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Saturday, November 22, 2014

One space or two? No more double spaces after the end of a sentence -it's killing me!

A teenager would call me old. Someone in their mid-forties would call me young. Some days I feel older than others.

I learned ‘typewriting’ in high school…on typewriters (much like the one above).  It was beat into my head that when you end a sentence, you hit the space bar…twice. Two spaces.

Since then I’ve heard whisperings and rumors of the double space falling out of favor but, like an ostrich, I have buried my head in the sand and kept working the double space.

My editors never said boo about my manuscripts having double space (in my defense) so I let the issue go. They were probably worried if they brought it to my attention it would hurt my feelings. (ha)

…until one day in the embarrassingly not too distant past, I actually looked it up.  The Chicago Manual of Style is a reputable source in my opinion and this is what they had to say on the matter.  This is a direct quote from their website but I’m going to highlight some phrases for those who don’t like reading anything longer than three sentences without an indent (like myself).

The view at CMOS is that there is no reason for two spaces after a period in published work. Some people, however—my colleagues included—prefer it, relegating this preference to their personal correspondence and notes. I’ve noticed in old American books printed in the few decades before and after the turn of the last century (ca. 1870–1930 at least) that there seemed to be a trend in publishing to use extra space (sometimes quite a bit of it) after periods. And many people were taught to use that extra space in typing class (I was). But introducing two spaces after the period causes problems: (1) it is inefficient, requiring an extra keystroke for every sentence; (2) even if a program is set to automatically put an extra space after a period, such automation is never foolproof; (3) there is no proof that an extra space actually improves readability—as your comment suggests, it’s probably just a matter of familiarity (Who knows? perhaps it’s actually more efficient to read with less regard for sentences as individual units of thought—many centuries ago, for example in ancient Greece, there were no spaces even between words, and no punctuation); (4) two spaces are harder to control for than one in electronic documents (I find that the earmark of a document that imposes a two-space rule is a smattering of instances of both three spaces and one space after a period, and two spaces in the middle of sentences); and (5) two spaces can cause problems with line breaks in certain programs.
So, in our efficient, modern world, I think there is no room for two spaces after a period. In the opinion of this particular copyeditor, this is a good thing.

There you have it...

One. Space. After. A. Period.

Boy, training myself not to do the double tap is quite a challenge (thank goodness for find and replace -yes it works for spacing).

Oh and if you look hard enough, you can probably find a double tap after a period somewhere in here...old dog, new tricks.

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