Spacehead, how many spaces do you use?
Thursday 20 January 2011, 12.23pm HKT
Updated 25 Jan 2013
Normally I have a cool and steady temperament and it takes quite a lot to get me going round the bend. But I’ve just been reading a post about whether to use one or two character spaces after a full stop (BrE) / period (AmE) / full point (Printing), and what got me in a tizz is the fatheadedness of few of the commenters.
I’m not even quibbling about whether it’s right or wrong to use one space or two after a full stop. That’s not even the point. The point being that some of these people are sticking to their ‘rule’ (whatever that might be) solely and exclusively on the strength of what a teacher told them to do.
You know, I was going to put in a final comment for the post to ’86’ the thread because it’s now being worked to death, and also the fact that I’m in imminent danger of trolling people just for the lulz.
I just cannot believe some people. It’s two spaces between sentences on a fix-pitched manual or electric typewriter. It’s two spaces on semi-proportional typewriter (like the IBM Selectric Golfballs). It’s bleeding one space on a computer keyboard and anything else.
How hard is that?
I did Pitman Typewriting way back when and qualified at 70 wpm on an Olympia manual typewriter and 45 wpm shorthand. The effing Pitman materials tell us how many spaces to use for different kinds of typewriters — it’s in the BLOODY MATERIALS! READ THE DAMN THING!
After all these years, I’m still seeing people who have too much time on their hands and too little brain power fight it out over this crap.
In one corner you have the two spacers, who are behaving as inconsiderate as humanly possible — even going as far as to show examples as to how it ‘enhances readability’ and where each sentence ends. Actually, it doesn’t. You’re only creating ‘rivers’ of white space within the text and it’s ghastly and cuts down on readability. It also shows that person isn’t much of a reader and don’t have enough reading experience to judge when and where a sentence ends. And if you send in stuff like that to typesetters, I hope you’re loaded because you’d be hit with a big bill time and time again.
In the other corner you have the one spacers, who are behaving as inconsiderate as humanly possible as the two spacers. I’m prepared to let these one spacers off if their typing is mostly on computer keyboards or online. But, you know, some of the one spacers are just as bad as the two spacers, and if they turn in material typed on a real typewriter like that, I hope they’re thick-skinned enough to have it given back.
Both corners having a good go at each other, both digging each other in the ribs, and much fun was had by all by day’s end. Honestly, it’s also a shameful and embarrassing reflection of some people’s attitudes to others. But then again, I’m taking an angry tone here, it’ll pass in time (with two Aspirin) and the next round of drinks on me!
I don’t know how hard it could be for people to switch between one and two spaces depending on what you’re typing on and the format of your typing. Just how effing difficult is this? I mean, I don’t see people complaining about queuing up at the bank to cash a cheque (BrE)/ check (AmE) and then having to use the ATM instead.
I have found during my various stints in various countries around the world that it is exactly the [inner] chaotic people who stick to rules no matter what. Only the visibly chaotic have enough drama to catch our attention, but their numbers are pretty low.
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not launching on those comments in that blogpost. Heaven knows there are 100% more of the two-spacers vs. one-spacers in Hong Kong. If that doesn’t scare you, these spacers take on an unmistakably religious-like tone in their arguments. Scared me fartless.
* * *
The routine is actually dead simple. You could do it with your eyes closed.
On a real typewriter with fixed-pitch fount.
On a semi-proportional or ‘golfball’ typewriter.
When using a fixed-pitch fount/font even when on the computer (e.g. Courier).
On a fully proportional-pitched typewriter (e.g. IBM Compositor).
Electronic typesetting (a.k.a. filmsetting).
Anything on the Intarwebz (even with fixed-pitched founts).
It doesn’t bloody matter if your copy is for hand typesetting. The typesetter person will use an em space slug, not ‘two character spaces’ (as one imbecile once said to my face).
N.B. The fact that people could actually lose their jobs for failing to following the above actually kind of makes the above into ‘rules.’
* * *
Personally (and this is a highly personal opinion of mine), I find groupies of one or the other camp are slightly non compos mentis in this day and age. We’ve had the Intarwebz for nearly 20 years already, computers since 1981, and email since the late 1970s, and we’re still stuck on this.
I’m sorry but it’s a really hard habit for me to break, and I will continue to use two character spaces after a full stop on a real typewriter. It enhances readability and shows where each sentence ends. I’ll also use four spaces to separate the U.S. zip codes from the rest of the address because I’m an old-fashioned dick and learnt this when I lived in the USA back in the old days.
I’m sorry, but it’s a really hard habit to break and I have to continue using one character space after a full stop on anything with a proportional fount or via a computer keyboard (with the exception of Courier and suchlike fix-pitched founts). It enhances readability because it obviates the appearance of rivers of white space (soon to be rivers of red blood). If you have to know where each sentences ends, I wouldn’t honestly say you’re actually reading the text and taking on board the message, are you?
Postscript: It took me exactly 28 minutes to write this piece.
© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2011. Updated 25 Jan 2013 with image via georgiewho.