Friday, November 4, 2011

One lump or two?

All through this year, I've been reading about the controversy of whether to use one space or two after a full stop, or 'period', as it's called here in the US (a UK 'period' is a much crampier affair). I'm firmly in the two space camp. 'Cause that's what we were taught in typing class at school. So it MUST be right. Right?

Well today, I was listening to NPR - my new favourite radio station - and heard them refer to their facebook discussion on the subject. I hopped on over straight away, always eager to hear a discussion on the subject. That led me to a link to the NPR website (so much clicking, people!) where Farhad Manjoo, a writer for Slate magazine, and a person who seemed pretty reasonable, gave the following argument:

"Two spaces is wrong. ... The reason two spaces were put into practice was because of the manual typewriter. And there was a type of font on the manual typewriter called 'monospace font,' which means the space between every letter was the same, and the width of every letter was the same. So in that type of font, it looked slightly more readable to have two spaces between sentences than it did to have one space. But when we switched to computers, we went back to using the kinds of fonts called proportional fonts. With proportional fonts, every letter has a different width that corresponds to what it is used for. Because every letter has a different width, the space after a period has its appropriate width when you use just one [space after a period]. So that's how many you use. ... The two-space rule is really a holdover from typewriters. The reason you were taught it in school was because your teachers learned to type on typewriters, but we no longer type on typewriters."

Although the first statement made me feel defensive right away, his argument for one space is so reasonably explained, that it's almost undeniable. So here you have it, a blogpost with single spaces. Enjoy!

What's your stance on this subject?

5 comments:

Kaye said...

I'm a follower of the two space rule. Call me old fashioned.
However, that said, when I've got a massive legal brief to file and I know I've got a page limit and a verbose attorney, I will go to one space after a period to conserve space!

Nartian knits said...

I understand the logic of the 1-spacer "rule" now, but I still do 2 spaces out of habit.

pdxknitterati/MicheleLB said...

Double, for a typewriter (but I gave mine away). Single for the computer!

Jo said...

What an odd thing. I don't even think I could stop hitting the space key twice if I even tried because it is so ingrained.

Manda said...

I find myself single spacing now, but I learned to type with the two space rule.