The Space Between

I just realized that I have spiny scales,  sharp claws and teeth and a small brain.  That grinding noise I’m hearing in the background is the Ice Age approaching.

The first hint of my dinosaurian status came when I noticed that my new assistant puts only a single space between sentences.

Scandal!  Outrage! 

In the words of Dr. Peter Venkman, “It’s dogs and cats living together.

My second reptile self-realization came when I noticed that Facebook takes my beautifully-spaced prose and mashes it.    They put a single space between sentences regardless of whether I chose to punctuate with a period, comma, question mark or what-have-you.  Those bastards!

Now if you look at the title of this piece, it is also the title of a song by a very popular band.  They have another great song called The Smartest Monkey.

I’m the monkey in this scenario. I know — I’ve just metaphorically switched from reptile to simian. But, stick with me here. My point is that I can adapt.

Grammar Girl's avatar is cute, eh?

I looked into this punctuation quandary. According to Grammar Girl, I’m old.

If you’re not familiar with Mignon Fogarty’s web page and podcasts, you need to get acquainted. She’s S’mores-flavored Pop-Tarts, as far as I’m concerned. And, we all know that S’mores rule over all lesser Pop-Tart forms.

Okay, I’ve now moved on to snack food pastries. I realize I may have a metaphor problem.

In a nutshell, Grammar Girl says that two spaces after a period is old school. A single space is new-fashioned.

The dichotomy goes back to learning to type (or, as they now call it: keyboarding). Those of us who learned on a typewriter were taught the inflexible, sure as gravity rule of: two spaces after a period or question mark.  We also learned to waltz to records played on a Victrola.

Who sang, "Dinosaur Victrola listenin' to Buck Owens"?

The younger crew who learned to type on a computer keyboard: not so much. A single space, please.

There’s a reason. Typewriters use monospaced fonts; computers use proportional fonts. The rest is Inside Baseball stuff.

So there it is, folks — one space at the end of a sentence. Grammar Girl is not alone in this view. She’s got heavy hitters like The AP Stylebook and The Chicago Manual of Style on her side.

As for me, I’ve made the switch. In fact, if you want, you can go back and find the exact spot in this post where I converted.

I’m not sure if you can see a big difference in the space between sentences. And I may lapse back into my old two-spaced ways every once in a while.

But, I don’t want to be a dinosaur any longer.

— The Major


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5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Deb O'Shea on May 15, 2011 at 8:42 am

    It will always be 2 spaces for me. I recently wrote a business plan that I sent to a dear friend for editing who thereupon enlightened me far beyond what I had learned in almost 10 years of diagramming sentences in my Catholic school education. I was so chastened, but it was also uplifting to know that the “old rules” still mattered.

    Re: the apostrophe — try having one in your surname. Most websites won’t even accept my surname until I grudgingly omit the apostrophe. The upside is that when people ask for Mrs. Oshea (pronounced o-she-a), I can honestly say that there is no one here that goes by that name. I have also been known to reference She-a stadium from time to time and mutter “moron” under my breath.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Subway Dude on May 15, 2011 at 10:34 am

    can anyone say “grammar nazi?”

    Reply

  3. Posted by Becky on May 15, 2011 at 11:42 am

    There was a piece about this on Slate a few months ago http://www.slate.com/id/2281146/

    I had never heard of this, but noticed that when I left 2 spaces, my computer always auto-corrected. I’m still getting used to it.

    Here’s another one, to give you a jump on “new punctuation”, about “The Rise of Logical Punctuation”.

    http://www.slate.com/id/2293056/

    Reply

  4. Posted by Melania on May 19, 2011 at 10:50 am

    Long live the double space after a period. I like being a dinosaur on occasion.

    Reply

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