If you type two spaces after a period, you’re doing it wrong
Hooray: Farhad Manjoo in ‘Space invaders: Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period’ in Slate online, explains, well, why you should never, ever use two spaces after a full stop.
As Manjoo explains, ‘Typesetters in Europe began to settle on a single space around the early 20th century. America followed soon after. Every modern typographer agrees on the one-space rule. It’s one of the canonical rules of the profession.’
So where did two-spacing come from? The manual typewriter in the mid-20th century with its monospaced type – where every character occupied an equal amount of horizontal space – led typists to add a second space after a full stop because it was difficult to spot the spaces between sentences. Fine, explains, Manjoo, but manual typewriters were superseded by electric typewriters in the 1970s and then computers, both using proportional fonts – where skinny characters like ‘I’ are given less space and fat ones like ‘W’ are given more.
The trouble, says Manjoo, is that teachers are still teaching the two-space rule. ‘Samantha Jacobs, a reading and journalism teacher at Norwood High School in Norwood, Col., told me that she requires her students to use two spaces after a period instead of one, even though she acknowledges that style manuals no longer favor that approach. Why? Because that’s what she’s used to. “Primarily, I base the spacing on the way I learned,” she wrote me in an email glutted with extra spaces.
‘Several other teachers gave me the same explanation for pushing two spaces on their students. But if you think about, that’s a pretty backward approach: The only reason today’s teachers learned to use two spaces is because their teachers were in the grip of old-school technology. We would never accept teachers pushing other outmoded ideas on kids because that’s what was popular back when they were in school. The same should go for typing. So, kids, if your teachers force you to use two spaces, send them a link to this article. Use this as your subject line: “If you type two spaces after a period, you’re doing it wrong.”’
Read Farhad Manjoos’s ‘Space invaders’ here.
Photo by George Georgiades courtesy of stock.xchng
STRAW POLL: Who in your staff room teaches the one-space rule and who insists on two spaces?