One space, not two

January 16, 2011 | By | 5 Replies More

I have been one of the hold-outs, but no more. This article by Farhad Manjoo of Slate has convinced me that I shall henceforth use only one space after a period.

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Category: Whimsy, Writing

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (5)

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  1. Dan Klarmann says:

    Basic rule: If you are using a fixed-space font — <span style="font-family:monospace;">as on a mechanical typewriter</span> — use double spaces after a period, so the between-sentence spacing is visibly longer than the gap between words.

    If are using proportional fonts (as seen here), break the old typing-class habit.

  2. Jim Razinha says:

    I never took a typing class yet still do it. It sure seems overkill to me to devote so much attention to something with so little consequence if the "rule" is broken.

    Now, "use" and "utilize? That pair misuse irritates me.

  3. Dan Klarmann says:

    Jim, this issue is small but symptomatic. There are rules that evolved to make things easier, and legacies that linger and fester. Typesetters and cognitive scientists know what fonts and rules make for easier reading, and why. Every little violation contributes a modicum to a worse experience. I regularly rant about misguided beliefs on what makes easier reading or writing. But I digress.

    In HTML, white space is white space. That is, if the source text has any number of consecutive spaces, line feeds, tabs, etc, it will render as a single space. However, most people don't type directly to code; they use a smart interface (like Dream Weaver, Word or WordPress). These "helpful" interfaces see a double space, and kindly add an "&nbsp;" symbol for each additional space.

    This creates clutter in the code, slower downloads, and (as the article discusses) makes reading the final display a little less comfortable. In the broadband world where people stream gigabytes of movies at home, the download time is no longer a real issue. But it offends my aged sense of efficiency. And I (gerund) hate helpful tools that automatically "fix" what I type, usually in some direction other than what I intended.

  4. Jim Razinha says:

    Dan, I am also not too fond of software changing what I type to what it thinks I meant. And yes, my sense of efficiency is also offended, but would it trouble the HTML folks too much to take a clue form the old hashing days, or graphics/audio/video compression algorithms that count the spaces or (dating myself) line feeds and compress the "code" to "xx spaces", "yy returns"?

    Attempts at portability leads to kludge and away from a layperson from being able to simply format a paragraph or mini-table. But I digress as well.

  5. Dan Klarmann says:

    Jim, Formatting html is is an issue to those who don't really know how to format, but want to. I've seen way too many unreadable documents produced by eager little-knowledge types who used sophisticated page layout programs to produce their attempts.

    Those who actually know something about page layout usually have the underlying skills to get html to do what they want.

    My greatest online formatting peeve is Adobe Acrobat (PDF) files. This is a design for printing. It is a perfect format to produce exact printed copies. It is annoying to read on the arbitrary format of online documents. Kindle, iPhone, Netbooks, and such all have different needs in terms of layout to display any particular document. Style sheets allow for this difference. The locked-in legacy of fixed format print-on-paper is not a good solution for the internet. Margins, scrolling, links, and column width in ems are some of the necessary differences between a readable paper page and a readable screen.

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