", but now, older and wiser, suspect that I-Write-Essays took out of it a more valuable lesson (absurdity of life).

the functional intent was to show that teachers could sometimes arbitrarily give you a heavily weighted assignment that basically broke all of the standard conventions and expectations in school assignments that you’d been trained for years to recognize and follow

Hmm, a crude type of steganography, perhaps? Maybe there's another missed lesson to consider.
posted by dhartung at 10:22 AM on May 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


GenderNullPointerException: But, a full stop is a distinct marker of semantic meaning in English, and it probably should get its own character sequence to distinguish it from other uses of the period mark.

Interesting (if never-going-to-happen) idea! Perhaps the small full stop (﹒) or full width full stop (.) could be of use?

One problem with that idea, though, which I discovered while writing that paragraph: You'd need to have two different characters for all potential sentence-enders.For example, you might want to write an exclamation-filled article about Yahoo! but only have a wider space after your exclamation-ended sentences, not after every instance of Yahoo!
posted by clawsoon at 10:24 AM on May 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


It's a good thing that software programming became a real career possibility for us pedants, because it's the only place that sticking to pedantic rules makes the difference between success and failure.
posted by clawsoon at 10:28 AM on May 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


Pretty much all of American public schooling is an object lesson in the absurdity of life.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:29 AM on May 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


Anyway, the story about double-spacing being the result of typewriters is all lies. If there's one thing that people should remember from this discussion, it's that.
posted by clawsoon at 10:32 AM on May 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


I tend to double space because sometimes it's useful to be able to search for the end of sentences.
posted by JHarris at 10:32 AM on May 5, 2018 [7 favorites]


I prefer two spaces between each bean on my plate of beans. Unless they are kidney beans, then just one space, naturally.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:34 AM on May 5, 2018 [8 favorites]


My first post-college job was as an editor and typesetter. Even back then, 1989, it was the norm for typesetting software to put the proper amount of space after a period, so you only used one space. When typing copy (yes, even then we still typed copy on typewriters and handed the paper to editors who marked it up for typesetting, though it was the end of that era) we used two spaces after a period, because that made it easier to see that there was a period and not a misshaped comma, a spec of fly dirt, or some other non-period mark.

Having learned to touch type on a typewriter, it took me years to get out of the habit of double-spacing after a period when typesetting or writing on a word processor. This was on a Linotype-Hell phototypesetting system running on a DEC PDP-11 as a backend, with XyWrite running on CPM as the front-end markup editing system, early 80s tech that I maliciously and with foresight ripped out and replaced with an integrated DTP system.
posted by Blackanvil at 10:38 AM on May 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


Blackanvil: My first post-college job was as an editor and typesetter. Even back then, 1989, it was the norm for typesetting software to put the proper amount of space after a period, so you only used one space.

What did you do to get the proper spacing after periods in abbreviations, as opposed to sentence endings? Or did you just not worry about that?
posted by clawsoon at 10:43 AM on May 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


That's a function of HTML. More than one space gets collapsed into a single space as a feature.
Another function of HTML is that linebreaks get treated as any other whitespace.  Metafilter's comment box thwarts this function by turning linebreaks into explicit <br /> tags, because stripping the extra whitespace between paragraphs would be monstrous.  However, Metafilter's comment box does not perform the same service with &nbsp; for extra whitespace between sentences, because really, don't we all have our own monsters inside us?
posted by roystgnr at 10:44 AM on May 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


Dogs don’t use the space bar at all. Cats hit the space bar over and over just to try your patience.
posted by sjswitzer at 10:49 AM on May 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


I two-space for two primary reasons:
  1. I use a monospace font in vim to edit my text
  2. Both HTML and LATEX ignore how many spaces I used in the markup and just do what looks nice given the styles used to render.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 10:53 AM on May 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


If the character before the period is a capital letter, TeX assumes it's an abbreviation rather than the end of a sentence.
And when there's a chance of getting it wrong, it's easy to override.  A backslash before a space means "just one (elastic) space, because no the preceding punctuation didn't end a sentence", and a backslash+at-symbol before punctuation means "this ends a sentence, even though it looks like an abbreviation, so use the usual (elastic) one-and-a-half space."  For more extreme use cases, the command "\frenchspacing" means "my opinions on typesetting are bad and I should feel bad."
posted by roystgnr at 10:55 AM on May 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


What I would like to say is that I was just out for a couple of hours and this post got more comments than the neverending politics post. This is why I love MetaFilter.
Also, follow the goddamn style guide, or I will call your mum.
posted by mumimor at 11:12 AM on May 5, 2018 [9 favorites]


i learned to use two spaces when i learned to type in the fourth grade and was told to forget it in the sixth grade and honestly forgot that it was a thing until now ? yet within the past two years i've inexplicably picked up this habit of putting a space between most punctuation , especially commas , on either side ?
posted by LeviQayin at 11:14 AM on May 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


When you get to the last instruction, which says 'ignore all previous instructions', you have already failed to follow that instruction because you actually did read all the instructions before starting the test, which means you did not ignore the previous instruction which said to read all the instructions.

Then what are you supposed to do?

The only way I can think of to avoid the possibility of falling afoul of such a last instruction to ignore all previous instructions is to read all sets of instructions from the bottom up.

Which is my natural tendency anyway, for some reason.
posted by jamjam at 11:15 AM on May 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


In 2013 I made an FPP which now has only a broken link to a very comprehensive blog post on this topic, but as always the Internet Archive is our salvation:
Once upon a time, typographical practice was anarchy. Printers put in all sizes of spaces in haphazard ways, including after periods. Then, a standard emerged: the single space after a period. Unfortunately, the evil typewriter came along, and for some unknown reason, people began to put wider double spaces after periods. Typographers railed against the practice, but they could do nothing.
(The blog post goes on to demonstrate that the above passage is a fairy tale.) Periods above are followed by the em quad, the OG post-period slug.

And when you really get right down to it, aren't we being pretty closed-minded to accept the false dichotomy of “one space” versus “two space”, when here in this bright future we have such a glorious manifold panoply of spacing possibilities?
  • SPACE—‘󠀠 ’—sometimes considered a control code
  • NO-BREAK SPACE—‘󠀠 ’—commonly abbreviated as NBSP
  • ETHIOPIC WORDSPACE—‘፡’
  • OGHAM SPACE MARK—‘ ’—glyph is blank in "stemless" style fonts
  • EN QUAD—‘ ’
  • EM QUAD—‘ ’—mutton quad
  • EN SPACE—‘ ’—nut; half an em
  • EM SPACE—‘ ’—mutton; nominally, a space equal to the type size in points;may scale by the condensation factor of a font
  • THREE-PER-EM SPACE—‘ ’—thick space
  • FOUR-PER-EM SPACE—‘ ’—mid space
  • SIX-PER-EM SPACE—‘ ’—in computer typography sometimes equated to thin space
  • FIGURE SPACE—‘ ’—space equal to tabular width of a font; this is equivalent to the digit width of fonts with fixed-width digits
  • PUNCTUATION SPACE—‘ ’—space equal to narrow punctuation of a font
  • THIN SPACE—‘ ’—a fifth of an em (or sometimes a sixth)
  • HAIR SPACE—‘ ’—thinner than a thin space; in traditional typography, the thinnest space available
  • ZERO WIDTH SPACE—‘​’—commonly abbreviated ZWSP; this character is intended for invisible word separation and for line break control; it has no width, but its presence between two characters does not prevent increased letter spacing in justification
  • NARROW NO-BREAK SPACE—‘ ’—commonly abbreviated NNBSP; a narrow form of a no-break space, typically the width of a thin space or a mid space
  • MEDIUM MATHEMATICAL SPACE—‘ ’—abbreviated MMSP; four-eighteenths of an em
  • SYMBOL FOR SPACE—‘␠’
  • BLANK SYMBOL—‘␢’—graphic for space
  • OPEN BOX—‘␣’—graphic for space
  • IDEOGRAPHIC SPACE—‘ ’
  • IDEOGRAPHIC HALF FILL SPACE—‘〿’—visual indicator of a screen space for half of an ideograph
  • ZERO WIDTH NO-BREAK SPACE—‘’—BOM, ZWNBSP; may be used to detect byte order by contrast with the noncharacter code point U+FFFE; use as an indication of non-breaking is deprecated; see WORD JOINER instead
  • TAG SPACE—‘󠀠’
posted by XMLicious at 11:17 AM on May 5, 2018 [10 favorites]


Anyway, the story about double-spacing being the result of typewriters is all lies.

Your link to wikipedia repeats the "two spaces became a convention with the typewriter" notion.

"Double-spacing" refers to two "space" characters, or two presses of the space bar. Not to a wider space. The whole point is that if you want a wider space, use a wider space character, not two characters.
posted by explosion at 11:18 AM on May 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


Maybe this is because of my youth, but this thread is my first introduction to the idea that double-spacing exists. I'd never heard of such a thing. I can understand some of the practical arguments put forth in favour here, but I just don't know that double-spacing really exists in the wild anymore? Perhaps it's all the HTML filtering people have mentioned, but I'm just still shocked at the idea. Two spaces. How decadent.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 11:19 AM on May 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


There's a suggestion that the move to single-spacing started because it reduced the cost and complexity of typesetting mass-produced books and magazines. Capitalism tried to grind the craft and skill out of typesetting for the same economic reasons that it grinds the craft and skill out of everything it can - profit - and with single-spacing it succeeded.

It's interesting how, over the course of the following half-century, capitalist economic necessity was turned into a virtue and then an aesthetic. The fact that the typewriter is so often wrongly named as the source of wide spacing after sentences suggests a reason: No matter how ground-down typesetters were by capitalism, they at least had typists, ground even further down by capitalism (and mostly women, to boot), to look down on.
posted by clawsoon at 11:22 AM on May 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


explosion: "Double-spacing" refers to two "space" characters, or two presses of the space bar. Not to a wider space. The whole point is that if you want a wider space, use a wider space character, not two characters.

You are the best kind of correct.

However, the reason that typists used two spaces was in an attempt to approximate the typesetter's rule at the time - since abandoned - of wider spaces after sentences. The technique was a typists' technique (although what would you be willing to bet that typesetters used two half em-spaces if they ran out of em-spaces?), but the source was typesetting.
posted by clawsoon at 11:29 AM on May 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


explosion: The whole point is that if you want a wider space, use a wider space character, not two characters.

I hope you've noticed the effort I have put into doing exactly that during this discussion.

(There may be a few edits in Metafilter's log files which show two spaces being replaced by em-spaces after I forgot and reverted to habit...)
posted by clawsoon at 11:46 AM on May 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


clawsoon "What did you do to get the proper spacing after periods in abbreviations, as opposed to sentence endings? Or did you just not worry about that?"

Mostly, we had an older gentleman who had been typesetting for over 40 years by that point, who'd started with hot-lead systems and was finishing up his career as DTP was coming in, who'd built in a bunch of typesetting macros to identify abbreviations and suchlike automatically and apply the appropriate typesetting rules. He'd built the system from the ground up back when the magazine, "The American Lawyer," was getting set up over a decade before, and by the time I was working with him he'd had his job so automated so that all he really did was babysit the typesetter (as a photo system, the chemicals in the developer had to be changed monthly, which became my job), make the occasional change to his macros if he didn't like how the type was coming out, and, since it was based on the typesetting system, run the billing for the classified ads. Otherwise, he went into the computer room every morning, sat down with the NYT, coffee, and a donut, and didn't expect to be disturbed until the Friday afternoon cocktail hour.

When he had a heart attack and was out for a year, I took over his job on top of my own as "Assistant Managing Editor" (The ASM was responsible for everything technical about producing a magazine, from when the editor hands off the final markup copy until the flats go out the door to the printer.) I automated ~90% of both our jobs using more macros and a whole lot of shell scrips, then designed and implemented the replacement DTP system: PCs for editorial because that's what management insisted on, Macs for layout and art, and a whole lot of different software as we tried to figure out which worked best and technologies changed. He came back, took one look at what we'd done, and resumed his regime, only with decaf and a bran muffin, and as he put it, more time for the crossword puzzle. Fun times.
posted by Blackanvil at 11:49 AM on May 5, 2018 [11 favorites]


Do two spaces after periods cause you harm or distress? No? Then STFU and let people type as they wish.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:53 AM on May 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


> mumimor:
"What I would like to say is that I was just out for a couple of hours and this post got more comments than the neverending politics post. This is why I love MetaFilter.
Also, follow the goddamn style guide, or I will call your mum."


Go ahead. Call her. She knows I am a rebel, a loner, someone that carves their own path in life.
posted by Samizdata at 11:57 AM on May 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


I actually find myself going back and re-reading things that don't have enough space at the end of sentences. When I have time I need to look into having Keyboad Maestro convert all my double spaces to something that can't be crushed by the savages that rule the web.

I can't take seriously arguments about spaces on the internet when I have to look at emojis, which cause me to make an immediate negative value judgement.
posted by bongo_x at 11:57 AM on May 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


I seem to recall that R. Buckminster Fuller avoided this confusion by using a carriage return after every sentence.

I believe he said it made your writing much clearer to read, with the added bonus of making it read like poetry.

Sounds good to me, especially now that writing doesn’t use up paper.

Though I’m sure if this caught on, we’d be arguing over whether to use one or two carriage returns after every sentence.
posted by ejs at 12:08 PM on May 5, 2018 [11 favorites]


No, silly; you use two carriage returns to separate paragraphs!!
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:16 PM on May 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


Did someone mention the Oxford Coma?!
posted by evilDoug at 12:18 PM on May 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


I seem to recall that R. Buckminster Fuller avoided this confusion by using a carriage return after every sentence.

I actually do this when I email people.

Because people will not read more than one line.

I also catch myself doing a lot on the internet.
Because people will not read more than 2 or 3 lines.

My wife and I joke about this. Whatever the most important thing you have to say in an email has to be first, because people will only respond to the first question and ignore the rest.
posted by bongo_x at 12:22 PM on May 5, 2018 [7 favorites]


ejs: I seem to recall that R. Buckminster Fuller avoided this confusion by using a carriage return after every sentence.

I'm pretty sure I read an article by an online influencer who recommended this as a proven way to improve your online influencing.

I think LinkedIn sent it to me.

I guess Buckminster Fuller was ahead of his time in more ways than one.
posted by clawsoon at 12:23 PM on May 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


people will only respond to the first question and ignore the rest.

You jest, but this is literally the entire sales department at my company.

Me: "Hey Bob, could you tell me the address for this job? Also, is this three widgets or four, and do you have a site plan you can send over or do you want me to just wing it? If you need me to wing it, can you give me an idea of how big a system we need?"

Bob: "The address is 123 Main St, thx."

Me: *screaming silently inside*
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:35 PM on May 5, 2018 [11 favorites]


Because people will not read more than one line.

Boy, do I hear that! I'm in software support, and I can't tell you how often the following scenario plays out (whether I use one or two spaces after periods):

Me: To help me with troubleshooting, please answer the following: (questions 1, 2, and 3)

Them: (answers question 1)

Me: Also please answer (questions 2 and 3).

Them: (answers question 2).

Me: Please answer (question 3).

Them: Why is this taking so long for you to fix??

Me: (sigh, mutter, grumble, reach for antacid)

---------------
On preview: Jinx, AOANLA,T!
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:37 PM on May 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


I really think you're all making too much of this.
You've␣got␣to␣admit,␣I'm␣right␣and␣you're␣wrong.
posted by scruss at 12:38 PM on May 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


My emails tend to be one sentence at a time.
  1. And then I break out the lists
  2. Because people seem to follow them better.
    • If I have more to add, I put a bulletted sublist in.
  3. Generally I stop at around the third item.
I guess this saves worry about how to break between sentences.
posted by ambrosen at 12:51 PM on May 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: Your double-spacing efforts are of no consequence.

Truer words were never spoken. Or typed. OK, so since nobody else has mentioned it I guess it falls to me to point out the elephant in the room, MetaFilter itself. Every post or comment I make I end my sentences properly as god intended with two spaces. And then MF (ahem) BREAKS MY OWN WRITING BY REMOVING ONE OF MY SPACES. I cannot tell you how annoying, inconsiderate & improper this is. Every single post I'm made to feel like a second class citizen within my own hive mind. I do not appreciate this. And look, even in a comment about how MeFi removes my spaces from where they belong, it removes my spaces from where they belong. I'm seriously tempted to cobbler together a GreaseMonkey script to put them back, into everybody's comments not just mine. YOU'LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE!!
posted by scalefree at 12:56 PM on May 5, 2018 [7 favorites]


In first grade, when I was learning to write by hand, they told me to put a space after the period at the end of a sentence. Later, when papers had to be typed, "double spaced" referred exclusively to line height, and that was the extent of my typing instruction (should I say word processing instruction? I'm 45 but I think I've used a typewriter to write a paper exactly two nightmarish times.) In college, I took some graphic design classes and some programming classes, and both of those taught me that unnecessary invisible characters will more than likely screw up your layout or make your program not work, and it will do so in ways that are difficult to detect because invisible characters are invisible. If I had been a two-spacer (or even known that using two spaces was a thing), I would have been cured.

Still later, I started to build websites for people, and my first ever encounter with a two-spacer was a client who wanted his two spaces at the end of a sentence preserved, which as noted upthread, is not something HTML does by default. In fact it required infuriatingly ugly kluges. It has become easier to solve, but the solutions are still kind of ugly. So from my perspective, the use of two spaces at the end of a sentence is something that only arose after the year 2000, specifically to make my life more difficult.

That said, I don't really care about it. I'd much rather devote my time to worrying about the overloaded and stupid usage rules for the apostrophe, or how commas are basically the chaotic evil of punctuation.
posted by surlyben at 12:56 PM on May 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


The one line email rule is closely related to our "one change per order" rule at restaurants.
Only ask for one thing to be changed, if you need more than one change order something else. Because there's a better than even chance you're only getting the first change you asked for and the odds get exponentially worse the more you ask for.

If you ask for 3 changes to a menu item it's your own fault you didn't get what you wanted.
posted by bongo_x at 1:13 PM on May 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


commas are basically the chaotic evil of punctuation.

While I don't disagree with what you're trying to say, imbuing punctuation with intent seems silly.

Except grocer's apostrophes; those things are complete bastards.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:25 PM on May 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


Except grocer's apostrophes; those things are complete bastards.

So this one time a few months ago I went into a local Wegmans and they had a display that said that fruit has "antioxidents," and my heart sank. We've been in Buffalo for ten years now and this was the first time I'd seen a grocers' apos'trophe or misspelled word there. This is the place where the signs over the relevant cashier-lines read "15 ITEMS OR FEWER" But they've put in the self-checkout lanes etc so maybe they were succumbing to Our Society's Moral Rot.

Anyway, a week or so later we were back and they'd taken the display, cut out the offending word, and replaced it with a patch that read "antioxidants." I went back to the customer service desk just to let them know that I noticed it and to thank them.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:31 PM on May 5, 2018 [9 favorites]


imbuing punctuation with intent seems silly.

I sure hope so. I would hate for anyone to take my crazy ideas about punctuation seriously.
posted by surlyben at 1:41 PM on May 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


I can't take seriously arguments about spaces on the internet when I have to look at emojis, which cause me to make an immediate negative value judgement.

😢
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:00 PM on May 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


Or worse, 😂😂😂.
posted by ambrosen at 2:08 PM on May 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


> scalefree:
"Truer words were never spoken. Or typed. OK, so since nobody else has mentioned it I guess it falls to me to point out the elephant in the room, MetaFilter itself. Every post or comment I make I end my sentences properly as god intended with two spaces. And then MF (ahem) BREAKS MY OWN WRITING BY REMOVING ONE OF MY SPACES. I cannot tell you how annoying, inconsiderate & improper this is. Every single post I'm made to feel like a second class citizen within my own hive mind. I do not appreciate this. And look, even in a comment about how MeFi removes my spaces from where they belong, it removes my spaces from where they belong. I'm seriously tempted to cobbler together a GreaseMonkey script to put them back, into everybody's comments not just mine. YOU'LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE!!"

Let me know when you get that done, eh? Maybe put it in the MeFi script GitHub if you don't mind??
posted by Samizdata at 2:12 PM on May 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


This discussion has brought to mind what's likely the last real use of two spaces: to add unnecessary length to academic papers, with continuing support from students who sweat over assignments of a certain number of pages.

In a 500-word essay, an extra space is negligible, and if that's the assignment, typography won't help. But in a "5-page paper," the combination of short sentences and two spaces after each period can get you an extra three to ten lines of text, if you've placed them at strategic intervals to force overrun text onto new lines.

You can get as much or more mileage by changing the 1" required margins to 1.1" margins, and the 12-pt font to 12.5 font, but the teacher has a chance of noticing those. And of course, always use Courier instead of Times if you need to cram more pages into your words.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:19 PM on May 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


2 spaces.
posted by disclaimer at 2:29 PM on May 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


Normal Brain: Typing dot dot dot means I'm leaving things out...
✨ Big Brain: An ellipsis symbol is typographically correct and saves a couple of characters on Twitter…
🌟 Galaxy Brain: The exact length of my unfinished thought can be visualized by clock emojis 🕐🕑🕒
posted by oulipian at 2:37 PM on May 5, 2018 [8 favorites]


Doing one pass of Find/Replace All was never sufficient.

I don't even bring it up anymore -- I just do a find/replace for [period space space] --> [period space].


This is actually an argument for the superiority of the one-space option. It is easy to search for [period space space] and replace all with [period space], but less so the other way around. (I did just Google it and find out that there's an advanced menu where you can turn wildcards on, but it didn't work by default for me.)
posted by salvia at 2:46 PM on May 5, 2018


I prefer to double space after a period too. And I also took that test 'read all the instructions first test', followed the instructions correctly and noticed that everyone else was messing it up so I backed up and messed it up. The instructions you weren't supposed to follow involved things like punching holes in the paper with your pencil, while the ones you were to follow involved writing numbers, which was much more boring. So the lesson I took from it was if you are going to break the rules, do it with a big group if you want to avoid trouble, which is a pretty good rule to follow.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:48 PM on May 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


I remember that when I took that 'read all the instructions first' test in 7th grade science, that there was a wave of furious erasing that made its way across the room, as people realized, too late to really finish fixing, that we had messed up by doing all the steps.
posted by cats are weird at 3:03 PM on May 5, 2018


I took typing classes in primary school, back when it was assumed that career oriented girls would end up in the typing pool. We were trained to double space after periods. I have to consciously think about it to not do it, and yall, I have way bigger things to worry over than typing muscle memory. Also, I find it more aesthetically pleasing.

Addendum: get off my lawn.

CC: You kids
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 3:37 PM on May 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


I don't even bring it up anymore -- I just do a find/replace for [period space space] --> [period space].

[sigh]

Fine, I'll start triple-spacing. The things you people make me do.
posted by clawsoon at 3:37 PM on May 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


Or just keep using these Unicode em-spaces. Let's see if you're eagle-eyed enough to stop me now!
posted by clawsoon at 3:40 PM on May 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'm so old that in high school, I learned to type on an electric typewriter. With ink ribbons and paper and whiteout all all that. So the double space after a period is ingrained in my brain, and I seriously just learned that it should be one space only last year.

As you can see with this comment, I will always be a two-spacer. Haters can suck it.
posted by zardoz at 3:54 PM on May 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


Do the people who get het up about this issue work in publishing only? Do non-publishing people get het up about it? If anything I do, because EFF YOU I'LL TYPE HOW I WAS TAUGHT!

Also - I program, and while whitespace generally in many languages is non-semantic, in Python, that's not the case. So Tab=4 Spaces, damnit (and yes, that, too, is a stylistic convention from a BDFL - which unless we count Strunk & White or whatever your Manual of Style is... well... whatever) - again, this goes to "sure for publishers it's a pain in the ass" but just deal with it.

We all gotta put up with shit in our jobs. OK? You're not so special my spacing prefs are going to be overrode just because your job demands it. ESPECIALLY if I have nothing to do with your job.

I get it. It's a network effect, you want people to use single space so you don't have to do the drudgery of fixing it based on whatever your manual says. OH well.

I gotta fix up shit all day long. One of the trade-offs of living in a shitty complex duct-taped society full of layers of technology that has different needs and demands.

Suck it up bucko.

Also: I feel like so much of this is just ... bikeshedding.
posted by symbioid at 3:57 PM on May 5, 2018


Everyone should use the spacing that makes them comfortable.  Let's just try and get along. 
posted by bongo_x at 4:12 PM on May 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


I've scrolled through this thread ,certainly some amusing comments , pithy ,but


WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE???


hmmm?
posted by sammyo at 4:24 PM on May 5, 2018


There are options available for extra spaces after sentences online.  A bit of HTML skills has a solution for both periods and colons:  the non-breaking space (&nbsp;) can be thrown around at will.  It's a bit of a nuisance to type it after every sentence (or colon) but I'm sure it wouldn't be difficult to make a small script that inserts it.

(I sometimes work in publishing; I learned to type before the internet; it took years to break the two-space habit, but a couple decades of forum participation helped me shift to one space.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:41 PM on May 5, 2018


As you can see with this comment, I will always be a two-spacer. Haters can suck it

My point (see above) is that we can't see. This comment I'm typing right now uses two spaces but you wouldn't know it except for me telling you because MetaFilter auto-breaks my comments to turn them into single-spacers. Now we could be really weird like @bongo_x & type three of them knowing that one will be deleted leaving his comment with two (like it should have!) but I'm just not prepared to escalate things here & also it feels weird to do that just for this one site even if it's the one I use the most.
posted by scalefree at 4:49 PM on May 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


It doesn't matter how many spaces you type, scalefree. HTML collapses them to a single space for display. If you look at the source code - or edit your comment - you'll see that your two spaces are still there, as you typed them.
posted by clawsoon at 4:54 PM on May 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


*here*

here

please, type nerds

---

I started work as a typesetter in an academic town when I was fifteen, around 1980. We used CPM-based non-WISIWYG phototypesetting machines that imaged type via a photography process in which transparent negative wheels containing the images of all the letters and characters of a given font set were physically moved closer to or farther from the exposure bed before being burned into the emulsion, a character at a time, very rapidly. The exposed paper feed was then carefully transferred to an automated photochemical development bath and the resulting output was then cut up by hand for pasteup, a procedure which involved hot wax-based adhesive, a drafting table, and t-squares and specialized transparent rulers.

The system was acapable of accepting word-processor input, that is, documents created usually in either Word*Star or WordPerfect, given some weird format constraints (the typesetter used enormous 11" floppy disks while most floppy-compatible CPM consumer systems used 6" floppies, for example). The only route to sustainability in an academic town in this era for typesetters was to obtain and jealously guard academic journal type contracts, which meant that the inbound flow of copy could reliably be expected to come at least in part on disk.

The very first thing we did to any newly arrived word-processor copy that arrived digitally? Strip out the second spaces following any incidence of a period.
posted by mwhybark at 4:59 PM on May 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


Well @bongo_x found a way to leave something that looks lie two spaces. Maybe one's an em-space or Unicode-Ogham-space or something, I dunno. All I know is there's two of em & you can see em & I'm a little jealous.
posted by scalefree at 5:00 PM on May 5, 2018


That's a function of HTML. More than one space gets collapsed into a single space as a feature.

I was definitely in the habit of double spaces, to the point where in my blog I would search-and-replace double spaces in my text with non-breaking spaces just to stop HTML from breaking my shit.

Today I don't care enough to fight that battle. Mostly I'm happy if people spell the word "you."
posted by Foosnark at 5:01 PM on May 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


mph: If you selected a heading and clicked the "h3" button, the underlying HTML was rendered as <span class="h3">Foo</span>

That is brilliant. I would like to propose a concept for a new version of the HTML standard: remove all tags except for <div> and <span>. The <div> tag will be used for block level elements and the <span> tag will be used for inline elements. To recreate the functionality of removed tags, a new global attribute has been created: the tag attribute. Simply add a tag="name-of-old-tag" attribute to a <span> or <div> tag to make it look and behave like any of the obsolete HTML tags.

Styling for all removed tags must be implemented by browsers in the default style sheet (which can be overridden by a site's style sheet). Any interactive functionality associated with removed tags must be recreated by the browser using JavaScript or WebAssembly, using a built in script. Individual pages may override such built in functionality using their own scripts.

Here is a very simple example:
<!DOCTYPE html>
<div tag="html">
<span tag="head">
    <span tag="title">HTML6 Example</span>
</span>

<div tag="body">
    <div tag="h1">HTML6 Example</div>

    <div tag="p">
        <span tag="em">Hello, world!</span>
    </div>
</div>
</div>
Bonus examples:
A block level <span> element: <div tag="span">...</div>
An inline <div> element: <span tag="div">...</span>

Writing this comment took way more time and effort than it was worth. Please make sure this effort does not go to waste by petitioning your friendly local W3C members to create a working draft for the HTML 6.0 standard based on the ideas presented here.
posted by jv776 at 5:17 PM on May 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


jv776, I'm pretty sure that's how all HTML tables are made nowadays.
posted by clawsoon at 5:22 PM on May 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


> remove all tags except for <div> and <span>. The <div> tag will be used for block level elements and the <span> tag will be used for inline elements

Too complicated compared to reality. I've dealt with many, many UI developers and architects whose careers are founded on one of the following:
  1. HTML semantic is bullshit. I wish that even the HTML and BODY tags were unnecessary. Everything can be built using DIV and classnames. If you need a DIV to be inline, the CSS applied through its classname is sufficient. This is common across the spectrum of website scale, and even major websites like nextdoor.com are built this way.
  2. My exclusive and unique HTML is the only true and proper semantic design. This usually takes the form of using DIV tags for everything, as described in item 1, but with ARIA rather than classnames for structure; tag attribute structures are idiosyncratic to whichever developer is working at the time. No examples in the wild come to mind at the moment, but I have dealt with people who firmly believe this, and some of them are gainfully employed as UI architects in large-scale high-budget projects.
posted by ardgedee at 5:43 PM on May 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


Do the people who get het up about this issue work in publishing only?

My experience (professional editor) is that people in publishing get a lot less het up about this stuff than civilians, because in publishing the right answer is always just "I do what it says in the style guide for whatever organization I'm billing hours to."
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:52 PM on May 5, 2018 [11 favorites]


Like, if someone wants recommendations — on this, on serial commas, on passive voice, whatever hot-button issue you want — I'm happy to make recommendations based on my own preferences. But I have to be able to play well with others. Getting aggro and inflexible about those preferences would leave me unemployable.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:56 PM on May 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


I learned to type with the "2 space" convention and now type fairly unconsciously, so I don't even know that I'm putting in two spaces after a period most of the time. But if I try real hard I can probably stop.

But why should I try that hard?
posted by allthinky at 5:56 PM on May 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


Quick poll - how many of you arguing for "double-space at the end of a sentence because that's how I learned it" also argue for "soft-g GIF because that's how the person who invented the format chose to name it"?
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:33 PM on May 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


Well I am anti two spaces but unreformed soft-G "JIF" because honestly
posted by mwhybark at 6:50 PM on May 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


The "this is the computer age, sentence spacing is done automatically, so stop using two spaces" is... well it makes sense, but wouldn't that also mean the computer should also know how to interpret two-space-people's writing with no problem? If you're seeing a big fat ugly space between sentences, you're shooting your own argument in the foot.
posted by ctmf at 6:57 PM on May 5, 2018


Something something invoking LaTeX something something Godwin's Law of something something
posted by Caxton1476 at 6:59 PM on May 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


Well I am anti two spaces

Splitter!!
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:01 PM on May 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


One girl did do exactly as we were told, and the last question was to do number 3, 5, and 7, and not all 25. She was about as well liked as that kind of kid normally is in fourth grade. Here's hoping she's found peace in this life.

Creekside Elementary, late 1970s? If so, hi, nice to meet you again. And I think I dislike you just as much now as I did at age 9.

Seriously, why is it considered normal to ostracize and sneer at someone for reading the damn directions? As someone who realized at age 45 that I'm autistic, this is the kind of thing that I look at and don't understand. It seems like the kind of thing that leads people in psychology experiments to deny their own perceptions about things as simple as "which line is longest?" in order to go along with the group opinion.

Thanks for the well wishes, by the way. "Found peace" isn't the right term, but I'm pretty happy these days, in large part because I'm coming to disregard the non-autistic fetishization of conformity.
posted by Lexica at 7:24 PM on May 5, 2018 [11 favorites]


Solidarity, Lexica. It wasn't even a trick assignment, it was specifically an assignment about following instructions.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:33 PM on May 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


Oh, it was most definitely a trick assignment.

It was designed with the expectation of having the majority of students fail, by relying on their developed expectations of patterns through years of instruction, and an inherent trust that their teachers wouldn’t give them a list of instructions where the very last one contradicted all of the others. A format that was never used in instruction before then, or since, as evidenced by the fact that it stands out so well in our memories decades later.

It may have been designed to illustrate a point about following directions, but it was most certainly a trick assignment. Asking a question or setting a task where you know that, by structuring it a certain way, and by presenting it in a misleadingly conventional format that obscures the “gotcha” likely to lead to the student’s failure, is the definition of a trick question or assignment.

Not to say that we didn’t learn something from it, but still...
posted by darkstar at 9:23 PM on May 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


Next month let’s discuss prepositions at the end of sentences.
posted by Glibpaxman at 9:42 PM on May 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


And not before.
posted by flabdablet at 9:53 PM on May 5, 2018 [9 favorites]


The <div> tag will be used for block level elements and the <span> tag will be used for inline elements. To recreate the functionality of removed tags, a new global attribute has been created: the tag attribute. Simply add a tag="name-of-old-tag" attribute to a <span> or <div> tag to make it look and behave like any of the obsolete HTML tags.

Nowhere near enough separation of presentation from content because far too many different kinds of tag, and nowhere near gratuitously verbose enough. All we actually need is a simple, clear and consistent convention for class names, not a new attribute.
<!DOCTYPE html>
<span class="__legacy_element_type_block __legacy_element_tag_html">
<span class="__legacy_element_type_inline __legacy_element_tag_head">
    <span class="__legacy_element_type_inline __legacy_element_tag_title">HTML6 Example</span>
</span>

<span class="__legacy_element_type_block __legacy_element_tag_body">
    <span class="__legacy_element_type_block __legacy_element_tag_h1">HTML6 Example</span>

    <span class="__legacy_element_type_block __legacy_element_tag_p">
        <span class="__legacy_element_type_inline __legacy_element_tag_em">Hello, world!</span>
    </span>
</span>
</span>
posted by flabdablet at 10:26 PM on May 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


span, span, span, span, span, span, span, span, lovely span, wonderful span
posted by flabdablet at 10:32 PM on May 5, 2018 [10 favorites]


you guys should try being a translators ,and see how are you feel then。what i have seen for so many times, you cannot know the sadistic joy of springing two space style guides on unwitting second-language "editors" who QA my drafts in adversarial translation review comments that contain punctuation ,like,this .

O double spaced period
Slayer of unwary pedants
Frustration-bringer to angry clients who think I should do layout for free
Educator of those who fail to differentiate between commas and periods
If I sung in praise of thee
And placed this hymn to melody
It would sound really awkward
But I don't care
Because when clients don't know where CRTL+F is
I get to bill an extra half hour
Because some fool forgot to write a style guide
Would you like me to write one for you
I bill
By the hour
posted by saysthis at 10:50 PM on May 5, 2018 [7 favorites]


Next month let’s discuss prepositions at the end of sentences.

That's a usage I have nothing against.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:24 AM on May 6, 2018 [8 favorites]


I also find it hard to strongly object to.
posted by flabdablet at 4:57 AM on May 6, 2018 [9 favorites]


I was hoping this would be interesting. I haven't had access to readability work for ages and I'm often wondering if technology has changed standards that stayed true since we had real ways of measuring. But... this study is not helpful.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:16 AM on May 6, 2018 [3 favorites]


It’s something up with which I shall not put up with!


Wait
posted by darkstar at 8:51 AM on May 6, 2018 [5 favorites]


...MetaFilter's comment box strips my elegant double-spaced stops

Did    you    ever    try    a    non-breaking    space?    (x'A0')
posted by MtDewd at 9:27 AM on May 6, 2018 [2 favorites]


Have one of my &nbsp;s, they're milder
posted by flabdablet at 9:38 AM on May 6, 2018 [4 favorites]


Wait

You a better job the phrases you yourself to express chose keeping track of should have done.

Full stop.
posted by flabdablet at 9:43 AM on May 6, 2018 [2 favorites]


*flashes back to studying German*

Also... if you add “full stop” after a sentence, then was it really a full stop?
posted by darkstar at 9:50 AM on May 6, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yes it was.  Period.
posted by flabdablet at 10:02 AM on May 6, 2018 [3 favorites]


1 space? 2 space?

Red space, blue space
posted by grouse at 10:18 AM on May 6, 2018 [8 favorites]


This one has a little dot!
This one argues quite a lot.
posted by flabdablet at 10:42 AM on May 6, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'm a single spacer. (Born in the 70s, yes I learned double-spacing, and it took all of like a week to re-train myself.)

As someone who frequently has to edit content to put on the web or go to design, double spacers annoy me because they're so inconsistent in how many spaces they actually insert after sentences. But it's fine, it's my job to fix that. The only time I really got mad was when I sent a finished piece back to a stakeholder and he actually wanted us to go back and re-add all of his double-spaces in the design file. Even that would have been okay if he acknowledged that both are acceptable, but instead he acted like we (all professional adults) didn't know a basic punctuation rule. Honestly, though, I hate overuse of em-dashes more.

I find double spaces jarring and harder for me to read, so it's interesting to hear others feel differently.

I'm trying to sound calmer than I actually am in this comment, because the truth is I'm mad at myself for how mad I'm getting at all y'all stubborn double spacers.
posted by misskaz at 10:49 AM on May 6, 2018 [6 favorites]


Do go on about em-dashes, please—I think I might be an overuser.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:47 AM on May 6, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'm     pretty    sure    I    read    somewhere    that    Melville's    'Moby    Dick'    was    not    recognized    as    a    literary    masterpiece    until    long    after his    death    because    of two    spaces    is    why.
posted by Twang at 12:01 PM on May 6, 2018 [1 favorite]


For absolute clarity, I recommend we start using the sentence ending notation of telegraphy STOP That is, at the end of each sentence, we put the word stop STOP Stop in all caps of course STOP that way the end of sentences will be much clearer than now STOP we won't even need capital letters to begin sentences STOP
posted by happyroach at 7:51 PM on May 6, 2018 [2 favorites]


Yeah, but that's four letters to type every time, which would be a net loss in productivity; what we really need is some sort of dedicated one-keystroke symbol that would represent "STOP" - then you'd be onto something!
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:12 PM on May 6, 2018 [2 favorites]


I can't get Erasure out of my head for some weird reason.
posted by bongo_x at 9:03 PM on May 6, 2018


clawsoon: you're wrong in any event because even if you want wider-than-word-spacing for your sentences, no one has been using a full em space in at least 100 years. A full em space was great when nearly all text was full-justified by typesetters, because it gives them more wiggle room when necessary; it's way too wide for ragged text. People who want extra sentence spacing use an en quad these days, and have for quite awhile now.
posted by adrienneleigh at 9:29 PM on May 6, 2018 [1 favorite]


Wait are you saying that when all my uni style guides say double spaced they mean after the sentences? Years in I've been changing the line spacing to double and wondering why. This is a terrifying alternate possibility because I've literally never handed in an essay formatted that way.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 12:35 AM on May 7, 2018


AnhydrousLove: Nah, they almost certainly mean double line spacing in your uni guides. People are using "double-spaced" in an idiosyncratic way in this thread, presumably to avoid typing out "typing two spaces after a period" every time they say something.
posted by adrienneleigh at 12:58 AM on May 7, 2018 [2 favorites]


(As for why your uni guides want the extra line spacing, that's usually so professors can write long notes without having to scribble in tiny margins.)
posted by adrienneleigh at 12:59 AM on May 7, 2018 [2 favorites]


Whew. That's a relief, plus I've since recalled one specifies 1.5 spacing in the same area for bibliographies, also reassuring.
I think the margin note angle is probably correct, but is still odd because comments are always applied in some digital return form, either as word comments on the side or TurnItIn bubbles over highlighted sections. Probably just an artefact of pre-digital returns.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 2:21 AM on May 7, 2018 [2 favorites]


adrienneleigh: clawsoon: you're wrong in any event because even if you want wider-than-word-spacing for your sentences, no one has been using a full em space in at least 100 years.

You can't talk about what the typewriter is or isn't responsible for without going back at least 140 years. Of course I went back that far! And my half-baked theory that double-spacing was devalued because it became associated with women's work requires going back at least a century, too.
posted by clawsoon at 3:52 AM on May 7, 2018


People, I am here with liberating news.

Many of us now frequently write using a markup language
(like HTML or LaTeX)
that makes its own decisions about the spacing between sentences.
The arrangement of whitespace in the source
for these markup languages
is semantically related to the arrangement of whitespace in the final output,
but the details of which spaces are singles or multiples or tabs or even newlines
will disappear between the source text that you write and the typeset product that your readers actually see.
I exploit this freedom by separating sentences in my source text with newlines.
(Sometimes I will even put newlines between the clauses of a complicated sentence!)
This freedom is especially useful when it comes time to edit the text, since many text editors have tools
(like triple-clicking or the home/end keys)
that make operating on lines of text especially easy.

The risk of this approach is that if you use it on a platform
(like Metafilter, or like many email programs)
that respects single newlines,
then you end up looking like some kind of beat poet.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 4:30 AM on May 7, 2018 [6 favorites]


The next time you do write a poem, use HTML, that'll show 'em. You don't need line breaks with a meter that makes your form obvious to those that know 'em.
posted by flabdablet at 5:39 AM on May 7, 2018 [4 favorites]


em-dash semicolon space newline
comma space open quote
"—;
,
close quote
"
carat tag carat foo carat slash tag carat
(less than tag greater than foo less than slash tag greater than)
foo
posted by mwhybark at 5:43 PM on May 7, 2018


>I don't even bring it up anymore -- I just do a find/replace for [period space space] --> [period space].

>>Fine, I'll start triple-spacing. The things you people make me do.


I always do multiple find/replaces for double spaces until it returns zero changes. I'm onto you. (This is also useful for cases where people decide to indent using a gazillion spaces, against all the laws of god and man.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:05 PM on May 9, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'm onto you.

Fine. Em. Space. It. Is. %-<
posted by clawsoon at 1:41 PM on May 9, 2018


I always do multiple find/replaces for double spaces until it returns zero changes.

For those who use Microsoft Word, the wildcard sequence you want to memorize for the "Find what" field is " {2,}". (That's space-open brace-2-comma-close brace.) This will find any sequence of two or more sequential spaces. Set the "replace with" string to a single space and you're good.

(Occasionally it's necessary to first replace all non-breaking spaces with ordinary spaces.)
posted by Lexica at 3:05 PM on May 9, 2018 [5 favorites]


So now I'm going to need to embed macros in my Word docs that put my spaces back in?

Well, if that's how you want to play the game...
posted by clawsoon at 5:19 PM on May 9, 2018 [1 favorite]


2 spaces only after a ranking full stop: that is the law
posted by thelonius at 7:46 AM on May 21, 2018


The risk of this approach is that if you use it on a platform
(like Metafilter, or like many email programs)
that respects single newlines,
then you end up looking like some kind of beat poet.


you want lovable
typewriter-using cockroaches?
because that
is how you get lovable typewriter-using cockroaches
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:17 AM on May 21, 2018 [7 favorites]


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