Almost five years ago on another blog I wrote about a massively important problem facing the communication profession:
after a period despite the fact that word-processing programs
automatically make more space after periods (and have done for more
than 20 years)?
Luckily, the "search and replace" function allows me to remove all
the extra spaces fairly quickly. But I'm terribly annoyed every time it
says, "Word has completed its search of the document and has made 157
I'm annoyed because I don't understand why professional writers
haven't been able to make this small adjustment in the quarter-century
since we stopped using typewriters.
Well I'm happy to report that my qualitative longitudinal study has yielded a more favorable dubious statistic. We're down to four out of 10 professional writers who are still kickin' it old-school, period, space space.
Aside from being potentially bogus, the hopeful statistic also fails to recognize that the remaining two-space cadets are a hardened and hopeless crew.
Witness the response of a communication director when her editor gently suggested that two spaces are one too many:
"Are you calling me old because I learned on a typewriter or just trying to torture me into changing a VERY OLD HABIT??? Yes—I can give it a try. I can keep you posted on how painful it is, too."
And yes, there were two spaces after the period after "try."
Boots readers, help a colleague become less spacey. Tell us how you've made this change. (Or on what basis you flat-out refuse!)
How about this? “Well, Mr./Ms. dinosaur, you can either stop adding that second period, or I’m going to insist that you start Twittering on a daily basis. Those are your choices – pick one.”
I think that would do it, don’t you?!
Seriously, when I made this particular change, it was because some kid at an IABC seminar I went to made this comment when the speaker gently confirmed this extra space was no longer necessary/appropriate: “Oh my GOD! Are there REALLY people still doing THAT?!?!” As I slunk down in my uncomfortable meeting room chair, I resolved to stop that immediately.
That, and I resolved to continue aggressively hating those snotty arrogant children who go around blithely slamming things they have absolutely no real concept about.
Speaking of Twitter, David, have you seen this:
I thought of you immediately. If this isn’t vindication of your hatred of Twitter, I don’t know what is.
Don’t say I never gave you anything!
David Murray says
What are you talking about? I love Twitter!
But only to the extent that the 140-character constraint gives people another reason to eliminate the extra space after a period.
Cut a space—gain a character!
Sherri Green says
I stopped using the extra space after an editor sent out a ranting e-mail on the topic. A more polite, “It’s our style to only use one space after a period” would have sufficed.
David Murray says
Sherri, I agree; but I’d still like to see that rant!
I don’t use it just because I think it’s stupid and irrelevant (sorry, Kristen). But obviously that’s not going to be the most persuasive argument.
So how about this: it’s an efficiency issue. If you cut out that extra space, you’re saving one keystroke per sentence. Say it takes you a tenth of a second per keystroke. Even at 200 sentences a day, that little extra space is eating up 20 seconds. That works out to about 2 hours a year per person. So even if you have only a million people frittering away that time each year, that’s two million hours or 83,000 days of wasted time!
Assuming my math is right (never a safe bet), maybe we should blame the extra space for the economic collapse. It’s such a drain on productivity. Perhaps Obama should launch a campaign to eliminate the extra space as part of the stimulus plan. Call it the “One Space, One America” productivity program, or something similarly patriotic. I see Japan is now out of recession – I bet they don’t use an extra space.
Eileen B. says
I learned about five years ago when reading your blog, then when I shared my dismay you said, “I know, I’ve been editing your stuff for Ragan and constantly have to delete all of those extra spaces.” You can never be accused of being all warm and fuzzy David. Trust me.
Joan H. says
I too learned on an old IBM Selectric. I always add the extra space because, to my eye, it still looks better; because it’s an old and ingrained habit; and as the world turns, my preference on spacing is such a small issue that it’s just not important for this dog to learn that new trick. On the other hand, I don’t have an editor to please. And as to your timesaving notion, Rueben, I already type well over 100 wpm. I don’t feel a need for even more speed. I’m happy with my spaces, happy with my wpm, and happy to let this be a matter of preference for the writer.
Davy, why do you care so much?
Tom Keefe says
It is a virus that continues to morph, and cannot be stopped. My son took a typing class in freshman year (actually called “keyboarding”) and was taught to use two spaces after the period. I patiently explained the reasons why that is unneccessary, but he refused to listen. A clueless teacher had more credibility in his eyes than his dad, a professional communicator.
David Murray says
I don’t care that much, Joan. Note, 120 posts about Twitter, 15 about motorcycles one about spacing.
The search-and-replace-all business is a mild pain in the ass for an editor, and that’s about it.
Mostly, actually, I worry about veteran pros like you, who in exchange for no benefit at all, are being branded as dinosaurs by people like that kid in Kristen’s IABC seminar.
Joan H. says
I’d refer that goofy kid to my Facebook and MySpace pages to note their objection to my dinosaurocity there, among their peers, who will rise in legion to defend me!
Tim H says
I am a confirmed one-spacer, but it struck me that most of the arguments here could just as well be used to justify something else that we see almost everywhere online: “alot,” as in “we had alot of pizza.”