I studied typing for three years when I was in high school at Insituto Pan Americano in Panama City, Panama. That was in 1963-1965. In order to graduate, we had to type at least 55 words per minute, which was pretty fast, considering that there were no electric typewriters back then. I recall I had an old but efficient Underwood typewriter.
After all these years, I’m still a good typist. Don’t have to look at the keyboard and use all my ten fingers to type. These typing skills were a great advantage when I went to work and personal computers began to emerge and no secretaries were assigned to my job. I had to do it all. No problem, I knew how to type my own reports and letters.
Back then the rule was to leave two spaces after a sentence. If you left only one spaces, you were deducted ten points from the final score and that wasn’t good for your grades. So after three years of using the rules, it was embedded in my brain, that after a sentence, I had to leave two spaces, and that was that.
Last week I found an article in the Cloud, that this rule was wrong. The correct way of typing was to leave only one space after a period. What? Was I wrong for almost five decades? Apparently I was. This is what I found out.
“Can I let you in on a secret? Typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly, and unarguable wrong. And yet people who use two spaces are everywhere, their ugly error crossing every social boundary of class, education, and taste.
The people who study and design the typewritten word decided long ago that we should use one space, not two, between sentences. That convention was not arrived at casually. James Felici, author of the The Complete Manual of Typography, points out that the early history of type is one of inconsistent spacing. Hundreds of years ago some typesetters would end sentences with a double space, others would use a single space, and a few renegades would use three or four spaces. Inconsistency reigned in all facets of written communication; there were few conventions regarding spelling, punctuation, character design, and ways to add emphasis to type. But as typesetting became more widespread, its practitioners began to adopt best practices. Felici writes that typesetters in Europe began to settle on a single space around the early 20th century. America followed soon after.
Every modern typographer agrees on the one-space rule. It’s one of the canonical rules of the profession, in the same way that waiters know that the salad fork goes to the left of the dinner fork and fashion designers know to put men’s shirt buttons on the right and women’s on the left. Every major style guide—including the Modern Language Association Style Manual and the Chicago Manual of Style—prescribes a single space after a period. (The Publications Manual of the American Psychological Association, used widely in the social sciences, allows for two spaces in draft manuscripts but recommends one space in published work.) Most ordinary people would know the one-space rule, too, if it weren’t for a quirk of history. In the middle of the last century, a now-outmoded technology—the manual typewriter—invaded the American workplace. To accommodate that machine’s shortcomings, everyone began to type wrong. And even though we no longer use typewriters, we all still type like we do.
The problem with typewriters was that they used monospaced type—that is, every character occupied an equal amount of horizontal space. This bucked a long tradition of proportional typesetting, in which skinny characters (like I or 1) were given less space than fat ones (like W or M). Monospaced type gives you text that looks “loose” and uneven; there’s a lot of white space between characters and words, so it’s more difficult to spot the spaces between sentences immediately. Hence the adoption of the two-space rule—on a typewriter, an extra space after a sentence makes text easier to read. Here’s the thing, though: Monospaced fonts went out in the 1970s. First electric typewriters and then computers began to offer people ways to create text using proportional fonts. Today nearly every font on your PC is proportional. (Courier is the one major exception.) Because we’ve all switched to modern fonts, adding two spaces after a period no longer enhances readability, typographers say. It diminishes it.
“A space signals a pause,” says David Jury, the author of About Face: Reviving The Rules of Typography. “If you get a really big pause—a big hole—in the middle of a line, the reader pauses. And you don’t want people to pause all the time. You want the text to flow.”
Is the rule of place one space after a period is arbitrary? Sure it is. But so are a lot of our conventions for writing. It’s arbitrary that we write shop instead of shoppe, or phone instead of fone, or that we use ! to emphasize a sentence rather than %. We adopted these standards because practitioners of publishing—writers, editors, typographers, and others—settled on them after decades of experience. Among their rules was that we should use one space after a period instead of two—so that’s how we should do it.”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve decided that I won’t abide by the rule of one space after a period. Even if I wanted to, I know it would be impossible to do so. My brain just won’t bulge. I’m sorry, but I will be a renegade blogger and two spaces will persist in my blog. For this I deeply apologize, but for this old dog, learning this new trick is just not possible. Good Day.
Source: Space Invaders. Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period by Farhad Manjoo – Slate Magazine.