Thursday, March 16, 2017

Two Spaces After a Period? The Debate Still Rages On...

In case you haven't been paying attention, the style guide has CHANGED for the last fifteen years, to the point that print typography and website design strongly prefer (even require) that a single space is the proper spacing after a colon or the period at the end of a sentence. The counter-argument is a matter of honor among the Luddites who insist "Two spaces is what I was taught, so that is the correct style!", refusing to adapt to the modern streamlined version. Unfortunately, that puts them on the wrong side of design evolution and firmly places them on the bitter end of the age timeline.

But there are battles won and retreats in this punctuation war. Associated Press style guides, The University of Chicago, and the Modern Language Association have all advocated for the new standard, and until recently were joined by the APA (American Psychological Association). But the APA retreated, and now claims that readers may be more comfortable seeing the familiar double space where they have always expected it--they are back to preferring the full stop.

The origin of the double space, and its eventual fall into archaic antiquity, can be traced mostly to the days of writing and composition on the manual typewriter, which used a system of equal spacing for every letter and character. This led to a jumble of white space even between letters of a single word, requiring a decisive respite at the end of every sentence to complete the thought. Typesetters, computer typography, and HTML web design all rely on a system of proportional spacing, where a letter "i", "h" and "m" have different spacing assigned to reflect the proper width of the characters. So since the millennium, it has become superfluous to add any additional space and break the flow of sentences for no particular reason.

Here's the SLATE MAGAZINE battle cry that declared war on the dead-ender double space advocates, and still keeps proponents on both sides of the issue arguing about what is "proper" and "correct'. It's nowhere near being new, so if you are hearing about this change in style for the first time, maybe this is a good chance to get up to speed.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
SLATE

Link to Article:
Space Invaders: Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period.
Excerpt: "Can I let you in on a secret? Typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong.
And yet people who use two spaces are everywhere, their ugly error crossing every social boundary of class, education, and taste.*  You'd expect, for instance, that anyone savvy enough to read Slate would know the proper rules of typing, but you'd be wrong; every third email I get from readers includes the two-space error. (In editing letters for 'Dear Farhad,' my occasional tech-advice column, I've removed enough extra spaces to fill my forthcoming volume of melancholy epic poetry, The Emptiness Within.) The public relations profession is similarly ignorant; I've received press releases and correspondence from the biggest companies in the world that are riddled with extra spaces. Some of my best friends are irredeemable two-spacers, too, and even my wife has been known to use an unnecessary extra space every now and then (though she points out that she does so only when writing to other two-spacers, just to make them happy).

What galls me about two-spacers isn't just their numbers. It's their certainty that they're right. Over Thanksgiving dinner last year, I asked people what they considered to be the 'correct' number of spaces between sentences. The diners included doctors, computer programmers, and other highly accomplished professionals. Everyone—everyone!—said it was proper to use two spaces. Some people admitted to slipping sometimes and using a single space—but when writing something formal, they were always careful to use two. Others explained they mostly used a single space but felt guilty for violating the two-space 'rule.' Still others said they used two spaces all the time, and they were thrilled to be so proper. When I pointed out that they were doing it wrong—that, in fact, the correct way to end a sentence is with a period followed by a single, proud, beautiful space—the table balked. 'Who says two spaces is wrong?' they wanted to know.
Typographers, that's who. The people who study and design the typewritten word decided long ago that we should use one space, not two, between sentences...

Every modern typographer agrees on the one-space rule. It's one of the canonical rules of the profession, in the same way that waiters know that the salad fork goes to the left of the dinner fork and fashion designers know to put men's shirt buttons on the right and women's on the left. Every major style guide—including the Modern Language Association Style Manual and the Chicago Manual of Style—prescribes a single space after a period. (The Publications Manual of the American Psychological Association, used widely in the social sciences, allows for two spaces in draft manuscripts but recommends one space in published work.) Most ordinary people would know the one-space rule, too, if it weren't for a quirk of history. In the middle of the last century, a now-outmoded technology—the manual typewriter—invaded the American workplace. To accommodate that machine's shortcomings, everyone began to type wrong. And even though we no longer use typewriters, we all still type like we do. (Also see the persistence of the dreaded Caps Lock key.)

The problem with typewriters was that they used monospaced type—that is, every character occupied an equal amount of horizontal space. This bucked a long tradition of proportional typesetting, in which skinny characters (like I or 1) were given less space than fat ones (like W or M). Monospaced type gives you text that looks 'loose' and uneven; there's a lot of white space between characters and words, so it's more difficult to spot the spaces between sentences immediately. Hence the adoption of the two-space rule—on a typewriter, an extra space after a sentence makes text easier to read. Here's the thing, though: Monospaced fonts went out in the 1970s. First electric typewriters and then computers began to offer people ways to create text using proportional fonts. Today nearly every font on your PC is proportional. (Courier is the one major exception.) Because we've all switched to modern fonts, adding two spaces after a period no longer enhances readability, typographers say. It diminishes it."

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