7/20/11

Grammarously Speaking - Space: The Final Frontier.

After attending a 4-hour grammar class--yes, I know, I am a geek--I was heartened to witness that there are those still out there who are positively impassioned about punctuation.
The class erupted in a thirty-minute discussion on--get this--how many spaces should follow a period.
Good grief.
You would have thought we were talking about which soda as better: Pepsi or Coke. No fewer than thirty-five people weighed in on the matter. These were their thoughts:
  1. If you are typing on a typewriter (and, really, who does this?), it is two spaces.
  2. If you are tweeting, it is one space--if you have even written a complete sentence, that is.
  3. If it is a legal document, it is two spaces.
  4. If it is a mobile device, most phones automatically make it a period followed by one space, if you enter two spaces.
  5. If it is web copy, it is one space.
Finally, after nearly coming to fisticuffs, the consensus was to use one space after a period.
Geez. You woulda thought it was the Grammargeddon.

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7 comments:

Ryan McClead said...

It took me forever to learn to double tap the space bar after the period when I took "keyboarding" in High School. If I successfully publish with a single space after each period, it's only because I went back and changed all of my doubles.

John S. Gillies said...

Although most lawyers continue to use two spaces between sentences, that practice is a throwback to the days of typewriters (when each character took up the same space and hence two spaces after the sentence would make the demarcation clearer).

All usage guides (starting with the Chicago Manual of Style) recommend a single space.

Once again, lawyers are in the forefront of facing directly into the past!

David Shulman said...

Where did you get the "2 spaces in a legal document" rule from? That's nonsense. The rule is the rule, and you shouldn't give lawyers and excuse not to follow it.

Anonymous said...

"Can I let you in on a secret? Typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong." -- http://www.slate.com/id/2281146/

BL said...

Typography for Lawyers says:

"Some top icsin this book will involve discretionary choices. Not this one.

"Always put exactly one space between sen tences.

"Or more generally: put exactly one space after any punctuation."

http://www.typographyforlawyers.com/?page_id=1325

Anonymous said...

The only consistently sensible and useful rule I've encountered is this. With monospaced fonts (the kind of fonts typically associated with typewriters), use two spaces after a period, question mark, exclamation mark, or other "full stop" punctuation; for "semi-stop" punctuation (e.g., comma, semicolon), use one space. With proportional-spaced fonts, use one space after all punctuation.

When I write using a proportional-spaced font, I follow the one-space rule. When I write using a monospaced font (typically in e-mails that aren't intended for publication or typesetting), I follow the two-space rule.

The Chicago Manual (16th edition) focuses on rules for preparing manuscripts for publication -- more specifically, for manuscripts in electronic formats that will ultimately be typeset in proportional-spaced fonts. The Manual sets out its one-space rule in the context of "typeset matter" (¶ 6.7; see also ¶ 2.9 (one-space rule followed by "most publishers")). The Manual has only one reference to monospaced fonts (¶ 7.75), only two references to typewritten material (¶ 2.6, and Figure 12.1 on p. 612), and no index entry. (By contrast, the 13th edition, published in 1993, still had two index entries relating to typewriters: "typewriter" and "typewriter composition," each with several references to the text.

The author of the Slate article (noted above) rants about the error of two spaces in the context of what "typographers" say and on the implicit assumption that the text will be written or read in a proportional-spaced font. Yet even the Slate author recognizes both the origin of the two-space rule in the era of typewritten (i.e., monospaced) material and the utility of two spaces for that kind of text.

Many years ago, shortly after IBM introduced its PC and well before personal computers became cheap and ubiquitous, I co-authored a book for which we wrote the manuscript on an IBM Selectric using an OCR-font typeball. Because the two-space rule was the standard for typewritten material, the publisher emphasized that for the manuscript (which would be typeset), we needed to follow the one-space rule. We did, but not without a fair amount of difficulty because we also wrote non-manuscript material on the typewriter, and in that setting the two-space rule applied (and made sense). Bouncing between the two rules meant frequent spacing errors in each context, and quite a bit of retyping.

Anonymous said...

Oops . . . .

The Chicago Manual published in 1993 was the 14th edition, not the 13th. Sorry for the error.

 

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