I need space!

It was Unbook Club last night at my house. We were a smaller group than usual, which was great because the conversation could then include everyone. Also, there’s plenty of food left over, so I won’t have to cook all weekend, maybe.

Lainey was telling us about a “slight disagreement” she was having with some of her colleagues at work. Now, Lainey is one of the most intelligent women I know, and also one of the funniest. No one can tell a story like Lainey, especially when she’s had a couple of glasses of wine.

Their “slight disagreement” began with the fact that way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and we were in high school being taught how to type, we were told to double-space after a period. Yes, yes, the Unbook Club wimmin nodded, double-space after a period.

Lainey went on to tell us how she had tried to convince her workmates that nowadays, with the advent of those new-fangled computer-things to type on, you no longer double-space after a period. Only a single space is now required. This is apparently due to the fact that olden-days typewriters gave every character the same amount of space, whereas word processing programs on computers can automatically adjust the spacing according to the character. They just know to leave additional space after a period, you don’t have to do it manually. Her colleagues argued with her, and apparently it got a little heated, with Lainey eventually deciding that they were just stupid.

We listened to this story, unconvinced and sceptical. No double-spacing after a period? What heresy is this? We all double-space after a period. Was there a memo to no longer do that? Did we accidentally delete that e-mail? Is this even true?

I called in the reinforcements: DD. DD is in a professional writing program at college, and is currently interning at a company downtown in their technical writing department. DD would know about this sort of thing, and if she didn’t have the information at the tip of her tongue, she would certainly know which reference manual would have it. She would also likely own the manual, too.

And DD confirmed what Lainey was saying. She said that there were only one or two styles in which it was acceptable to double-space after a period. Then, just this afternoon, she checked further and specified that this was only for drafts, never for published work, and that this has been the case since 1990.

So I guess the people Lainey works with aren’t the only stupid ones. I may also be in that category too – and even more so, because despite my new knowledge, I am STILL double-spacing after periods. On purpose.

Is that bad?

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10 responses to “I need space!

  1. If it were true that our word-processing programs (Word, I’m talking about you!) really did leave extra space after periods, I wouldn’t add the extra space myself. Maybe fancy copy-editing programs do, but if you look at the comment sentences above you’ll see that the spaces after periods are no bigger than the spaces between words.

    • Rosie – All I know is that I am steadfastly sticking to my double-spacing after a period just because that’s what I do. Also, after years of resisting, I finally had to learn Word, and I have to say that I’m not impressed. It thinks it knows what I want, but it doesn’t, so I’ve disabled almost all its default settings. So there, Word!

  2. I have heard some REALLY ignorant and stupid things from former or current coworkers. It can make for a pretty tense work environment, when you know you are right and they aren’t but refuse to back down.

    • Katyboo – And who knows what we rebels will do next? Perhaps we’ll simplify English spelling?

      Jazz – The issue seems to be that hardly anybody knows that the double-space in question is now obsolete. Many people might correct their typing habits if they only knew – well, many people except, me, Katyboo, Mrs Jones, Wenderina …

      Pauline – My pal Lainey is not only well-read and knowledgeable about a myriad of subjects, but she’s also very vocal and never hesitant about stating her well-reasoned opinion. She always sounds so damn good that it’s hard to question her thought processes, and once you know her well, you understand that she’s almost always right, too! I suppose her colleagues just don’t know her very well at all.

  3. Arghh… The double spacing after periods is one of my pet peeves. I proofread lots engineering reports and spend so much time deleting that extra space. You can set your computer to correct that you know, in autocorrect.

    You go Lainey, I’ll join you on the get rid of double spacing crusade!

  4. I always leave a double space. Always. It would be freakishly surreal not to do it. Eek! And even though I now know that you shouldn’t, I am still going to do it. Just like you. Ha ha! We are such anarchists!

  5. I was taught to touch type in England in the early 1980s on a heavy duty, old fashioned manual typewriter. The teacher even made us type to music a couple of times, a la 1950s teaching methods, just for a laugh. I was taught to double space after a full stop and still do. Like Wenderina, I don’t think I’d be able to not do it…

    • wenderina – Your boss actually has TIME to go through all your written work searching for those pesky double-spaces? For this they get paid the big bucks?!

      Nora – It’s possible that double-spacing after a period is specific to wherever you were taught to type. Regardless, though, apparently we’re not supposed to do it any more.

      Mrs Jones – My experience learning to type sounds very similar to yours, right down to the music – except it was in Canada and in the 1970s. And I’m not even trying to single-space after a period now, I’ve decided. I’m just being stubborn!

  6. I never even knew about double spacing. Never heard of it before, but then I’m a European, so that’s a different matter all together, isn’t it? And I’ve never written a draft.

  7. My boss consistently does a search and replace on all my written materials to remove the second space. I just can’t stop my trained thumb muscle from doing the little two-bop move on the period. Seriously. I can’t do it.