Spaces Between Sentences

Sunday, September 7, 2008 at 12:16 AM | Filed under

I grew up typing two spaces between sentences. I guess it was my mom who had me doing this—she said it was the proper way to type. This was more true back in the old typewriter days, where every character was the same width (monospaced typefaces): I and W would take up the same amount of space. Using two spaces between sentences made it easier to tell when one ended and another began. Now that we have digital printing and proportionally spaced typefaces (where I is less wide than W), two spaces between a sentece look weird. I found some illustrations if you want to see this for yourself.

Typing two spaces between sentences was never really a problem until I took Journalism in eighth grade. Our teacher didn't have much of a style guide (in fact, he wasn't really even concerned that his students would misspell all kinds of words), but one of his rules was that we had to use one space between sentences. I found this surprisingly hard to abide by. It was a force of habit: after I pressed period, I would automatically press the space bar twice. After writing an article, I would have to go through the whole article and remove all the double spaces. (There was no universal replace tool.)

Another issue that would occasionally crop up would be whenever the end of a sentence reached the right margin of a page, or the right edge of a text box. If the software wasn't set up correctly, it would handle the first space just fine, but the second space would sneak to the beginning of the next line and indent the line by a space! Totally unacceptable.

I suppose there was no real need for me to switch to using only one space, but there was no reason for me to be using two.

Text messaging probably helped me make the conversion to being a one-spacist. My cell phone would automatically capitalize the first letter of a sentence only if I used one space before it. Using two spaces would result in having to press buttons three times (space-space-shift) instead of just once (space).

What probably helped me the most was when I started learning a new keyboard. Tired of the boring old qwerty keyboard, I decided to learn the more comfortable Colemak keyboard. Being forced to slow down while I learned the keyboard gave me the opportunity to also adjust to typing just one space between sentences.

Now it feels natural to type just one space between sentences. It feels silly to use two, now.


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