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Mar 24, 2008


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Unless you're formatting your thesis for a university, then you do two. Because they'll check and make you go back through your whole freaking document and change them all.


Why?!? That's insane.


Yeah, I always had to through college, so I still do it now. It's automatic.


I do two because I was taught so in typing class on a typewriter, this is news to me.

I'm sorry to say that if someone as informed and plugged in as I am (admittedly not as much as thee Doug), doesn't know about the one space rule, then it's hopeless until they stop teaching it to the next generation.

You might as well introduce a new capitalization rule. You can't teach this dog new typing tricks.


I think a better rule is to use one space with a proportional typeface, and use two spaces with a non-proportional (i.e. fixed-width, like a typewriter) typeface.

Not to open up a whole ’nother can of worms, but straight quotes also approach acceptability in the context of non-proportional text. It fits the whole 1970’s, 7-bit ASCII, pre-Mac vibe.

(I took the time to curl my apostrophes and insert fi (fi) ligatures in this message. Let’s see if TypePad and the various browsers handle it correctly…) <- That was a proper ellipsis as well. No three-periods-in-a-row for me!


Hmm, maybe instead of drawing that ASCII-art arrow, I should have inserted a Unicode entity like WHITE LEFT POINTING INDEX (U+261C) ☜ or LEFTWARDS ARROW (U+2190) ←. Heh.


This is news to me. I don't even think about it anymore since typing is second nature, but I'm a two-space girl.

I did learn to type on a typewriter, one so old it required quite a bit of force to depress the keys the inch or so required to drop the hammer. Came complete with ribbons, and I always carried those little white out tabs with me. Probably why to this day I hit the keyboard so hard it clatters when I type.

My little grammar book (from high school) says two spaces, but I guess the world has morphed and I haven't moved with it. I also can't reconcile myself to words like "bling" and "ginormous." Call me Grandma and get me a tube of Ben Gay, I guess.

We two-spacers offend thee?


I went to school with Robert Scoble of blogging fame and took over the Spartan Daily's Production and Design Editor mantle from him in 1991. The first thing he did was give me a copy of _The Mac is not a Typewriter_ and told me to commit it to memory. The guy was a Nazi for smart quotes. Fast-forward eight years... I'm visiting his Scobleizer blog for the first time, and what is he ranting about? Smart quotes!!! Too funny.

Spiff, your proper ellipsis leaves me breathless.


I thought I was a punctuation geek, but this is over the top. Any punctuation rule that doesn't alter the meaning or flow of a sentence is just there so people who think they're smarter than everybody else can have something to be pompous about. Single vs. double quotes = meaningful. Curly vs. straight quotes and one space vs. two = nonsense.


Oops, I forgot I'm not "Steve" here. That was me.


1) Doesn't everyone know an ellipsis is option+semi-colon?
2) Doug, you'll be proud to know that I learned you're the one-space rule from you when you griped about it a long time ago on this blog. I didn't want to change, but David explained to me how in html you don't see the double spaces anyway (or to quote my husband "html doesn't preserve white spaces"). After I learned my spaces were a waste of typing, I decided to let the old habit die.
3) I didn't learn how to type on a typewriter, but a TRS-80.
4) I am very impressed with Spiff's punctuation geekiness. I just played a lot with Key Caps back in the day.
5) I just want a fifth point.


Except, NPS, it isn't about punctuation per se. It's about layout/design/typeface. Does it make a difference in meaning? Not so much. It does make a difference in readability, though. And you need both if you want people to pay attention to what you're saying in a written medium.

Unfortunately, since Word (which I use for most word processing) will format em-dashes and ellipses and a few other things for me automatically, I haven't learned to do them in other programs and am too lazy to look it up. So my own blog has two dashes for a hyphen and other stuff like that. Lame, admittedly.

And I have a hard remembering to only put one space after a period. It's just a problem of breaking a bad habit.


Umm...that should read two hyphens for a dash.


Julie, I'm down with improving readability (or as I called it "flow"). I just don't see how a single space is better than two spaces in that regard, or how an em-dash is better in some situations than a hyphen. Sure, there are rules, but unless those rules make a meaningful difference for somebody other than the self-appointed arbiters of punctuation, I don't think they are of any consequence. I am willing to be educated, though, so if anybody has an example to share, I'm all ears.


NPS, em-dash (or the typewriter-ish workaround of a two-hyphen dash) instead of a [single] hyphen is more than flow; it can affect meaning. If you try to offset a clause with just a single hyphen instead of a dash, your reader might try to read it as a hyphenated word instead of realizing you meant to use a dash. If the word before and the word after the single hyphen actually happen to make a plausible hyphenated word, it's possible to end up with a really strange alternate reading.


Spiff, assuming there were no em-dash, the spaces on either side of the hyphen would be a fine warning that a clause is coming. No spaces would indicate a hyphenated word. If you want to talk about confusing, the mere existence of the hyphen, en-dash, em-dash, figure dash, and perhaps even the horizontal bar is stupefying.


I'm going to answer this more fully with an addendum to the post, but I'll say this here. NP Steve, if you want a "practical" reason for using one space instead of two, here it is: you'll save wear and tear on your thumbs and space bar. :-)


No worries, Doug. My "pompous" comment was directed at a faceless punctuation geek, not any of the real people 'round here. I understand that visual learners (myself somewhat included) can be pretty anal about whitespace on a page. If it's really as big a deal to you, and those like you, as you say it is, I'm all for being accommodating. But by the same token (is it okay to start a sentence with "But"? (was that question mark supposed to go inside the quotes? (is this too many parenthetical comments?))) the world is wide, and if someone wants to use two spaces in informal writing, who really gives a flip? I agree that two spaces in a book or magazine would be amateurish. But we never see it there anyway, do we? The only place you see it is in informal writing, where I think people should be afforded some latitude. Haven't we got better things to do? I'm a one-spacer myself, but I've written this comment with two spaces between sentences. Did anyone's brain fall into the crevasse? Probably not. I think basic courtesy requires that we not be hyper-critical of informal writing.


Blasted interwebs wouldn't even LET me put two spaces when I wanted to. The punctuation police are now gaining compliance with their rules by force. This is so 1984.


LOL. The Internet is on to you and your bad habits, Steve... :-)


NPS, I don't think anyone here is criticizing anyone else's informal writing. Given that Doug is a professional copy writer in his day job (if I recall his day job correctly) and a professional copyeditor at least on the side, I imagine his original post came from frustration working with someone else's actual meant-for-publication copy or manuscript.


I'm a little late to this party, but figured I'd throw my two cents in. I'm old school as well, and was taught to use two spaces. In the HTML world we live in though, double spaces (white space) is ignored anyway, rendering as a single space (double spaces we're used in the writing of this comment and no animals were harmed in the process). Single and Double spacers unite! At least on the Interweb.


Double spacing after a period when using a computer is nothing more than perpetuating an anachronism. We no longer need the EXTRA space. One space does just what it is supposed to do: show a sentence break. Why do you people want to make extra work for yourselves? Because if you want more work, I got a lawn that's gonna need mowing every week...

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