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Two spaces after a period is wrong, so cut that shit out

By in Opinions
"I will beat you to death with a typewriter if you keep double spacing after periods."

There are two kinds of people on this planet: those who type a single space after the end of their sentences, and those who stupidly, inexplicably and unforgivably double-space after the period.

I’m not entirely sure where people pick up this quirk, but I suspect it has to do with grade school teachers who themselves learned to type on typewriters, passing their bad habits on to impressionable students. And once learned, the double-spacers seemingly refuse to unlearn this lesson.

Yes, it probably made a lot of sense at one time to offset a new sentence with an extra visual cue to make for easier reading. But chances are that if you’re writing an essay, you’re not doing so on a typewriter, and even if you were, you would have to be using one made before the 1970s for the second space to even matter. That’s because monospaced typefaces — in which all the characters have the same width — were largely phased out with the introduction of electric typewriters.

And now that we are balls deep in the digital age, when foundries calibrate fonts to within micrometres, why would anyone insist on the second space? That second space is not only a waste of pixels and paper, but also more work. Think of the millions of sentences most people compose in their lifetimes using computer keyboards. Now think of how much cosmic energy is misdirected at that second, unnecessary space.

Let me say it again. Typing two spaces after a sentence-ending period is utterly, incontrovertibly wrong.

The reason this sticks in my craw is that as an editor for the last few years, I have had to remove countless spaces, lecture dozens of writers and cry myself to sleep on at least one occasion. OK, that last one is a lie, but two spaces after a period just looks silly in the newspaper.

Look at any news website and check for spaces. You’ll find everyone from the New York Times to the Estevan Mercury using a single glorious space after each sentence.

Double-spacers, of course, will insist that two spaces are not only the proper but also the more formal way to write. Sure, a single space may suffice for the campus rag, but an essay about post-modernist literature just doesn’t carry the same authority without two spaces.

Well, as it turns out, most style manuals now recommend a single space. The MLA Style Manual uses one space, as do the AP Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style.

Double-spacing can be hard to stop. Most typing is done unconsciously, and thinking about how many times you make certain keystrokes gets frustrating fast. But even if you can’t break the habit right away, a quick find-and-replace before you send off your writing to someone else will spare you a lot of ill will.

So take note: unless you write on a 1940s Kensington, you have no excuse to keep double-spacing. Cut. It. The. Fuck. Out.


Photo: HBO

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