Sunday, January 16, 2011

Taking Up Space

Fierce argument rages (OK, more like 'some disagreement exists') over the issue of spacing. When typing, do you put one space after a period, or two?

The excitement began with a post on Slate by Farhad Manjoo, stating that one space is correct.

The explanation he provides, which I was interested to know, is that the two-space rule comes from the days of typewriters, when every letter was allotted the same amount of room on the page. This meant that M basically filled up that allotted space, while I was surrounded by white page.

Given that all text was filled with such visual gaps around certain letters, it made sense to leave an extra space between sentences, to make sure that the reader's eye registered the change. Now, when we have fonts wherein each letter takes up only as much room as it actually needs, the argument is that one space between sentences is plenty.

Sounds good to me.

I was going to think that it was just some quirky character trait in myself to be oddly fascinated by this topic, but a couple of responses--vehement disagreement from Talulah at Life Under a Rock, and a statement of conversion from Erich Vieth at Dangerous Intersection--demonstrate that I am not alone.

Also, that type-spacing is capable of rousing great passion.

I personally learned to type with the two-space rule, but I worked in the public relations office in college, and was informed that one space was proper for the little press releases we were writing. I got in the one-space habit from there, and never looked back.

I am not, however, particularly concerned about the spacing habits of others. I can't say I've ever really noticed, except in the case of one person I knew who used to throw in three or four spaces between sentences. That caught my eye.

But if you use one or two, it's not going to get my attention. I have my text and language quibbles that I always notice and that send me into fits of incoherent muttering about crimes against communication, but that isn't one of them.


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