05 February 2017

Two spaces at the end vs one

No.  We don't use typewriters any more.

No. We don't use typewriters any more

I've been hunted by people who chide me for the modern ailment of instinctively using two spaces at the end of a sentence. The young ones rant about how it is totally unacceptable to use two spaces. That all the style guides use one space.

Welcome to the computer era when spacing is precisely calculated. I grew up typing on a manual typewriter. Yes, manual, long before electric. The spacing was erratic. In typing courses, which were required in high school, we learned to type two spaces after a full stop punctuation mark. What becomes rote at that age stays with you for a lifetime, trust me.

Look back in history and you will see that it was typesetters in the UK who first decided that one space would be the accepted standard in order to alleviate the mess in typography at the time. People were using one, two or even three spaces to make different typefaces more readable. To eliminate the inconsistencies, they made a new rule. That rule was adopted in America much later.

I happen to think that sentences are much more readable with two spaces between them, especially as my eyes age (I'll spare the rant about type size and color selected by young whipper snappers for another post.). But I'll accede to the masses, as it's a small and invisible point that could stand in the way of being published.

So when I am finished with a manuscript, I simply find and replace two spaces with one. See if you can tell the difference? At least it gives me more characters to tweet. Just wait 'till I whip out my typewriter when the grid goes down!

Oh, and by the way, in their new style manual (2017), the APA has returned to two spaces for readability.  Chicago Style Manual recommends one.

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