It took less than two hours. Most of my posts take days or weeks to research, draft, illustrate, and revise, but this one took less than two hours. And it was off-message: This blog is about teaching, and I rarely stray from that focus. But on that day, I decided to use my small platform to vent about how many spaces one should put after a period.
In a few days, it became the most-read post I’ve written in a year of blogging.
At first, it was amazing. All my numbers got bigger: Facebook “Likes,” Twitter followers, email subscribers. My daily advertising income, which is based on site traffic and would normally cover a pack of gum, was bringing in sums that could actually buy me a meal.
Then the comments started coming. Some were what I expected: people with the 2-space habit who couldn’t stop themselves, or who never knew the practice had changed and accepted my tip with a baffled kind of gratitude.
Some disagreed for stylistic or historical reasons. Fine. Those didn’t bother me, and they gave me a more well-rounded understanding of the topic. But others had more of a problem with me: These were the ones I wasn’t ready for.
Why the overbearing, scolding tone?
The new APA Style Manual now says to use 2 spaces. All your ranting just shows that you are the one behind the times.
FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY AND GOOD IN THIS WORLD – GET OVER IT!! There are many, MANY more important things going on in this world.
One guy called me a hack. Another woman simply tweeted, “Grammar snob & ageism in one!” My phone, my computer, all of my notification systems chirped away, telling me that more and more people were reading my post. The sounds should have thrilled me; instead, they made me feel a little sick…more negative comments were surely on their way.
What bothered me the most was not that people disagreed with me, it was their snarky, hostile tone. They don’t even know me, I thought. And how can they call me ageist? I said I was over 40, too! It was just meant to be funny! Why are they being so mean?
And then it hit me: They were being mean because I was mean first.
My title was ageist. The graphic I added to it was snotty. I put snark out into the world and that’s exactly what I got back. Without the snark, the post probably wouldn’t have gone viral. But it came at a cost.
Then I got the comment that really made me think. It came from someone who simply called himself Jim C.
Jennifer – I respect your right to use one space. I do, however, take issue with three things about your post. The first, and by far the most important, is your support of the denigration of older people. We live in an era of age discrimination. If you don’t think it is a problem, talk to some folks over 55 who have tried to, or have been forced to, change jobs recently. Your post, and your follow up comments, state that the reason people incorrectly (in your view) use two spaces after a full stop is because they are old, ignorant, and stuck in their old ways. This is offensive. Is this really what you want the teachers who look to you for advice to be teaching their students?
I haven’t stopped thinking about Jim’s comment since I got it.
While the other ones stung and made me feel defensive, Jim’s was kind. He held my feet to the fire, for sure, but he was nice about it. His comment was decidedly un-snarky. So I was able to relax into it and really absorb his message. And for the first time, instead of feeling defensive, I felt deep regret for mocking older people.
I should have known better. I had seen the episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2004, when In Living Color actress Kim Wayans apologized for the way she portrayed Oprah in her show’s sketches. “The person that I am now wouldn’t do a sketch like that. Funny doesn’t trump being mean for me anymore, and I apologize.”
Funny doesn’t trump mean. It was a quote that had stuck with me from that point on. But apparently it didn’t stick hard enough.
I thought my headline and graphic were funny. Yep. And judging by Facebook shares, a few thousand other people did, too. Only now do I understand that that kind of funny only amuses those who are in on the joke. To the butts of the joke, that kind of funny is just mean.
That’s no way to teach. And on this site, I’m teaching all the time. Exponentially, really, since I’m teaching teachers how to teach. If I start a lesson by embarrassing my students, I lose them right away. Who wants to put themselves in a situation where they might look out of touch, ignorant, or naïve? No one wants to play the fool, and if I want someone to be open to receiving new information, I should never put them in a fool’s position.
The next time I fire off a post in two hours, after the editing and proofreading are done, I’ll be sure to do one last check for snark. And I’ll silently thank people like Jim for showing me how it’s done. ♦
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Jennifer, I think you are being too hard on yourself. It needed to be said. People needed to be informed and I’m glad it went viral. You have done a great service to us all (especially to graphic designers, like me). I hope that your post continues to get passed on. With sincere appreciation…Thank you!
Thank you, Kiki!! I try to learn something from every negative experience, so although I might be beating myself up here, ultimately I’m learning to be more effective. I could never completely drain all the snark from my personality — I wouldn’t want to — but I’m learning to use it more carefully. Thanks for taking the time to post a comment. 🙂
This world has just seemed to gone CRAZY SENSITIVE. Everyone seems to be hyper-offended (not a real word)…sighs. I think things were better when we could say what we wanted without the entire world voicing their opinion on it. Thanks for the info..I am still in the habit of the double spacing. I am 50. How is it ageism IF IT’S A TRUE STATEMENT. .WE DID learn it that way back in our day. That’s a fact; not an insult. Excuse my poor grammer..typing with thumbs has made me lose all sense of punctuation. Lol.
Gail, you nailed it. There’s been an explosion of hyper-sensitivity and it started when cell phones went online. Too many humans who do not have enough life experience to enable them with good coping skills, are posting viral opinions, attitudes, and false news which too many people accept as factual.
I am not a teacher but if I were, I wouldn’t allow my students to get information for homework and studies for reports from anywhere but a library and hard cover books, and from “the horse’s mouth”.
Sadly, I realize this idea is neither reasonable, nor realistic.
Notice, please, that I am still double-spacing after a period at the end of each sentence, lol.
Bless you teachers, you are valued and respected by parents like me.
Cynthia, Gail, and Jennifer – Four years after the original post was written we are seeing everyday how hypersensitive our culture has become. I found this original article because my sister was admonishing me for double spacing after my periods. I learned to type on a computer and ‘way back’ it was still drilled into a person to double space after a period. Thank you all
People DO seem more sensitive nowadays about how they are treated than a while back. They ARE less inclined to put up with mistreatment. At times, this can go to the extreme,
and, certainly, that is not balanced,
nor does it aid healthy communication.
But – The problem is not with getting into trouble for stating facts.
Many people feel that they can be as brutal to others as they want, so long as it’s all based on verifiable fact.
What follows is a lack of tact,
which loses the audience more easily than being kind.
Stating fact is no defense for being brutally honest.
It’s merely being brutal.
That having been said, perhaps the brute feels that they are being SINCERELY honest, trying to avoid a distortion of fact.
A noble intent. Certainly, there is a place for it.
Yet – To be in the habit of using sincere observations as a bludgeon without a modicum of care for the effect on the listener? And then to blame the other guy for when we unintentionally hurt their feelings, rather than graciously apologizing to them when they mention it?
telling the truth while finding ways to be kind and considerate about it is a legitimate way to express oneself honestly. It merely requires an extra step of effort.
And the willingness to do so.
LOL, I enjoyed both the original post and this penitent one. I’m helping a friend edit a manuscript for a book–yes, I finally broke down to ask the internet the “spacey” question. I am 56 and learned to type in high school when it was possible to type fast enough to jam the keys. My pet peeve has been single spacing after end punctuations but I had to yield to it when posting on websites because two-spacing leaves a glaring gap. I learned that ‘kerning” is the term for adjusting space between letters; yep, most computerized fonts do it automatically. As one commenter noted, though, when typing court documents, the spacing between lines and after end punctuations is still specified. I guess no one wants to risk having their brief rejected due to “improper” formatting. Thanks for the definitive statement on end-punctuation spacing. FYI, I proofread my comment and removed extra spaces just for you–that’s “cyber love” . . . eight spaces closer to your heart, I hope. [I’m loving my author the same way by removing my extra spaces when I insert my edits.] P.S. any tips on ellipses?
Here are a few resources that may provide some tips on ellipses:
I hope this helps!
1. You were not mean.
2. I’m from New York – people think New Yorker’s are mean. We aren’t. We are direct. They will just have to get over it.
3. Be proud of a USEFUL, educative and for the love of all that’s good and holy, VIRAL blog post that was intelligent, hurt no humans or animals and didn’t pollute the planet.
4. I’m a writer. I’m excited for the exposure your site is getting.
5. To wit, I’m an educator. Hello! I’m thrilled to have discovered your content. You also were the data I needed to get my co-author from going off the rails with spacing. Now I will subscribe to your website. I bet there’s more goodies in store.
6. BTW, most unintended viral posts happened the way yours did – passionate, don’t overthink it, hit send and power off the computer for the night. Several best-selling books were launched that way. It means you have a strong VOICE. That’s huge for any writer. Bask in your fabulousness. Don’t flagellate. It’s unbecoming one so talented.
7. I can speak to you like that because…wait for it…I’m old.
8. Hell yeah! I’ve been on the planet for more than half a century and I’m waaaaaaaaaaaay smarter than I was 20 years ago, you whippersnapper, you!
2. The fact that you say, “they will have to get over it” means that you know deep down, being direct is not always kind, and is quite often, mean.
I agree; you’re definitely being too hard on yourself! Twas an excellent post.
(p.s. I’m okay now!)
Jennifer – you’re observation has been a raging argument for years. Two spaces, one space – on and on. Most of us see the funny and snark at one another. The anonymity of the internet takes it further and it allows people to be rude and nasty without having to deal with the consequences.
That said, this old lady says that you can have my double space when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.
Thank you for the apology. Now get off my damn lawn!
I know this is an older post, but I just came across it. I would like to add one more comment, if I may. I, too, learned to type on a typewwriter.
I remember when I first started driving a car. I wondered if I would EVER get my 2 feet and 2 hands to do different things at the same time. (Back in the day BEFORE automatic transmissions). I thought it was like a drummer having both hands and both feet doing different things, and yet it all came together. I DID learn to drive a standard transmission, and would still prefer one, even though now it is hard to even find one. Muscle memory; I don’t even have to think about it anymore.
It is similar with typing at a keyboard. My fingers automatically do 2 spaces after a period. I would have to consciously stop and take a space out to make it correct.
Thank you for reading.
The thing is, Kiki, I’ve been a legal secretary/word processor for almost 20 years. The double space after punctuation is *still* expected and attorneys lose their ish if it’s not done that way. So, while a single space is OK in other places, double spaced are expected and required in other places.
By the way, Jennifer, I leaned how to type on an IBM computer with the Mavis Beacon program in 1990/1991 as a senior in high school. I cannot type on a typewriter to save my life.
Love me some Mavis Beacon! That’s how I learned to type too.:)
Question: re: 2 spaces after periods…am alittle confused. Does the computer add alittle more space to separate the sentences or do people not require the additional space due to changes in our reading habits/abilities? We really no longer need question marks?
You are definitely being too hard on yourself. I admit I probably will never change because at 64 it’s too deeply ingrained and who really cares anyway. But I WILL stop mentally denigrating students for handing in one-space papers! I didn’t know! And I will remember the quote “funny doesn’t trump mean”.
I had a great laugh reading the first article, and then felt so sad for you reading the second!
I’m 32 and just came across this because my boyfriend (30) recently told me it drove him crazy that I double space after punctuation. I said “that’s what you’re supposed to do! I took a typing class in high school, did you!?”
I took a typing class from the loveliest woman, Helen Campbell, who retired the next year. I still prefer the way it looks and can’t even help myself on my phone doing a double tap when I finish my sentence! In an ode to Mrs. Campbell I’ll never change my double spacing ways.
Don’t feel too bad, malice with intent is bad. You were just trying to be funny ?
People are way to sensitive about things these days. I thought the post was funny but I’m still going to use my two spaces. Just because they teach common core math now doesn’t mean I’m changing the way I do math. Both are acceptable and that’s fine, I still find that double space is more readable and frankly its so heavily ingrained in how I type that I doubt I can stop doing it while blasting along at 70wpm. It’s not hurting anyone anyway 😛
Polling unqualified people on what they think about a fact is the same as polling about if there are hats. Style manuals say 2 spaces, then it’s it’s 2 spaces… regardless of what some bloggers think.
I agree! People will scold and hate on you whenever they are given a platform. If someone took serious offense to your (clearly) sarcastic and playful post, then they have serious trigger issues. I only ready the post after the fact, but I don’t see any hate speech in your words. I think that this is likely an issue of readers not understanding humor. At the risk of sounding agesit, golly,I venture that these readers weren’t familiar with the (very common) sarcastic/playful tone many, many writers add to their headlines and blog copy.
I’m 63. I learned to type on a manual typewriter! I used to see job adverts that wanted people who could use an electric typewriter. If I saw an advert that said manual typewriters, I wouldn’t apply. I liked the slight touch on the keys instead of the pounding of a manual. Fast forward to 1995 and I became what is known as a Presentations Specialist, ie, an expert in MS Office using Word, PowerPoint and Excel. I slipped very easily into not using 2 spaces after the full stop. I’ve had to ask people to not use 2 spaces and they have been quite a bit younger than me.
We all make mistakes. I have to admit that reading that post made me want to crawl through my screen and give you an earful. It struck a nerve for the age-related issues and also because it neglected to mention there are multiple style types, and whether or not you choose to use one or two spaces at the end of your sentence depends entirely on that context. Both APA and the Gregg Manual of Syle (last time I checked) call for two spaces. MLA and AP call for one. As someone who was professionally trained to type and drilled for decades on it, using two spaces is embedded into my muscle memory, and unless I’m being paid to do otherwise, most often, I use two spaces for that reason. Those of us Baby Boomers who are still in the workplace face an ever-increasing onslaught of criticism for demonstrating behaviors and choices that were once the gold-standard of the professional world. We actually built the computers and designed the systems that younger generations take for granted these days, but we’re now criticized for adhering to the standards that made it all possible in the first place. That’s a hard pill to swallow.
I will never stop the double space. You can’t teach this old dog new tricks. I didn’t think you were actually mean…….but ageism is everywhere so it was nice that you addressed it. I can honestly say I never gave people’s ages a thought when I was young. Now it seems that everyone has something to say about older people. It’s just too bad.
I just wanted to repeat that I did not think you were mean.
I just thought it was funny and convincing. I would rather use one space. Two has always been a pain. And I can imagine that this snarky tone is exactly how certain, apparently respectful, younger people view me. It’s sure how I thought about older people when I was younger.
I agree with you wholeheartedly. I LOVED the post and I’ll be 60 in two weeks. I found it with a quick Google search for the express purpose of sending it to my co-author (age 62) who PERSISTS in double spacing after periods. My pleas have fallen on deaf ears. We just sold our business book to McGraw-Hill for August 2021 publication. Our manuscript delivery date is March 2021. I didn’t want to spend the next three months closing up all of her spacing on our shared Google drive. It was driving me batty!!!!!!!!!!!!
Yes, you can tell from my age that I learned to type on a manual typewriter. That said, I’ve owned a PC since age 20 and with my first job after college saw that the spacing had changed. No one told me, I just noticed it and it made sense because on the screen the double spacing looks like a chasm.
I found ZERO insult in the post, its headline or Jennifer’s vibe. In fact, I thought it was all good, clean fun. Jennifer has a strong voice and it comes through. I loved her line about this subject being beyond the scope of her blog but “stick around baby…!” That made me laugh out loud and also wonder, “uh, is she from New York?” I am. I don’t call that “snark.” I call that strong voice and confidence. You can’t please all the people all of the time and those who try bore me to tears.
P.S. – my co-author and friend LOVED the post. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY AND GOOD IN THIS WORLD, I hope it finally sticks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It did NOT need to be said, and certainly not in the way it was said.
I work in the legal field and, as has been.previously been mentioned, the standard is two spaces. It’s likely because legal writing can be incredibly arduous to read, already. But I have to train new associates to the firm I run, and this actually became an issue that led to firing a new one.
The issue was not just that he believed it should only be one space. It was the snark he showed toward anyone who disagreed and attempted to explain that he was wrong.
And he actually presented a very similar blog post to the one on question here to try to defend his position. Because a snarky blog post, in his mind, trumped an entire industry’s set standard. And he dig his heels in because some phantom “expert” hiding behind a computer screen claiming to know the grammar standards of law said so.
So I fired him–because law, like most disciplines, requires an open mind and a humility to learn from those who are established and know the industry. That’s why blog posts like the original in question are so detrimental.
If Jennifer is truly a gifted teacher, she understands that she should NEVER have taken such an absolutist approach to her position. She has a duty to her readers, both current and potential, to really know what she is talking about before she posts about a subject. She also has a duty to recognize, in her arguments, that exceptions more or less always exist. Venture who knows? Maybe some young associate hot him or herself fired because they took her word as golden.
The ageist snark with which she wrote the piece clearly appeals to the younger, more disaffected and CLEARLY ageist generations (I’m 49, however, so it’s not like I’m ancient). After all, the “SORRY BOOMER” phenomenon didn’t arise in the millennial culture out of any love or appreciation for older generations.
So if Jennifer wants to understand why her ageist, snarky post went so viral, should should recognize this It wasn’t because it was somehow enlightening or epiphanic. It was because it provided entire generations of ageist snarks with an opportunity to make fun of the perceived “collective ignorance” of those who came before them.
So please…tell me again about how much it “needed to be said”.
P.s.: Jennifer: The fact that you are thanking the commenter here for supporting your OP shows that any contrition, learning, or growth you have expressed here is feigned. It’s a shame. You had the opportunity to really recognize how maladaptive your “teaching approach” is in the realm of inclusion, and you blew it.
I was happy to read this follow up to your article. I do like a bit of snark, and the title and graphic didn’t really offend me at all. But,I can tell you that I was indeed put off by the idea that I was continually being called “old” in the original article because I prefer to continue to leave two spaces after punctuation, even though it has fallen out of trend.
I am not in my forties, but am old enough that I was taught to use the extra space. I continue to use it in large part due to my dyslexia. It makes it so much easier to read larger paragraphs (and by larger, I mean more that two or three sentences), when the extra space is included. The more squished together the sentences are, the more apt I am going to have to re-read it a million times before I get it right. So, that’s why this thirty-something year old wishes it was still the norm for everyone to use two spaces. And, that’s why I will continue to do so.
Just thought you might like to hear another opinion with an explanation of why some people might like to keep using that extra space! And, please don’t edit out all of your snark, just keep in mind that there are a lot of different shoes out there in this world to try on. Acknowledging that there may be value in differing opinions is a very healthy position to teach from.
Hi JC. Thank you for this. You are further deepening my understanding on this issue, and I really appreciate that you took the time to comment.
And thank you for teaching me that it is not standard etiquette anymore! While I had noticed that not everyone used the extra space, I thought they were just not taught properly. Even though I will continue to use it, it’s good to know that I am, technically, in the wrong now-a-days!
Those who posted nasty comments to your original article also need to realize that it’s okay to not agree. People online seem to take things so personally. If their viewpoint is challenged, they attack, rather than just acknowledging (and even considering) the other’s point of view. If, at the end of the day, they still hold the same belief, they should just feel confident about that, without the need for backlash!
I stumbled on this post, and the earlier related one, because of a domestic disagreement on this subject. As you can see, I’m a double-spacer. My partner is a professional writer – a single-spacer, natch. I am in fact over 40 (42, to be precise) but he’s over 50. The difference? I learned to type on a typewriter in high school; he is a self-taught word-processor typist and style manual devotee.
Jennifer, I don’t think you are being too hard on yourself here. People like me, who write (as a form of communication, internal documents, etc.) as part of our work, do not need to be “informed” by designers like Kiki. I’m very well educated and work as a professional – I work clsoely with physicians and other clinician and non-clinician leaders at an academic medical center on a daily basis. I have never cared if anyone else uses one space or two, and nobody has ever mentioned this to me. I doubt anyone notices. So sure, maybe in the publishing and design worlds, there are standards: follow them, by all means. But folks in those realms should not be so insular and smug as to insist that all their rules apply to us commoners who have more important decisions than how many spaces to use after a sentence – like, “which antibiotic to use for this case of community-acquired pneumonia?”
I have long observed that the best comedians are the ones who are funny without frequent use of the f-word, and without putting other people down as a way to get their laughs. I think you are on the right track with your determination that the tone of your first post was overwrought and hurtful, and your decision to choose differently in the future. Thanks for the transparency: it is a valuable lesson in itself.
Thank you. I’m really glad you took the time to comment, Jen, and I appreciate your input on this one. You’re right about it mattering more to designers — that’s who I learned the one-space thing from — and if this has taught me anything, it’s that in the grand scheme of things, I no longer care a bit when I see two spaces. It used to bother me, but it no longer does.
JENR, if your partner is an expert in the writing field and you are not, then why is there even a disagreement over this? Listen to the knowledge person!
It should be noted that doctors and random professionals are not experts in writing, either. What they do or do not do is irrelevant. Do NOT go to them for writing advice. In fact, run the other way: doctors have a reputation for being absolutely horrible at this topic.
Also, doctors are more capable than you give them credit for. If they couldn’t spare the decision-making power for period spacing, then they couldn’t spare the decision-making power for dressing themselves in the morning, either. Now, doctors might not care about punctuation, but that doesn’t undermine Jennifer’s original point, nor does it indicate that the original post was overwrought or unfunny.
The whole point is do what you want. It is personal or industry specific preference. She is right for her purpose and he is right for his purpose.
Ah, you might want to know that web browsers ignore double-spaces and only include one space, so we actually couldn’t see you using double-spaces. Just some food for thought.
OK, that’s funny. No, not funny: ironic. The software converted my two spaces between sentences down to one. I guess the style nazis won 🙂
Jen, every time someone comments on these posts who is a double-spacer, I kind of cringe inside as I look at their comment behind the scenes, because I know that their double spaces will in fact disappear. So funny that you noticed! I would say ironic yes, and funny too. Have a good night!
One more twist… People apply for jobs electronically all the time. Without meeting someone in person, you really have very little to go on besides what year they graduated and work experience to figure out how old they are. In a competitive job market, without being able to discriminate for “age”, this could be the deciding factor between 2 finalists for a position. One may seem more progressive, young or just up to date with current teachings and an employer in a tight situation could see it as being significant. Just a thought…
That’s an excellent point! Thanks for bringing that up.
If someone decides whether or not to hire me based on how many spaces are used at the end of a sentence in my resume, I’d rather not work there.
I am not only over 40, but now I am over 50. I am not a teacher, but I do apply for jobs electronically. I wear my age proudly and list my graduation dates along with the dates of my previous employment. If I am judged solely on my age (as calculated by graduation dates and double spacing after a period) then that is a truly disappointing statement about today’s society for then we are just looking at the surface without becoming the “critical thinkers” education encourages. It is true — 50 is not the new 25. And my experience coupled with my energy, my expertise, and my outlook make me an excellent candidate often overlooked. But if a school or any other company overlook a candidate based on age, that company or school is perpetually short sighted and will never produce maximum results.
Quite right, Sbardash. But the company can produce sufficient short term results so as to not notice their short-sightedness, and so they wont change. Meanwhile, you wont have gotten the job.
The thing about writing is that it’s a bit like a mind control device: it only works if it makes the reader feel the way that you want them to feel. If you are applying to a job and your writing makes them feel that you are out of touch with the world, then the onus is on you to fix your writing so that the reader will instead feel that you’re an asset to the company. It is the duty of the communicator, not the communicatee, to ensure that the message is on target.
So, is there a new rule that only certain contracted words no longer use an apostrophe? I noticed the word wont didn’t contain an apostrophe in the above post in either of it’s locations; but, it’s and you’re both have one.
Wont doesn’t always need an apostrophe because it is not always a contraction. If it is short for “will not” then it needs an apostrophe. However, there is an English word “wont” which means habitual custom so it won’t get flagged by spelling checkers.
But it may not even be active ageism. A lot of HR departments, especially at big companies, use Special software to pare down hundreds of resumes and they filter out resumes with spelling and grammar errors. Do I know for sure that double spacing is considered one of those errors? No, but if it is then it’s hurting you and no one realizes it.
So that you won’t bank on the spaces issue on your resume: those companies that mechanically filter resumes begin with keywords, s don’t look at sentence structure. The applications that filter resumes don’t care. :-) If you’re applying for a job, read the ad. Circle the keywords. If you have the relevant experience, show that by including those keywords. Spelling is important, because a misspelled skill won’t be caught by the filter.
Oops! I am 70, so my fingers don’t always strike the keys hard enough. That dangling “s” above should be “so”. 🙂
That is good advice.
Jennifer, this is an amazing and wonderfully brave piece of writing. Full kudos to you for having run those thoughts and then writing about your updated views in that way. Rare self-evolution and humility. Congratulations to you for the accomplishment and thank you for being the role model.
What I have to say about the topic of spaces is nothing. I went to the considerable trouble of registering for your website, which otherwise has no special interest to me, for the sole purpose of writing this small thanks and recognition to you. I hope you frame it, or eat it for breakfast, or whatever buffs you up in the morning.
Hello Alistair. Simply reading this has buffed me up considerably for the day. Hope yours is good, too. Thanks for making the Internet a better place.
Jennifer, you’ve taught people more than you can ever know with this post. You didn’t have to write it and you didn’t have to write it with so much heart and reflection. This is a model of gaining insight, practicing humility, and self-transformation. With your permission, I would love to refer to this in my trainings to eliminate bias and promote social justice. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, so that you can ask any questions you may have and so I can explain how I’d use this as an example of learning about ageism. I’m proud of and inspired by you, lady! You taught me what I can do better in many situations and you did it with grace and thoughtfulness. I look forward to hearing from you.
Hi Erica! Wow, you just made my day. You absolutely have my permission to use it! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, and have a wonderful day.
Well, Totheralistair, your comment made me do the same thing – set up this account just to reply. Perfect response and I agree with you 100%. Thank you for so thoughtfully affirming Jennifer’s follow up. I too appreciate you being on the interwebs 🙂
Thanks for owning it! I have discussions all the time with my 15-year-old about how it is not okay to snark at old people like her loving 49-year-old mama. Hurt hurts. Nice catch!
If it isn’t okay to snark old people, then it isn’t okay to snark young people, either. “Hurt hurts” regardless of age. The rub, of course, being that it is okay to snark people, in the right context.
I don’t think you need to apologize to anyone. It’s your blog. Say what you want! I will say, however, that I find it interesting you are sticking to your guns. You said in this post that the people who responded to you were not aware that the ‘practice has changed’. As if the people disagreeing with you just aren’t aware that they’re wrong! It appears that you still stand by the idea that one space is correct. Many people gave evidence as to why two spaces is still correct. You may find a few places that seem to approve of one space but over all I do not agree that the “practice” has changed. I’m quite curious as to why you still think it has. Regardless, great blog!
Well, I guess where I am now is I understand that there are two schools of thought on the issue. I would have to re-read all the comments to be sure, but it seems that most people who disagreed maintained two spaces as a stylistic choice, for what they felt was better legibility, and not due to a lack of awareness. The huge reaction to the post surprised me (and continues to surprise me, as 35,000 people have visited the site just today!) because I really thought people just didn’t know. I am definitely still sticking with one space personally because at this point, two spaces just looks wrong to me, and plenty of people in graphic design and publishing have given me a thumbs up. But my position has definitely altered from “this is the rule now” to “people feel VERY strongly about this issue, one way or the other, and it’s definitely not important enough to get ugly about.”
I’m glad you like the blog. Are you in education, by any chance?
I had my secretary tell me this morning that two spaces is correct, not one. I informed her that the “old” way is to include two spaces, but that APA recommends one. However, before I became too adamant on my response, I wanted to do some research. I found that in 2010 (after I completed by dissertation) the APA style manual went BACK to recommending two spaces. I’ve found APA sixth edition recommends two spaces while Typography 2003, US Government Printing Office and Chicago Manual of Style recommends one. My new thought is that consistency within a body of work, whether it be one space or two, should be the benchmark….now back to more important things like coma splices.
I’m a professional writer, editor and writing instructor in my sixties. Of course I learned the two-space rule when I learned to type, but when computers came out, I learned that one space was now sufficient after any punctuation, as the word processing software automatically inserts the correct amount of space after it. So, if you hit the space bar twice, you are actually putting twice as much space as there should be after that period.
I don’t remember who taught me the new rule, but I was able to make the shift without too much trouble, and it has been reinforced through several decades of working with professional typesetters and graphic designers. As a professional writer and editor, I got used to using one space a long time ago.
Obviously, the new rule has not been universally adopted in corporate or academic writing, but it has in professional publishing. Who makes these rules? Professionals who lay out published material follow style manuals – whether Associated Press Manual of Style, University of Chicago Manual of Style, APA, MLA, or others. All of these support the one-space rule.
When I am editing something that is going to be published, I automatically correct this. Any good graphic designer or typesetter would do the same. On the other hand, if an individual or an office or a school prefers to stick with two spaces, again, it’s not a crime. It’s just not standard in publishing any more, and has not been for a long, long time.
But it’s really not a question of age; it’s a question of how things are learned. I believe the two-space rule has been passed down from generation to generation – including generations of teachers, probably. As a teacher, I do instruct my students on it, but I usually have so many more serious errors to combat, that I probably don’t focus on it all that much. We all just do our best.
Of course I learned the two-space rule when I learned to type, but when computers came out, I learned that one space was now sufficient after any punctuation, as the word processing software automatically inserts the correct amount of space after it.
tl;dr: Software should handle this automatically.
I’m a computer scientist, not an editor or a writer. (I have written a book, though, and more recently an essay in the New York Times.) I’m a two-spacer. Why? Mainly for my own convenience. When I’m editing a piece of my own writing, I’ll sometimes want to move the cursor in my text editing software forward or backward by exactly one sentence, and I can do that with a single-keystroke command–the software can’t comprehend a sentence or distinguish the period of a “Mr. So and so” from the period at the end of a sentence, but it can find a period followed by two spaces. Another single-keystroke command lets me delete a sentence, again because the system knows how to find the beginnings and endings of sentences.
SCWV’s comment is exactly on the mark, that a computer can adjust the width of a single space after a period so that it looks right. That’s a typesetting issue that experts have worked on, and I’m perfectly happy with their solution. Oddly, though, very few people ask a follow-on question: If a computer can automatically adjust a single space after a period at the end of a sentence to look right, why can’t it adjust two spaces to look right? The answer, of course, is that it can, very easily.
To drive this point home, I’ll offer another example: Have you ever wondered why some Web sites insist that you enter your credit card number without spaces between groups of four numbers? (Annoyingly, sometimes these Web sites add, “exactly as it appears on your card,” even though there are spaces on everyone’s card!) Of course, it’s not a Web site doing the insisting, it’s whoever designed the software. If we get mad at a Web site for increasing the chance that we’ll mistype and then not detect an error in our credit card number, that’s the wrong target–it’s the software designer or programmer who’s the real culprit.
The one-space-or-two issue leads to a lot of discussion, I suppose because it’s a habit we learn relatively early in life; maybe it’s a shock to be told that something you’re doing, even something trivial, is “wrong”. It surely can’t be that so many people consider themselves experts in computer-based typesetting. But that’s exactly where the solution is! Blame the people who write the software you’re using, whether it’s Microsoft Word or a blogging platform. Point them to Facebook, which automatically takes out double spaces, or to the rendering engines of Web browsers, which ignore excess white space when they’re displaying text. Good software should do the right thing, and software designers should not ask real human beings to perform tedious, repetitive tasks that the software could do instead.
Okay, so I have to say that I am only over 30 and I totally related to the original post. I teach college students and in the past, when I would demonstrate (by example) how to set up research papers and other assignments, I would be shocked when they found my double spacing tendencies strange. “What?” I gasped, “You were taught that you only need ONE SPACE??” I took this revelation as my first sign of getting old, and honestly found it amusing.
Both of my degrees are in English and the latest was acquired about 5 years ago: not one of my professors expressed profound woe over my use or over abuse of the space bar.
I was very surprised to see this follow up post. Perhaps because I enjoy a good laugh and have a great appreciation for sarcasm, the ridiculous, and what you have here referred to as “snark.” I immediately pinned the article on Pinterest and reveled in the fact that I was not alone! I had someone to commiserate with! Someone who felt my pain! I thought it was just me all this time! And I’m closer to 30 than 40, so how is this an attack against age???
I feel sometimes that we just look for insults where there are none. What’s the big deal? It’s a blog, and it’s your right to make observations of whatever you please. Why do we take things so personally? You can hardly be in the field of education with such thin skin and exist without constant heartache.
I enjoyed your original article: I related to it and appreciated the camaraderie of it. 🙂
Thanks. The whole thing has been an interesting journey for me as a blogger and I continue to watch with curiosity as new people find it and add their thoughts. Thanks for sharing yours!
Hi, my name is Emily and I am a double-spacer. Oh yeah, I’m 34. I stumbled across your post on social media and your intent worked. I chuckled a bit, proudly. While I did not learn to type on a typewriter, I did begin typing at the age of 8 when I was in third grade. And I was a diligent student who took typing classes every year until I was 16. I am not a teacher. My degree is in business and I LOVE my job in retail management. Through my career path, I have ended up in a position where I am responsible for all internal communications and thus, spend a lot of time writing articles about my many awesome employees. This is the first time I have ever heard of the single-space rule. And to dilute your “theory” of the single-space rule, my smart phone will automatically end a line of typing by simply hitting the space bar twice. It will even include capitalize the first letter of the next word. My old habit will only die when I am six feet under. As for teaching my son, I will follow the rules of his instructor in typing class. She is under 40, with two children, and teaches the double-space. So, pour yourself a glass of wine, enjoy a few sips, and give yourself a pat on the back for beginning a conversation between educators, business professionals, and teachers alike. We may not agree at the moment, but let’s face it, millennials can be just as mean as the next blogger (they will just never admit it.) However, change does not happen without conversation first.
The conversation definitely seems to be happening! I feel like I have written about WAY more important things on this blog, but that spacing one is what gets all the action. Thanks for taking the time to comment — I just turned 45 the other day, by the way!
To note, while double-spacing will end a sentence in a text, most systems will add in a period and use only one space before autocapitalizing for the next word. Even smartphones are on the one-space bandwagon.
This is a great post. I read your post on 2 spaces and am struggling to stop doing it right now. I appreciated being informed. I’m 52, and yes I had started to notice this trend, but had no idea. (It was actually on my list of things to research at some point). While there is no need to beat up on yourself, you are spot on regarding the use of snark on the internet, and the attention it garners. I took in the lesson of the previous post, was not overly offended, or offended at all really. I do confess to feeling a bit of a “sting”, without any resentment. However, when I read this post, I was impressed by how you hit the right note. Thanks for classing up the internet.
This is a commendably gracious and forthright response to criticism of your original post on this topic. I’m deeply disappointed however, that you have used a word like ‘spazzing’. I have two brothers with intellectual disabilities and one of my earliest memories is of hearing local kids taunt them with pejorative words including the hateful “Spastic”, “Spazz”, or “Spazzo”. The UK-based cerebral palsy charity SCOPE, was originally founded as the Spastic Society. It changed its name some time ago, precisely because the word spastic had been hijacked as a term of derision. You seem like a nice person and I certainly applaud the aims of your blog and your courage in putting your thoughts out there. Using that word though, robs you of credibility.
Thank you for sharing this. I hope others read your comment so they can learn as well. In future, I will avoid using this word as long as I’m able to be conscious about it — old habits die hard, but knowing it is a hurtful word to some will certainly heighten my awareness.
I enjoyed the post (both), and the snark didn’t bother me. The other article you linked to from Farhad was a bit overbearing, but I gather the individual is quite passionate about typesetting.
Here is my basic reasoning. I am over 40, learned the double space rule too. I find it more readable as it offers a better and easier delineation for cadence of reading. That’s just my personal preference, so I’ll continue. It also allows me to type in cadence and form full thoughts.
Now, to offer something up more with a less personal explanation – and it probably ought to link to your thoughts about monotype – a fairly significant number of existing email systems still strip out formatting as emails roll from device to device type. Courier ironically is a common choice. Also, archival software systems often strip out formatting because formatting is temporary in our culture. Typesets are only relative to the system interpreting it, so many archival systems remove all formatting to protect the content for future consumption. I am not saying I like or favor these systems, but they certainly exist and probably always will.
So perhaps in the book/typesetting world, single space may make sense, but in the corporate world, if you want to space-proof (is that a thing?) your emails or documents, you would still need to double space. If that was a motivation for people. (not for me, i just like it as previously mentioned)
And then I might suggest, do we really need to remember who we are talking to (corporate vs social networking), or can’t we just double space for those of us who are still in systems that need it, and “all get along”? 😉
I love it when we all get along. I also love new terms: Thanks for inventing “space-proof”!
I love this post almost as much as I loved the original – and I am a 32 year-old double spacer (because I learned how to type from my parents in the late 80s!)
I both appreciate the intended humor in the original post, and the wisdom you have gained from it. True Humility is an important lesson for students AND teachers (even if those students are teachers too.)
I learned to type in high school on one of the first electric typewriters available. I’m a touch typist and still pretty darned fast (around 105 wpm when I’m concentrating, top speed of 135 wpm if I don’t correct errors). I embraced the “one space after a period” with open arms! That kicked up my typing speed a little, which was fine with me. I do think I’m officially old now (I just turned 61).
I got the humor in your original post, and while I wasn’t particularly offended by the “old” reference (since I already only use one space after punctuation) I do see where people could be upset by “old shaming”.
It’s a problem in society as a whole, and we may have to work on it, since people are living fairly long lives these days. I’ve seen young people discount my opinion because I have white hair. I’ve also seen some prejudice concerning my perceived intelligence because I’m overweight. (Bad mistake on their part … that white hair covers an IQ in the top 2%.)
I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t had to try to find another job after 50, but I’ve watched other people my age become demoralized.
Do you know what I think is the worst thing? It’s silly. Dumb, stupid and wasteful. There is such a wealth of information, differences in point of view and a fair amount of problem solving ability that companies lose by discounting older people in their hiring practices. I’ve watched older people being “let go” and then seen younger, less experienced (and presumably cheaper) people hired instead. And suddenly things just don’t seem to run quite as well as they used to. Duh.
At any rate, I enjoyed your blog and enjoyed your follow up even more. I’m glad you at least got a few more pennies from the lesson you managed to teach yourself. 🙂
I enjoyed your original post on this topic as well as your follow up. I think the important point here is that these are writing style rules, and subject to the whims of those who make the rules. According to one of the comments, they may have changed yet again. Additionally, writing styles vary depending on the industry in which you work and therefore we can’t apply MLA, APA, etc. rules universally. I work in an industry that continues to use fonts that are monospaced and have to use double spaces after punctuation. If I happen to be using a font that is proportionally spaced, then I do get a little more space after the punctuation, but that is better than switching to single spaced and not having enough space when using the monospaced fonts. I choose to take the more conservative route as it works in all scenarios.
Might I suggest that the next time a blog post of yours receives negative attention, you go to Amazon and look up your favorite book. I guarantee you that there will be 1-star reviews. If Tolkien, Homer, or Austin can have people who hate what they’ve written, what hope is there for the rest of us?
Regarding the title of the other post, I would contend that it is not actually ageist. To be fair, humor of this sort can be offensive: the basic formulation is that there is an us and them group, with the them-group often being the butt of the joke. Usually the formulation of the joke exaggerates the behavior of the them-group, or assigns offensive behaviors to that group. However, in this particular case, the humor isn’t coming from the identified them-group, but rather a third group that is acting like the them-group. Or in other words, it’s funny not because it is about 40 year olds, but because it is about people under 40 acting like them.
Allow me to illustrate through an example: if I said “nothing says American like Peanut butter and Jelly,” is that offensive? Well, no, in part because I am American myself, but also because of the audience I am talking to (also Americans, for the most part). But it also isn’t very funny. But what if I was saying that to a group of Scotsmen, many of whom liked to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? The humor in that situation would come from the Scotsmen, many of who would probably take umbrage at the implication that they were acting like Americans. The humor is that a group who doesn’t want to act like another group is being shown that they are in fact acting like that group.
So to tie this back to your joke, it is saying that people who learned to type 40 years ago type in the manner that they learned. That’s true, and not particularly in itself. But if you apply it to youngsters who are typing that way? That’s where you get the humor. Not because being old is bad, but because young people want to appear mature but not old. The joke is ribbing young people for not acting their age, not old people for acting old.
Okay, that’s more an a look into humor than most people would ever be willing to do (but humor is serious business!), but hopefully it will put you a little at ease knowing that your joke wasn’t ageist (or, at the very least, not ageist in the way that you were concerned).
The graphic itself was humorous in the means of over-exaggeration. This is a particularly nice form of humor because it doesn’t attack a real person, it doesn’t mean to attack a real person, and (most) people who see it understand this. It’s sort of like a parent reading a bedtime story to their children, and when they get to the part about an ogre, puff up their chest and try to talk in a booming voice. Exaggeration works because its play acting, and the humor is in everyone knowing it isn’t real but going along with it anyways.
As for double spacing after periods, well, single-spacers are clearly on the winning side of history, even if only type-settists and the sort care. The reason is Fiction: people emulate the style that they read. If books use a single space, then people will by and large use a single space, all else be damned. And of course publishers will use only a single space: Game of Thrones is wildly popular, but the book has roughly 280,000 words. At an average of 18 words per sentence, that’s about 15,555 sentences, and hence two vs one space after each will add that many characters A word has on average 5 characters. That means that if the publisher used two spaces after a period, they’d be adding roughly 3000 extra words, which translates into an extra 10ish pages. That’s a lot of wasted space. They’ll cut that extra space and pocket the savings, and in turn readers will see only one space, so they’ll in turn come to believe that one-space is how things should be done, so that’s how they’ll themselves write. The battle is won, as it were.
This article was shared on Facebook by a positive-reinforcement dog trainer. Her comment was: “Be careful what you write. It may be at the expense of others.” In my case I should have been careful what I said. I had spent pretty much my entire spring break grading first drafts of formal analysis papers by my introductory art history students, most of whom are graphic design majors. Most of the grading process involved performing CPR on the grammar and spelling. When I handed the papers back to the students, I got snarky. I told them the old joke about what question gets asked by the majority of B.F.A. grads. Not gonna repeat it here, but it involves french fries. I also explained that spell check will not correct contextual errors, and that should any of the students use the word “boarders” when he or she meant “borders,” or the word “pallet” when he or she meant “palette” that highly-anticipated post-grad job might go “poof” during the interview process. My department head told me to lay off the jokes, and that my students didn’t like my “tough love” approach. It wasn’t so much that he might not have used the same joke at some point in his teaching career, but that he was concerned that my end-of-year evaluation numbers might fall below a certain point, which would make it more difficult for him to keep on as an adjunct. So, message received loud and clear. Deep down, I’m not a snarky person. I hate snark. But, in positive-reinforcement lingo, I was over threshold. Too long a period of grading papers when I should have been enjoying my time off created a level of frustration which I could no longer contain. But I should have. If I had reflected for just a moment, I would have realized that probably no one has actually taught these students proper grammar. It’s still not my job, and I don’t get paid enough to do it, but as their teacher, I’m at least going to give them some pointers.
Thank you for sharing this story. I can tell we’re most definitely on the same page about this — funny how much there is to learn about teaching that has nothing, really, to do with teaching.
Hi Jennifer, I am coming late to the game on your viral post but I wanted to say that I think you must be a fantastic teacher and your students are lucky to have you. I have been a professional writer for half my life (I got my first job as a newspaper reporter at age 18), and I was taught the “two-space rule” even though we used computers. Our copyeditor was probably around 75 years old at the time (she was a wonderful woman who taught me so much about grammar!).
I’ve never been bothered by the “one-space-or-two” dilemma (although when I am editing someone else’s writing, I always remove the extra space, and I only ever use one space at the end of my sentences). I did not realize this was such a passionate subject–it reminds me of the debate about the Oxford comma (which I am very passionately in favor of!). What interests me is the level of (mostly) kind and adult discussion in the comments here, and that is why I say you are a fantastic teacher. Getting these kinds of discussions going (especially among adults) is what a good teacher does!
I personally did not find the first article offensive at all, I saw it as pretty tongue-in-cheek. (But, I am not over 40.) The fact that you read and responded your comments, and then wrote a follow-up blog to your original post shows how open to learning YOU are, which is an important quality for a teacher–and not all teachers share it.
I did not think the follow-up/apology post was necessary, but I have learned a lot in the comments so I am glad you wrote it! And I hope you will not take the mean comments that people write too personally. All press is good press, as my first editor told me when I received my first hateful “Letter to the Editor” (a.k.a. the original internet comments box?) about something I had written!
Keep on rocking, Ella
P.S., I also created a profile etc. specifically to comment here, and I do not usually leave comments anywhere!
P.P.S., Can we talk about the Oxford comma now??
Thanks for writing. I am finding that the comments section, on some posts, can be more instructive and interesting than the original post, and I continue to learn from engaging with readers in these comments. I also, clearly, had NO idea people felt so passionately about this issue! It has definitely been an adventure.
(p.s. Saw your follow-up comment and just went ahead and fixed it!)
(p.p.s. You keep on rocking too, girl!)
(p.p.p.s. I might just tackle the Oxford comma some day :))
I wonder if this is perhaps one of those things that are very different depending on the setting, for instance pedagogy vs. andragogy? The funny thing is, I am over 40, and hadn’t used a double space in ages. Why? Mostly because I work in the medical profession and in practice charting space was at a premium. No one knows how to use as little space as possible as nurses and doctors. *g* However, when I went back to school all of my courses very specifically stated that all papers were to be in .doc format in TNR 12 point, double spaced with two spaces after every sentence. This was also the requirement for all courses requiring APA style papers. Interestingly, although I have utilized three different universities in my studies, this rule held true at all of them. And of course many journals require formating for all submissions that includes two spaces. So perhaps this is less pedagogy vs. andragogy, and more academia vs. non-academia? Which would also explain some of the rather visceral reactions you received.
Definitely have discovered big differences depending on what industry people are coming from. Still, here’s the funny thing: You know where I learned that two spaces were no longer required? When I worked for a year as a copy editor for the New England Journal of Medicine.
Your original article was spot on and you did the world (or at least the teaching world) a favor by differentiating the concept of “typing” from “keyboarding.” It can be summed up as: double spacing = dinosaur.
I’m over 40 and was taught to double space on my typewriter. But today I use a keyboard and computer, which is programmed with proportional monospacing. This means I only need to space once after a period, exclamation point or question mark. Certainly, most of us who write (or teach writing) respect this rule, and I’m glad you are sharing the rule.
Well Jennifer, in your example (graphic), it should be a semicolon instead of a period anyway, which would negate the use of two spaces…. : )
First of all, I’d like to say that it’s very easy to slip into snark when one is trying to be witty, and I respect the introspective step back you’ve taken.
Personally, I don’t care if people use one space or two after a sentence-ending punctuation mark. I use two, because it’s a habit that was drilled into me. I don’t plan on making any particular effort to change for a couple reasons. Number one, I don’t think it particularly matters whether one uses a single or double space, so I really don’t care to put forth the effort to change a habit engrained in me when I was 12 (20 years ago. I’m not 40). Number two, and more importantly, APA still requires the use of a double space between sentences. Until that changes, I’ll not be changing my ways. APA is a PITA, but it’s required for all my masters classes, and all scholarly writing. Until APA changes, I think we need to continue to teach students that “correct” writing requires double spaces between sentences. It’s one less thing for them to worry about when they take a class (in any content area) from a professor who has literally memorized the entire APA manual and is an absolute stickler for Perfect APA Format. (GOD, this semester was a nightmare!!!) teaching kids not to use a double space between sentences sets them up to fail when they are required to use APA, and over something that doesn’t even matter.
Really good point. In just about any situation where a person might be judged on their use of spaces, the stickler professor scenario seems like it could have the most significant consequences!
I was trained to use two spaces in college (30 years ago, and yes we had computers then (and typewriters too). I was taught that when writing, the space was reduced to one space only in journalism and publishing because of print issues, i.e., space is precious and costly, and in a 200,000 word book, those spaces add up and could equal several pages in total, which adds up again for thousands of books. Even newspapers want to cram characters in. But the irony of this situation is that the “younger” generation is clamoring against two spaces when print is becoming less of a medium and “space” in the electronic realm is nearly free. Is it more of a lazy factor? All those extra finger motions we’re trying to avoid? I guess that does have a “cost” too!
For me, I prefer the two spaces because I just think it looks better. It separates the sentences better, visually. After all, a comma only has one space. A period should look different! It gives you a visual pause. A colon has two spaces…
Notice I typed this with only one space after the periods. I started writing a book a few years ago and have been slowly working on it….it was very difficult to switch from two spaces to one, and now I’m in that habit!
Teaching students without snark, yes. I had a professor tell me once that some students loved being put on the spot and thought it was funny when a teacher teased them. He added that there would be students in class, unable to focus, worried that you would tease them. You knew you would never tease them, but those students didn’t know that. He said to poke fun at none of them, and I agree.
Are your readers your students? Ageism aside, I think a degree of snark is ok in posts. Mean, not fine. Goofy (I normally make fun of myself), ok.
Right. Goofy: check. Self-deprecating: totally. Mean, not fine. I think those of us with a sarcastic and snarky nature have to be ever-conscious of where the line is…it moves around sometimes.
Because my main goal here is to help teachers do their work better, I do consider them, as a whole, to be “students” of mine. Sometimes that works in the reverse — I have really appreciated it when I post something that is based on inaccurate or incomplete information and a reader corrects me kindly, without making me feel like a tool. This is what that one reader did for me, by kindly pointing out my ageism. I think anytime someone is learning something new (and may be vulnerable due to that “not knowing” feeling), they are a student. A good teacher will never make them feel ignorant, out-of-touch, or incompetent.
Lovely follow-up, thank you. And if it helps at all, there IS a specific time when two spaces between sentences is correct: in screenwriting features for studios. The 12-pt courier is a monospace font, the format is “just so” and required because we roughly count screen minutes by the page of script. We count script pages by eighths. There’s an elaborate form-factor to screenplays (and others for sitcoms or stage plays), all grounded in practical reasons of long-ago jobs and obsolete technology.
None of the kids raised typing on glass or born with a go-pro in hand know anything about that — studio steno pool, anyone? — but it still counts. Thanks for your original post (which made me blanch because I know it’s true) and for your bigger lesson. Your students and readers are lucky to have you.
Addendum: I should’ve mentioned that the two-space rule WAS the format for screenplays. NOW the adults are desperate to use the one-space that the kids use so they don’t look aged out of the game.
But the three reasons it was standard in the first place was due to mono space typewriters, for the screen/page timing, and because the scripts were all retyped by the studio’s steno-pool into that studio’s particular favored form (from often hand-annotated mark-up pages of prior drafts from the writer’s secretary.)
Now, it seems to be just another sign of old age, even within screenplays.
(Looking forward to that time when devotees will pick it up again, in honor of their screenwriting heroes.)
TMI, I know. Also a sign of age~! 🙂
Hey GirlPie! Thanks for sharing this info. One thing I’m loving about the fallout from this post is how much I’m getting to learn about all the different spacing conventions in different industries. I’ve always had a lurker’s fascination with typography and design, so being able to gather all these bits of history is pretty cool.
You are being way too hard on yourself. I am a millenial. I am a software interface engineer. I found your site while researching a work-related problem that I currently face. When users input two spaces after a period, it causes a glitch in the software. Our users are mostly older, academic researchers. It all makes so much sense now. I kept wondering why the users would input two spaces after a period. They were complaining about some glitch each time they entered the two spaces. My entire job depends on understanding a software user’s perspective. This explains everything. Also, your previous post was not offensive. It was very light-heartedly funny. If people care THAT much to lash out negatively over that light hearted post, it means you’ve made it. Nevertheless, very thoughtful follow up post. To the negative commenters, they might benefit from more posts from you… teaching them how to adapt, or fall by the wayside. As a sotware engineer, I need to constantly learn new technologies or I’m a dinosaur, and if i don’t lock onto something solid, I’ll have to make a career change. Adapt or die. Don’t be mad at a blog! Just do what you need to do to keep current. If Jennifer can teach me something that I can apply to software, then she probably can teach you something about what you need to do. So, less negative energy, so that she can focus on her next, helpful post, rather than massaging wounded egos. ( I experienced 3 industry recessions and 3 subsequent career changes before I was 28 years old. Adapt. Adapt. Adapt.)
Hey there. Thanks for this — made me smile. And I’m thrilled that the first post actually helped a software engineer solve a problem!
Have a good day. 🙂
This was a wonderful post. I’ve had my own “Jim C.” who also helped me to watch my (non-inclusive) language and consider its effect on others. Thanks for sharing this.
Thank you. “Jim C”s are good to have around.
I saw a positive sharing of your post about two spaces between sentences, and I didn’t know the rule had changed, like many of your readers. (I’m 47, by the way). I am glad someone told me, but I didn’t find it snarky. Maybe I should reread it. I thought it was funny. Maybe I need to look at my own sense of humor for snark in essence. I watch a lot of stand-up comedy, and maybe I’ve learned some rude habits. Thanks for sharing your experience.
“Snark in essence” was supposed to be “snarkiness.” This modern technology can be snarky itself sometimes.
Thanks, Jennifer. I kind of liked “snark in essence.” Occasionally auto-correct produces some nice surprises.
I am over 40 and have experienced true ageism at the hands of corporate America. I am also generally one of those people who get annoyed at the “It was just a joke, lighten up” comments. That said, if someone is really getting worked up over “nothing says 40 like two spaces after a period!”, I think they could go find real things to get worked up over.
It’s been about 16 years now for me since a youngster mocked me for using two spaces after a period. At that time, it was “nothings says over 30 like two spaces after a period!” It took me a few months to change my habits, and now I wince when I see two spaces after a period.
Which is another point to be had here: If older people are concerned about how they’re seen because of their punctuation, they can change their punctuation. I’m unwilling to dye my hair to get rid of the gray. I can’t do much about the creases in my skin. But for goodness sake, I can stop with the second space, and so can anyone else.
Thanks, Paul. I enjoyed reading this.
Ever try reading a typed document by a 3rd grader? The Common Core push for PARCC testing is online and therefore now the push is on teaching first graders how to type. It’s a lot easier to see and read a sentence when there is a lot of space between sentences and 2 spaces fits the bill.
NEVER apologize to the internet or the commenters. I found the article spot on and the graphic was AWESOME. There is a prevalent sentiment these days that you should never say anything about anyone that might hurt their widdle feewings. And there are herds of what I call Feelings Trolls who scour the internet for any minute trace of snark or “meanness” – whatever that is. We live in a time where feelings overrule everything else: logic, opinion, fact, you name it. Your article was fine. Your opinion is fine. You can add a little snark and not be a horrible person. It’s a shame the trolls made you feel bad about a well written blog post. And it’s a shame that you let them bully you into an apology. NEVER apologize. It only encourages the Feelings Trolls.
Thanks for this, Angela. Since my website focuses so much on teaching, I wanted to turn that original post (which was pretty off-topic for me) into something that could be useful for teachers. I think the takeaway lesson is important, since so many of us do use sarcasm and humor in our teaching, and the defensiveness that this can cause in our students is ultimately not productive. It’s not meant to make people water down their message, but to use it with discretion, understanding the consequences. Still, thank you!
Seriously…people had a problem. I’m 46 and think this is hilarious. The fact that people are so easily offended by this to the point where it’s being call “ageism” astounds me. I’m floored. Great article. And I’m still using 2 spaces.
Ha! Nice one at the end there.
1. I thought the original article was informative. I’m 49 and have learned both ways to type, but never learned a reason for it.
2. I agree the tone was a bit snarky. Not over-the-top… certainly nothing I’d have felt an impulse to flame you about.
3. I think your willingness to acknowledge that publicly teaches an important lesson to the teachers you’re trying to reach. The teacher doesn’t have to pretend s/he is perfect. You won’t ruin a child’s education by admitting you were in error, or admitting that you were out-of-sorts and got crabby, or admitting that you had a lapse in judgment. On the contrary, you will teach the child responsibility and a crucial social skill – reconciling when one has given offense.
3. A far bigger error – one that I’ve never heard anyone other than myself object to – is the phrase “One of the only…”. Why can people not see how meaningless that phrase is? Why don’t English and composition teachers address this? It’s a mystery for the ages!!?! Okay – – I’m done ranting. 🙂
I’m 19, a college freshman, daughter of an English major/teacher, and totally clueless about double-spacing sentences. I guess I might have known that some people put two spaces, but never has anyone told me that they do so or that I should do so. Reading the comments, I understand how it helps readability to see extra space before a new idea. I would argue, though, that it depends on what you are used to reading. I read books religiously as a child, and the internet religiously as a young adult. I don’t need to see two spaces to know a new sentence is beginning. I discovered long ago that I recognize a sentence by capitalization of letters. When I read something with extra spaces, I get distracted. What I read seems choppy in my head because the next word isn’t where I expect it to be.
Maybe the rule isn’t so much defined by industry or tradition, but by audience? If I were formatting something for an audience that I think uses full sentences in a Google search, I would be much more likely to use two spaces. If I were writing to natives of the interwebs, I would not. When I am either surfing for information or for entertainment, I want my results to be concise and easily skimmable. Two spaces make something look longer, and I am automatically more likely to click away. By the time children of the internet are professionals, that extra space might be obsolete, just because it is rarely seen online.
Thank you so much for the reality check in this post! Not only for the great example you’ve set, but also because people sometimes forget that their comments actually might have an effect on a real person. We need more teachers who follow this blog. 🙂
An additional thought: another difference between the internet babies and the rest of the world is the sense of humor that many of us inherit from the internet and a certain thickness of skin. I can’t imagine that you would have seen much of anyone get defensive if you categorized a certain grammatical behaviour as teen-like.
I am 75 and learnt my skills in the late 1950’s
Returning back to work in the 1970’s, I retrained, as layout etc., had changed.
However, even now, in a world where abbreviation is king or should that be text speak? I still can’t unremember all that I learnt.
I am proud of my use of English, yes I am English, but you know what I mean.
I enjoyed your article, it actually made me smile and brought back many memories. Thank you.
Your article was well informed, substantively correct, and humorous even for those who were the rightful target. Anyone complaining about ageism, or any other ism, should go get their diapers changed. Do not change yourself to satisfy these people – they are never satisfied. They are the ones among us who are burning books one word at a time. I don’t hear any of them arguing on the substance. This is what these people do. When the apocalypse comes, they are the first ones we will eat. Probably the teachers second.
I learned the 2-space rule on a typewriter in high school and had to unlearn it about 4 years ago. Your post was not mean. The title and graphic were funny. I did not feel denigrated in any way. I am 59.
Thanks for helping out, outstanding information.
Completely OT at this point, but one comment from the original post mentioned that the APA recommends two spaces. That comment was incorrect. The APA recommends two spaces for //manuscript drafts// and one for published works. Anyway, I enjoyed the read of both posts and many of the comments.
Thank you! So many people didn’t read the whole APA recommendation. It is very clear two spaces for drafts to give more space, in the same way as you double-space drafts, one space for published work
I’m more than happy to find this great site. I wanted to thank you for ones time
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I am really late to this party but I found that your first post was very funny and the second thoughtful and gracious to those who took offense – I will be 50 this year. I learned to type in 1981 on an IBM Selectric with the interchangeable ball that was either pica or courier, pica thankyouverymuch.
One thing I remember being taught that I’m not sure is taught on the literature side of English classes was that pain + truth = humor. Humor, in all its forms, is commentary and like any type of commentary can range from being universal to subjective and in the latter case often only applies to the intended audience. I would assume that your target audience got the humor in your post as it was intended, which was probably why it went viral in the first place.
So let’s look at the truth + pain = humor of your previous post. The truth is that anyone who was taught to type was taught to use the double space after ending a sentence, the pain is that modern technology makes it unnecessary, the humor is that those who were taught tend to be older and somewhat set in our ways – thus becoming a stereotype. We all grow old, we all are going to fulfill some part of the stereotype that is attributed to old people and those changes surprisingly, more often than not, are unpleasant. So we can grumble, and be cranky about aging or we can make fun of it. Personally, I tend to make fun of it. If I can’t avoid becoming the little old blue-haired lady then dadgummit, I will embrace it by becoming the little old lady with the bright electric blue hair, hot pink hair, and shocking purple hair, who will continue to double space after ending sentences because the energy needed to relearn that habit is better spent on other things.
Now I am off to explore the rest of your blog.
I read about the 1-space change 20+ years; but it was changed for a different reason. It was changed by publishers to save money. Fewer spaces equated to fewer pages of paper and reduced printing costs. As you can see, I still prefer 2 spaces.
Resistance to change is really what dates people. I was taught the two space rule and unlearned it for efficiency. Computers have changed a lot of what I had practiced in school and I wouldn’t want to go back! Trying new things will keep me young, I hope!
You make such a good point, Kim. I couldn’t agree more. Thanks so much for sharing that!
I stumbled upon this post as I was trying to decide if I was “old” or “right.” I am at the office at 10 p.m. putting an additional space in between each and every sentence of a brief drafted by my intern. (Alas, he is off taking finals so I will not bother him with such tasks.) The reason I’m doing it is because I am in the field of law and at the state court level all documents are now filed with the court electronically. As we legal types are a little slow to adapt, I was concerned with two things: (1) the readability of the document on the screen as I was having trouble with my citations appearing to run into my sentences thus making a cluttered mess and (2) the expectations of the black robe who will be evaluating my work. I want to make sure that the 69 year old judge who will read this brief is not so annoyed with my presentation that he misses the message I am trying to convey. Attempting to bend my audience of one to the will of the people will not serve my client. So today, two spaces it is. Tomorrow, it could be one space but I’m going to have to teach my thumb a thing or two for that to happen. And, perhaps this even gives rise to a conversation with my intern about how we evaluate our audience especially as he learns to be responsible for his own clients. Thank you for your commitment to this year long discussion as I learned quite a lot. You are a wise, wise woman and we need more like you in our classrooms. Blessings to you.
FYI, I am over 40, hence, one of the “butts of the joke. I also was taught two spaces when I learned to type (on an actual typewriter). Know what I think about that snarky title? It’s funny! I converted to the single-space method some years ago, and never looked back. A Google search in the subject led me to your original article. I saw the title, I laughed, and that’s the one I clicked on first. So, it worked. Also, I’m kind of a fan of snark. 😉
I had shared your original post last night and today it became the topic amongst a cadre of teachers I was working with – some under and some over 40. I’m in the latter. I found enough humor in your post to “share” last evening, but I must admit, the age comment hurt a little bit. Thank you for your follow up (which I will also share!)
You apologized, but I notice you didn’t take down or change the original post. Dare I suggest that it’s because you couldn’t bear to lose the viral one at the expense of the more gracious one?
That’s certainly a possibility, Faith. Still, my main reason for keeping it up is that this post wouldn’t make as much sense without people being able to see the original as a point of reference.
Hey Jennifer. I did enjoy your original post. I was talking with a coworker, and it came up that I use 2 spaces. I’m actually 2 weeks less than 20 years old… so I’m not your “usual” two spacer.. I googled 2 spaces vs. 1 space, and had a real laugh when yours was the first to come up suggesting that I’m over double my age in my writing habits and exclaiming “For the love of all that is good and holy in this world, STOP DOING THIS”.
I’m the type of person.. who will make a joke about almost anything in the right context. But I’m also the type of person who can get away with doing so without offending people too much. Perfectly appealing to the mass audience will of course be impossible, but as long as you ensure you have good nature and make it clear you’re only teasing, don’t hold back from giving us a laugh here and there.
I’m sure most people read your article taking no offense, comments tend to bring out the passionate haters.
Anyway, I guess I just felt you were too hard on yourself. Just remember you made some laughs too, though I’m sure you’re at terms with everything.
P.S. I’m only now realizing that I two spaced this entire comment.
Jennifer, I thought your original post was well written and clever. What’s wrong with a little snark every once in a while? I am a freelance copyeditor and every one of my clients’ style guides specifies the use of one space between sentences. I just sent the link to your original post to a friend of mine because I thought she would get a kick out of it (she is trying hard to kick the two-space habit). What disturbed me most was the fact that so many people posted nasty comments. You didn’t commit a felony; you just suggested that it was time for people to abandon an old practice. If some professions still use two spaces between sentences, then so be it. But why do people have to be so mean? I read lots of blogs and I don’t think I have ever commented on a post before, but I felt as if I should tell you to cut yourself some slack. I hope you didn’t lose sleep over a few mean-spirited comments. Keep doing what you’re doing (and don’t apologize)!
P.S. I’m 48 (it took quite a while for me to kick the two-space habit!) and I wasn’t offended
Thanks, Lani! 🙂
And here it is 2 years later and people (me) are still discovering your post. I’m a tech writer and I sent a link to your post to many engineers in our company. Ironically, most of them are under 30, but were taught 2 spaces along with passive voice. It’s a battle my 47-year-old self fights every day. I loved your post because it explained what and why in a hurry using the perfect amount of humor. I didn’t feel like I was being made fun of. You were addressing your comments to those who learned on a typewriter. It just so happens that most of them are over 40. That’s a fact, not a stereotype. You’re a good writer and your posts help people. Thank you.
I’m over 40, but I somehow lost or never learned the two spaces after a period thing. In fact, I only ran into it about 5 years ago when I began doing freelance “secret shopper” reviews for a company that insisted on them.
As far as snark goes, I thought yours was really mild in the original “stop it” post on the subject. Far milder than I feel the urge to be when I encounter writing by those who fail to put ANY space at all after sentence-ending marks. And don’t even get me started on the impenetrable Wall-O-Text I’d love for a strongly worded post on those two horrors to go viral!
As far as I’m concerned, generally there’s no need for two spaces after the end mark, but I’ll take that any day over none.
What’s better than a good snark shared between friends?
Funny. I suspect that many (most?) of the “begging to stop” posts derive from exposure to one of the recurring outbreaks of Farhood Manjoo’s 2011 Slate rant on the topic. I only ran across it recently as a re-post on LinkedIn, and felt compelled to comment there, despite the somewhat Facebooky irrelevance it had on LI.
Just the tiniest bit of Googling reveals some very thoroughly (and, for the most part, calmly) articulated write-ups that call out Manjoo’s rant as being not merely incorrect in suggesting that a consensus exists among typographers, but historically inaccurate as well. Worthwhile reads for anyone who has taken the Slate piece (and its derivatives) at face value. One has the delightful title “Why two spaces after a period isn’t wrong (or, the lies typographers tell us about history)” and lives here:
http://www.heracliteanriver.com/?p=324 The second, titled simply “That Slate article” appears on a site devoted to the topic (wow), found here: http://widespacer.blogspot.com/2014/01/that-slate-article.html It starts off “That Slate article by Farhad Manjoo is insanely popular. It drives me nuts because it’s all lies and distortions.” Fun read.
Despite having learned to type as electrics made their way into schools, my own reasons for (adamantly) double-spacing between sentences stem from my attempt to accurately reflect speech when I type. To my reasoning and eye, using the same spacing between sentences as we do between words… visually abandons the ever-so-slight inter-sentence pause that we allow in (non-excited) speech. The visual result of single-spacing *looks* like someone just droning on and on and on and on… in an unbroken monotone. It *looks* the way computers sounded, in the early days of speech synthesis. Fortunately, computer-speech has gotten better at learning how to include the pause. Now if only typists/keyboards could learn the same lesson.
As an old fart with a decidedly strong sense of humor, I did find the original “For the love of…” illustration pretty funny, though I obviously feel differently about the sensibility of the case the subsequent write-up tries to make. And hey, it allowed tripping over this interesting education-oriented site I might otherwise never have seen.
p.s. Re the “How do you pronounce pedagogy” question: I try not to. That leading hard ‘g’ always makes me want to throw in a second. However, words like “trilogy” make me want to go soft with a preceding schwa sound, but that obviously fails. If threatened with torture (say, by having to eat natto ever again), I’d probably rhyme it with “stodgy”. (And… who on Earth pronounces it to rhyme with the word “emoji”???)
I rhyme it with “emoji,” I guess. When I first started this site, I went to several pronunciation websites to make sure I was saying it right. The “emoji” pronunciation seemed to be the most common, and the second was the one that rhymed with “dodgy,” so I picked the one that I liked more. That’s all.
(grimacing) …vile web-site, changing my beautifully two-spaced sentences to single-spaced abominations in that last comment… grrr…
🙂 Yep. It does that.
Well I’m 56, learned to type on a typewriter, and unlearned to double-space after periods. And I thought your post was hilarious. You can’t make all the people happy all the time, and you sure can’t make all the people laugh all the time these days.
Viva la Snark!
I get it. Nearly everyone uses digital typesetting, and modern fonts don’t require the extra space to segregate sentences. Now, slightly (only slightly!) off-topic: what about after colons and semicolons?
The rule was (and I think still is) one space after a semicolon and two after a colon. Apparently, in modern usage, it’s one space after either – and for the same reason as we’ve dropped the second space after a period.
Disclaimer: I’m not old, I’m only 57 – but I have no issue dropping excess spaces. I learned to type on a banger in the early 1970s; no Selectrics for me, it was an old Remington from the 1940s. I wrote every paper on that thing, even a couple of my first grad school pages. It NEEDED two spaces after periods. But as soon as style manuals started telling us to use one space, I did. No problem at all.
But it does still look odd… 😉
A little piece of humble pie is what we all needed. Thank you for reminding ME that the snark gets carried away even with best intentions.
Thank you for writing this follow-up. I really appreciate it.
In daily life, but even more on the internet, we are used to rudeness and arrogance, so it’s really refreshing to see a civilized person who has the guts and grace to admit she committed a faux-pas. Thanks again.
Please lighten up, everybody. There are more important things to be indignant and upset about. I’m 73, btw.
Jennifer, I know this is an older post (no criticism there LOL) but I just now came across this post. I’m knee-deep in Brene Brown and I have to say, though I haven’t read the ‘space after period’ post I’m most taken with how vulnerable and brave you were to reply with the message in this post. As teachers we MUST be open to catching ourselves when we act in a way that we later regret and rise above our previous faults. We are all human and your modeling of how to behave when we act so ‘human’ is commendable. Thank you for being authentic!
Jennifer, I agree with everyone else who says you’re being too hard on yourself. I didn’t think you were being snarky at all! And, FWIW, I too learned to type on a really awful old manual typewriter, way back in 1980 and I too was taught to double space after a *full stop* (How did a mere mark of punctuation ever get the blood-soaked name of ‘period’?!) . I had to hit the keys so hard it was more like a karate black belt doing finger-hardening practice and there was Tippex agogo by the time I’d finished. I’ll never forget the joy of being able to simply delete a wrong letter with a touch of the keyboard, when I got my Amstrad in 1986. (In contrast to the despair of losing an entire document because you’d forgotten to hit the Save button!). My touch-typing skills have proved far more lucrative than my MSc in Environmental Planning & Design! Finally, I must end with a snark of my own. I can’t stand the use of ‘impact’ as a verb. I regard it as Yank business bollocks-speak which, sadly, has become all too frequently mis-used in dear old Blighty too! Just say (and write) *affect*, why dontcha? 😉 PNB
I just stumbled across your original post when I was telling a coworker that he doesn’t need 2 spaces after a period and went to google to back it up with a link.
Then I saw this link at the bottom. I can’t believe you apologized. Shake the haters off! That original post wasn’t snarky unless you’re so thin skinned that you aren’t willing accept even the slightest bit of criticism. Give me a break.
I’m an author and I learned to type on an old NON-ELECTRIC typewriter…I still remember our school had ONE and we each got one turn on it!! It was a big deal.
So I learned the TWO SPACES after a period and years later when we got a computer and I sat down to write a book and sent it to publishers, agents, contests….one of the comments was STOP WITH THE TWO SPACES.
Well, that was HARD. It was a reflex by that point. So here’s the simple solution.
Use FIND AND REPLACE on your computer, it’s in MSWord and a box pops up when you hit Control F…then find a tiny arrow and use FIND AND REPLACE.
In the FIND box hit the space bar TWICE
In the REPLACE box hit the space bar ONCE.
Then do REPLACE ALL.
BAM all your double white spaces are fixed. I advise you to do the FIND AND REPLACE TWICE because sometimes you’ve actually left THREE spaces and this will fix that.
I am much better now, I’ve finally converted to one space after a period/question mark/exclamation mark. But I still do it enough that I always run this FIND AND REPLACE on each document.
Yes! I always use Find and Replace when I’m editing something that someone else wrote. It’s marvelous!!
I am over 40. I’m over 50 as well. I did not take offense, nor did I find it ageist when I read your article. I actually laughed (I loved the title) and since I was trying to educate 2 IT people, over the age of 40, that 2 spaces after a period was wrong and why, it fit. I, too, had the “2-space” rule drilled into my head when I took typing in high school (also agree that it was the best class I took for my future career) and I had a difficult time “unlearning” the rote of my thumb hitting the space bar twice. But I did it. And we all need to do it. I do appreciate you re-assessing yourself, but I myself did not see the snark nor take it in an offensive way.
I loved your tone, and I’m 60! You weren’t mean, you were direct and a little funny. I used to take pride in myself for never missing the extra space when I typed. Of course, I also prided myself on how fast I could change the clunky spools of ribbon.
I proofread these days, and the period double space is still awfully common … I suppose it will remain so until all of us oldsters are too old to type.
It’s the dream of a lot of bloggers to go viral and you’ve seen the ridiculous lengths some people go to achieve that. You’ve gotten there with being a grammar nerd who got edgy in a good way that grabbed people. Not a bad way to get attention. I’m still trying to figure out a way to promote myself with my last name of Trump in a way that avoids negative associations. Trying to be funny while still presenting as a professional is a trick!
This cracked me up, Richard. Thanks so much for taking the time to write! 🙂
I was shown your post when I shared something on Facebook asking when this whole double space thing changed. Admittedly, I didn’t read all these comments, so I apologize if this has been said already, but I can’t help but wonder what problem removing it was trying to solve. And instead of solving a problem, it has actually created one. These days your phone, tablet, and computer all take the guess work out of typing. You don’t have to spell correctly, auto correct will handle it. You don’t have to capitalize the first word in a new sentence, auto capitalization will handle it. But with all this fancy tech, I ask you, have you ever tried to insert an abbreviated word into the middle of a sentence? If you do you’ll quickly see the problem with only using a single space. How is a computer supposed to know the difference between a new sentence and an inline abbreviation? It can’t! I’m writing this right now using my phone and the Swype keyboard, and if I were to tell you I live on Market St. It’s gonna… Damnit, see, it just did it! My phone can’t know I didn’t end a sentence because of the stupid single space rule. I have yet to read a single good reason for dropping it, and there’s at least one good reason for keeping it.
Anyhow, thanks for reading this if you do and I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Hi Brian! This made me laugh. I see what you mean. I don’t really have anything more to add, but yes, I have had that same frustration!
Hi Jen! I revisited this post after you Tweeted it. I LOVE snark, and I often get in trouble because I use it too much. It really is a great modern rhetorical device if your goal is to make your point memorable. The downside to snark is today’s hypersensitivity and the trend to get triggered by everything.
Many of my colleagues ask me to review their writing because they trust my grammar skills, and they like my suggestions about organization and clarity. One of the things I do is a quick search-and-replace changing all the double spaces to single spaces. I don’t say anything; I just do it. Very subversive. Sometimes Ts notice, and we always have a good laugh.
Thanks for all you do! Thanks for being you!! Thanks for changing all my double spaces in this comment to single spaces!!!
Thanks for the articles. I, too, took typing on an actual typewriter in high school and learned the double-space rule. I am back in college after the “big gap” of raising children (and with a toddler, I am still not even done with that!) and I encountered an admonition not to use two spaces after a period. I even read that this practice can be devastating on one’s resumé, as it reveals the applicant’s age.
I was very appreciative of the advice, and sympathetic with the observations. Snark has become the standard form of communication nowadays. I am sure that most people who receive their opinions from late night talk shows know of no better ways to advance their opinions. It’s nice to see humility, though.
I have many students who are in the 11 to 13 age bracket. Many do not space at all after end punctuation. I wonder why this is, and if training them to double space could help them to remember they need a space: a kinesthetic mnemonic if you will.
I heard about the “not using the double space these days” thing just the other day so I had to look it up and found your article. I’m over 50 and changing my spacing habits. And I wasn’t insulted in the least. Maybe when I’m 150 and can’t tap a keyboard then it will bother me.
I’m also in my first year of teaching English 10th and 11th grade in a NYC public school. There’s only a month or so left. I think I’m going to make it. I truly didn’t think I would in the first few months. Probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I’m 53. I’ll take a look at your website now that I’ve found it (that body language one looks informative). I can surely learn a thing or two more about teaching.
I see you’re over it now, but I still want to say, ‘don’t worry about what “they” all say out there in internet land’.
And now this:- A “scientific” study claiming 2 spaces are better –
and then, the rejoinder- No, they are not–
I thought I would show my students how they didn’t follow directions by giving them one of those worksheets where the final direction is “don’t do any of this and just write your name.” I THOUGHT they would think it was funny at the end but I had a surprising number of 5th graders who couldn’t believe that I had tricked them. They said, “Why would you do that to us?” It was a punch in the gut and I won’t do that again. I’ve worked so hard to be less snarky or sarcastic, but doing that was the most snarky thing I think I’ve done.
Never take twitter or facebook seriously. They are rage machines. They work by allowing people to find a problem with anything so they can become enraged. It is so easy to sit on your couch and give someone a tongue lashing then to actually do something with your life. I don’t know if you noticed but I started with one space after my first period and I kept adding a space after every other sentence. This one has 5 spaces! Anyway, people are too sensitive these days.
I just wanted to let you know that I am in my 30’s, and that is the way I was taught to type, so it’s not just the “older” generations.
I know it’s been while since your original post, but I do not feel like your post was mean in away, so don’t take comments too hard.
As an almost 50-year-old guy (who is now very self-conscious about my typing) I agree you’re being way too hard on yourself. I learned the two space rule many years ago and I like the way it looks – perhaps because I’m accustomed to it.
I went to a lecture by a grammarian and he told us that a challenge with rules and grammar is that the English language (or at least the American version of it) is descriptive, not prescriptive – there is no one authoritative standards body, it’s based on what is widely accepted.
I am grateful for knowing the new rule, but I’m gonna keep using two spaces and never use “backwards” or “forwards.” I am almost 50 and I enjoy being stuck in my ways. The thing I’m most grateful for, however, is now I understand why, when I cut and paste a sentence with two spaces after the period, it gets inserted with only one. Keep up the great work!
I’m glad you wrote this post because I was pretty pissed off with your preceding one. And, honestly, some people’s comments here ticked me off as well. I knew I shouldn’t have read them, but I did and now I’m paying the price. Because I was offended by your previous post, according to them, I’m just hyper sensitive and I need to get over it.
Well, that’s extremely insulting too.
It’s true, I’m a person who will silently accuse other people of being too sensitive, so I shouldn’t be the one to throw stones. However, 1) I’m silent about it, and 2) I don’t think it takes an overly sensitive person to be offended by that post. I’m not hyper sensitive. The post itself was written in a very rude manner. There are polite ways the 1-space vs 2-space rules could have been given, but being snarky is not one of them. It’s alienating. I’m only 36 years old, and I was taught the 2-space rule. No one has ever taught me differently, though I have seen people using 1-space. I always thought they were wrong or that it was a style the publisher was going for.
While I feel better now after this post, after your last post, I still feel pretty defensive and extremely reluctant to change my habits. Teenage rebellion, ya know? The pissed side of me is still thinking, “Because you were rude about it, I want to do the opposite even if it’s wrong. And if that makes me look like an ignorant old fogie who can’t keep up with the times, then so be it. At least the older people I know are polite.”
That’s the angry side of me. The more understanding and accepting side of me is nodding and thinking, “When the time is right, and I have accepted that this rule is now standard, I will change. Until then, I can’t, but I know I will in the future.”
Jennifer, I completely disagree with you. If 1 space is truly the new rule, it shouldn’t be. Writing, like all communication, should strive to be as clear as possible. Although 1 space is readable, 2 spaces makes separation of sentences a little clearer. Why not eliminate any space at all after commas,semicolons,colons & the like. That’s readable too. Also, writing is supposed to mimic speech. 2 spaces indicates a longer pause between sentences. The way a person talks if they want to be clear & easy to understand. I also don’t understand what adjusted spacing vs. equal spacing of characters has to do with it.
1 more thing I forgot to mention. If you don’t use 2 spaces between sentences, how do you differentiate from a period used in the middle of a sentence, like after an abbreviation?
December 8, 2018
Dear Miss Jennifer,
I am late to this party, but I have very decided opinions in response to your first and second articles about the correct number of spaces after end punctuation when typing, or as the cool kids say, keyboarding.
1. Your first article was not funny. That is my opinion and not necessarily a fact.
2. I was born in 1939 (now 79 years old) and had one semester of typing class. That was back in 1956, most likely long before you were born. Not saying I’m smarter than you or know more about typing and best practices thereof, but I do have a lot more years and experiences than you.
3. We were taught not to look at the keys, to keep our fingers poised on or above the base row – asdf, etc., and to single-space between words and double-space between sentences..
4. I do not care about fonts, kerning, the differences between “old-fashioned” typewriters and modern computers. I do care and object when some diabolical software program changes my double-spaces into single-spaces.
5. I care about READABILITY. A thousand-word essay packed (by that infernal programming) into as small and tight a space as possible does not make for easy readability. White space is needed to make the words stand out singly, not smashed up against each other. Where does the white space come from? It comes from good contrast between text and page or text and screen, wide margins, a skipped line between paragraphs, and double spaces between sentences.
6. When the practices in paragraph 5 above are not followed, I have difficulty reading text. I keep a magnifying glass close at hand; it works well both with paper and ink text and onscreen text. But it requires me to let go of the mouse or take one hand off the keyboard. That’s a tiny annoyance that becomes magnified (joke!) many times daily because some yahoo said, “Let’s make this gizmo shorten all the double-spaces to single-spaces. Think how much more text we can squeeze into the allotted space.”
Very interesting, and these articles are still generating traffic four years later. I am not over 40 but began keyboarding class in highschool with some fancy electric typewriters and an 80 year old teacher. Those double spaces were definitely drilled in after each full stop along with the term ‘lazy hands’ (resting your wrists) which causes carpal tunnel in many today. Needless to say our beloved typing teacher retired the following year and the fancy typewriters were replaced with ancient computers only useful for keyboarding class.
Your articles were very amusing and educational, I’m not sure if that is because I consider myself old despite being young or because I enjoy snark. After reading the comment regarding AP format does that mean the double space is okay to use? I quite like my double space but understand that needs and times change. Thanks for the update.
I’m well over sixty. I come from the days when all my assignments were handwritten and had left education about a decade before I had access to a PC for the first time. As a result of this, I totally missed the instruction to double space periods and have never done so. I’m so old, I’m back in fashion.
I appreciated both of your articles. I am an incorrigible 2-spacer; beat into me during high school typing. I am also over forty and a special education teacher. My superintendent just informed me that I have been using 2-spaces incorrectly, so I did an indignant google search of the end mark grammar rule. It was your article’s title that drew my attention. I did not feel that you were coming off as sincerely scolding (compared to some of the articles that you had linked), but as mock overbearing or tongue in cheek snarky. I liked your second article because it shows that you have moral character. It is a great thing to accept responsibility for the fact that something that we say or do can have unforeseen negative impact and to apologize and make some form of restorative amend. Thank you for both articles.
Thanks, Jacob! I’ll be sure to pass this along to Jenn.
Totally late to this party. Just goes to show how powerful your first post was. It was the first link in Google when searching “how many spaces after a period.”
I didn’t bother to read all the comments. But if people were giving you a hard time over that first article (yes, even the nice Mr. Jim C), they really need to chill out (and yes, I’m sure that is insensitive. Whatever).
I’m 50, thought it was funny, and totally got why you said “I’m 40 too.”
The truth is, no matter how “nice” you try to put something, any kind of humor based in snark or sarcasm is going to rub some percentage of the public the wrong way. That’s just the nature of humans. At some point, you just gotta ignore it all. The good and the bad. We put way too much importance in what other people think of us vs. just sticking to what we feel is right.
And I’m not saying NEVER listen to feedback you get. If the overwhelming amount of feedback you got was criticism, that would be one thing. But based on the virality of the article and the number of “Likes,” etc, I think most people got what you were saying and enjoyed it.
Geeze, think about how boring this world would be if we never had jokes and comedians that poked fun at things. No Steve Martin. No Eddie Murphy (back when he was really funny). No Lucille Ball. No Rodney Dangerfield. No Judd Apatow. I could go on.
I have no idea if Jim C’s comment totally turned you off from Snark. And I’m not a teacher, so your blog is probably not something I’d read normally. But I hope you didn’t totally give up adding the snark every now and then.
Keep up the great work!
Hey Ron, thanks so much for taking the time to share!
Hi Ms. Jennifer. I, like some of the other “posters” was doing some research on spacing after puncuation when I found your original post. That it was met with any kind of negative feelings was a complete surprise to me! I instantly recognize someone who has a wonderful sense of humor as well as intelligence. I absolutely appreciate the jobs that you and all teachers perform day in and day out. I am over 50, but who is counting? I have gone back to school and was taking a required keyboarding class when I was first admonished for the having the nerve to double space at the end of my sentence. I learned that this was not the norm, so I adjusted. As long as I can know why something has changed and see the reasons behind the change, I am good. Thank you so much for your post and being a wonderfully positive influence on children today.
Thanks so much, Teri! I’ll make sure Jenn sees this!
I haven’t stopped thinking about Jim’s comment either! Jim C said he took issue with THREE things about your post. The suspense for the other two issues continues to tax me all these years later.
YES!! That is exactly what I came here to say! What were Jim’s other two points? That you left us hanging is the only maddening thing for me in all you’ve written. 😉
I’m a professional editor. I have to remove the double space every day–it wastes my professional time, actually. Even when you tell someone it’s not needed, they don’t listen. Forget all the sensitive/offended comments–YOUR POST WAS RIGHT. They have probably never edited copy for a living.
These people need to get over themselves, sometimes people can’t stand being criticised and become defensive, it would be beneficial for them to put their egos aside and realise that the world has changed an conventions useful in the past may not be relevant anymore. “Ageism”? Seriously?
As for the two spaces; you’ll note that all the extra spaces I put in this posted are collapse to one space. This is the default and norm for HTML. QED?
It is great to know that my habit of double space between sentence is no longer appropriate. Thank you. But now comes the hard part, how do I change all of my Word manuscripts without doing it one sentence at a time? The help in Word made a total mess of things when I tried to do a mass change.
Hey Jim, check out this article: How to Quickly Remove Double Spaces in Word. If you want to change your Word manuscripts to have single spaces after periods, this should do the trick. Or you might consider adopting the single space going forward, and leaving your older works as is, with the traditional double space. I don’t think you necessarily have to go back and change everything you’ve written in the past, unless of course that’s what you want to do. Just a thought!
I’m glad I saw this article. The last one was very off putting, for sure. I’m 31, intelligent and technologically savvy. I’d never heard of the new 1 space rule. In elementary school, middle school, high school and college the 2 space was enforced and listed as a requirement on all papers submitted. College, by the way, was a mere 4 years ago. I felt insulted by the title, honestly. Like there was something wrong with me because I hadn’t heard of this new thing. It is a new thing for a lot of people, so I don’t think it was right to treat people like they are old dinosaurs for doing something they were taught to do and had no idea they were supposed to stop. Judging by the tone of this article, you know that now. Thank you for your humility in this article, we all stick our feet in our mouth from time to time, I just feel bad for you that your instance went viral! Good luck on future endeavors!
I can’t believe that people are still arguing for double spaces, especially if they claim to be writers. I’m a professional editor, an English tutor, and a writer (represented by a literary agency), who runs a blog of writing & editing tips to help writers. http://www.sirragirl.blogspot.com When I have enough short tips I’ve tweeted, I put them together and post it on my blog.
This topic was one of three that got a lot of attention. The other two were: “Don’t say fiction novels; it’s like saying female woman.” and “Edward (from Twilight) has piercing blue eyes, likes to stalk, and is really old. Wait. He’s Gollum!”
Needless to say, I got attacked by the stubborn, not-so-smart, and vampire-wannabes. Sometimes, you can’t teach them all. As you would do with an old, suffering animal, take it out and put it out of its misery. The end.
Ok, so I’m under 40, and I was taught in school on computer word processors to use 2 spaces, and if you didn’t the spell check on the computer would make you correct it. If the practice has changed, then so be it, but who has decided it’s changed?Is this an official change, or is simply just the opinion of many people?And yes, I used 0 spaces here as a compromise.
Brava for your humility. That is a virtue that far surpasses snark.
It isn’t whether you never make a mistake, but whether you learn from them when you do make them. That takes far more courage.
Your follow-up post is my current favorite internet read. To me it matters less whether you were right or wrong in the content and time of your first post, or right or wrong in apologising and adjusting your tone. What matters most to me is that you allowed a clever, funny post to turn into a bit of a conversation. You listened and heard and interacted and adjusted. You didn’t flay yourself as if you’d committed a great evil. You didn’t take back your original point. You listened and adjusted. Thank you.
I’m saddened by people who make things personal, who respond to your point, not by disagreeing with you but by assuming and stating things about you. But I’m also saddened by the return comments people make that the problem is hyper sensitivity and snowflakeness. I really appreciate how you mostly accept those types of blanket negative responses, feel the impact of them, but then go right to the heart of connection with the disagreements that made space for a conversation to happen, and then had that conversation.
Thank you. I’ll be sharing this post as an example of how to listen and dialogue in a virtual free for all of firm opinions and personalized, polarized responses. You listened, you heard, you learned, you owned what was appropriate, didn’t disown the point you still hold, and made space for friendly dialogue.
I realize this is a response to really old post (ageism unintended) but don’t be so hard on yourself. People will love or hate you based on what they perceive of you (not for who you truly are) – right or wrong. (one space) Just to give (yet another) viewpoint, I am a 68 year old marketing director for an international company. I was the only boy in my high school type class (long before YOU were in type class) and had it beaten into me to double-tap the spacebar after sentence ending punctuation. I was diligent about my double taps for about a dozen years until an amazing thing happened. It was called the computer, and I loved using it. I loved what I could make it do and what it could do for me. I quickly learned that a single spacebar tap after sentence ending punctuation was the new norm (I was around 30 y.o. at this time). I was the first of all my friends and colleagues to personally own an IBM 5150 PC with DOS 1.0, a single 160 KB floppy drive and an amazing amount of RAM (16 KB). I later updated it with another 160 KB floppy disk drives, then later replaced the second one with a huge 10 MB hard disc drive. How could I ever need more?
Snarkiness aside, I’ve spent the last almost 40 years trying to convince those with whom I work that a single tap of the spacebar is all that is needed on a computer. Most of them are under 40, and several are under 30. I’ll probably be retiring in a couple of years or so, but I’ll leave with the knowledge that most of the people I’ve preached single tapping to are still double-tapping, and that my constant preaching did little, if anything, to change their old habits. Either they don’t care, or they don’t believe me (or they don’t care to believe me). Either way, I “got the memo” and have been diligent these past few decades. I’ll also have the knowledge that at this point in my career it really doesn’t matter. They won’t have me to kick them around too much longer. 😉 ~Stephen
I’m 55 and I was not offended by your article. About nine years ago, I got the memo that one space is all you need and, yes, I learned on a Selectric in high school and actually used a manual typewriter in the Navy. It took me a while to lose the muscle memory of two bumps on the space bar, but thank God I beat the habit. I hope I’m not like an ex-smoker who is insufferable with those who still have the monkey on their back, but I preach the one-space gospel to whoever will listen. Old habits die hard. Thanks for your article.
My wife, who is a teacher (not a language/English teacher), has told me that the guidance going around her school is that using 2 spaces should be avoided but that doing so can result in a significant disadvantage (e.g., some employers seeing 2 spaces used in a resume will reject it out of hand because it indicates old, out of date thought processes). I.e., according to this guidance, there is not only a preference but a very real bias against this. This is unfortunate, i.e., what’s the big deal, why should it affect folks so strongly to where life changing decisions are based on this?
Bottom line is clarity — for both written and spoken language. So which is clearer, 1 space or 2? I choose 2. Why? Is it because I grew up with 2 and that I’m simply biased? I’d like to think I’m not that inflexible and resistant to change. But consider that the function of a period to end a sentence is to make the reader realize there is in fact a break and something new is coming. So shouldn’t the appearance of that break be helpful? I contend that 1 space fails. Just look at my comment — I’m struggling to make all the sentence breaks 1, not 2. And to me many sentences looks too run together. And no, as I see it (with my 60+-year-old eyes), proportional fonts (e.g., the one in which I’m typing this comment) absolutely don’t help.
Along these lines, check this out:
I wonder what prompted the change from 2 to 1. Efficiency (fewer keystrokes)? Space economy on a printed page? Laziness (wouldn’t surprise me at all)? (Alas I’m not one of your regular readers, just stumbled across this while investigating this subject, so I may not see any responses to this.)
Also take a look at this, my very favorite discourse on punctuation, though not directly bearing on the 1 vs. 2 debate:
So I wish I had seen this prior to going back to school @ 63 and having my “paper”marked wrong for spacing. I have to think hard not to do it even today. I did not find your article denigrating, even after reading others comments. I got it. Humor comes in all forms. Bottom line now that I KNOW why I am not supposed to double space it will help.
I DON’T think you were being too hard on yourself. I just read the original post (and linked to this from it). I’m over 40, most of my friends consider me to be not particularly over-reactive or sensitive to criticism or suggestions for change – and the original post gave my chest that feeling you get when someone has really given you a good punch or even a stab there.
This post, however, is magnificent. I am saving it forever as an excellent example of how to make things right.
P.S. I’m using only one space now.
Jennifer, I have to agree with Deborah on this one. I am over 40 and found your original post hilarious. But, then again, I knew this “new” rule already, and was using it to poke one of the in-house attorney’s in our office who is only 32.
After reading your follow-up article above, I am somewhat ashamed at my original hilarity. Your response is a true example of how to stand up and say, “I was wrong, and I’ll try to do better.” I wish more people would do that in today’s time of political turmoil and strife.
That is all. 🙂
I am a School Psychologist who writes a lot of reports. My co-worker asked me to please to stop putting two spaces. I did some Google searching. I found your article insightful and informative. Thank you!
I also found it humorous and an enjoyable read, and then your follow-up article both reflective and humble.
I am not sure if I am going to re-train myself to do one space, or go to two-spaces. Either way, I think life is cool what a little thing can arise such passion, and spill into larger life issues. Well done on shining a light on all these things.
I certainly commend your willingness to consider how your post may have been interpreted by some, but I want to make a point of letting you know that the “Nothing Says 40 Like..” graphic was exactly what I needed as a 40+ writer newly negotiating the writing world. You offered direct, candid (not snarky by my estimation) advice that this reader very much appreciated. Thank you.
Thanks for a wonderful article!
I am over 60 and the two space rule is well-ingrained in my writing. I am in the process of writing a memoir and I sent it off to be assessed by an editor. She wrote back and one of her suggestions is that I should only use one space after an end punctuation. I honestly had never heard that before.
So, I did a search on Google and found your original article. I thought it was well written, humorous, and definitely made me realize that I need to re-format my manuscript.
Thank you for your article. I enjoyed reading it, and the follow-up post you did later. You have a great writing style and a passion for your craft.
PS I just noticed that this post has the offending double spaces after end of sentence. LOL I will have to work on that.
What a great story – thanks so much for sharing!
Two spaces after sentences always made sense to me, for three reasons.
1) Monospace typeseting, in which certain spacings pretty much do have to be varied;
2) It relates to the hierarchy of text elements. In ascending order of magnitude, those elements are . . . letters–> words–> sentences–> paragraphs. Id est, among letters in words, use no spaces; among words in sentences, use one space; among sentences in paragraphs, use two spaces; and paragraphs are double-line spaced or indented in single-line space;
3) In capital text, in just about any font, the blocky hugeness of the capital letters overwhelms the small punctuation of periods and commas, making it difficult to distinguish them easily. Two spaces after sentences definitely helps the reader recognize whole sentences, as well as the punctuation within them, more readily in this case. Capital text requires more effort to read than text-case text does and also consumes more space. In consideration of these factors, dedicated sentence spacing helps greatly with capital text.
3) IN CAPITAL TEXT, IN JUST ABOUT ANY FONT, THE BLOCKY HUGENESS OF THE CAPITAL LETTERS OVERWHELMS THE SMALL PUNCTUATION OF PERIODS AND COMMAS, MAKING IT DIFFICULT TO DISTINGUISH THEM EASILY. TWO SPACES AFTER SENTENCES DEFINITELY HELPS THE READER RECOGNIZE WHOLE SENTENCES, AS WELL AS THE PUNCTUATION WITHIN THEM, MORE READILY IN THIS CASE. CAPITAL TEXT REQUIRES MORE EFFORT TO READ THAN TEXT-CASE TEXT DOES AND ALSO CONSUMES MORE SPACE. IN CONSIDERATION OF THESE FACTORS, DEDICATED SENTENCE SPACING HELPS GREATLY WITH CAPITAL TEXT.
Not everyone is going to like everything you put out there. I read the post because of the headline, which made me giggle. Were it not for the (minor) snark, the article wouldn’t be funny, and many fewer would have read it. It really wasn’t mean at all – but of course that’s just my judgement. They key though, is that everyone is entitled to their own judgement – you don’t have to adopt someone else’s judgement unless you agree with them (i.e. *should* an article that really be considered mean?). Whenever we (or they) say “should” – we start to lose ourselves.
In the tug-of-war between “i want to express myself” and “I don’t want to hurt anyone,” sometimes your thoughts will remain private, and sometimes, some people will feel hurt. I think you can be afforded the privilege of writing a slightly snarky article. Do we really want to live in a humorless worlds? Who’s really going to read a non-funny article about spaces after periods.
I’d have had more fun reading the responses of people who disagreed with you if they were funny. That’s how comedians bring truth to the world – they bring the funny along with it – makes the medicine go down.
Grammatical correction to the above comment:
“(i.e. *should* your article really be considered mean? My judgement is that it should not. Others disagree. Should we say “should” so much?
I learned to type on a typewriter because I wanted to be able to type into a computer. For decades I have been working on a monospace terminal. It is wonderful. I use two spaces. Often I work with dozens of lines of text with columns perfectly lined up in the monospace format. When I move to graphical word processors, everything seems slow and stupid to me. I am constantly at war with a program that is hell bent on making decisions for me that never save me any time. It is hard to use only one space after a period, but I see the value. I don’t feel foolish or stupid because I can use a command like this to remove all of the double spaces:
> cat kick_ass_essay.txt | sed ‘s/\.\ \ /\.\ /g’ > version_for_windows.txt
Endorsement of one space after a period vs. two spaces is most likely a 4Chan hoax. The cult of conservation of spaces has convinced us that we’re running out of this precious resource. People can be so gullible!
Especially with proportional fonts, not so much with monotype fonts, it looks wrong to have only a single space. Important pacing information is missing. And how in the world do you tell an abbr. from a full stop, otherwise? What’s the new punctuation mark for terminating abbreviations going to be?
I’m a 2 spaces after the period person. I got in an argument with my kid about it. He’s been taught to be a single spacer. The reason I’ll forever hold on to 2 spaces is I think it’s easier to read sentences especially since we only single space after commas! It’s tough to quickly scan within a paragraph and see where say sentence number 5 starts if you single space after periods.
I am late to this post. I just turned 60 – and I learned to type on my Great Aunt’s manual typewriter with the red and black ribbon that you could re-ink and rewind (manually) (remember the typewriters that you had to lug out of a closed desktop on a slide?). Took typewriting in middle school on a new-fangled manual unit. Got a few electric Brothers and eventually a Selectric or two on the way, too. Probably still have them. So definitely old school.
I also run a cloud software company now. I still type and write documents for a living. Using MS Office or my phone. And I still double space because I read very fast – and extra space separates ideas and sentences into digestible pieces for me. Most people can’t write a paragraph or a page these days – and their papers look like run-on sentences that cannot be deciphered. Spaces tell the eyes the writer intended some kind of a pause here – and I need them.
So sorry, no single space for me. I got chewed on by one of my staff about it, and told him to stuff it. Nicely.
Your column wasn’t rude. It was funny. But I am sticking with being able to look at a page and figure out how many thoughts might be on it. And spaces offer that.
Snarkily yours, and old guy doing cloud software in virtual space.
My thing with that article title was, it wasn’t even accurate, I just now turned 30, learned to type on a computer, and I had still been taught 2 spaces was the requirement, I’m currently in college, don’t ever write in apa, only mla, and still normally am told to put two spaces after a sentence, so while I get why it’s obsolete, it is far from being widespread knowledge or a marker of age as you had implied.
I have pondered the space thing because I noticed that 2 spaces look excessive and strange when typing with a computer. I’ve removed the extra space while cringing for breaking the rules. Guilt removed!
I’m nearing 60, learning two spaces way back in the 1970s and never liked it. Now that the style guides have caught up with proportional font- I am elated at only having to type one space after periods. One less side tap with the thumb? Yes, please.
I’m considerably older than you, but loved both the original post and your update. I do think you are being far too hard on yourself!
I learned to put 2 spaces after the period (and still prefer 2), but have now “seen the light” and changed to 1 space for most things. My 30something assistant sent me a link to your post when I asked her which she used.
One vs. two may not be very important in the scheme of things but you must have done something right to generate so many comments. Thanks for the fun and entertaining posts. Keep up the good work.
I realize the blogs are aging as much as I have with my routine double-spaces. That aside, I found both pieces informative and well-written. The things that will resonate with me the most, is the author’s own evolution of awareness, her ability to identify and articulate it, as well as applaud someone’s effectiveness in sharing their opposing views. Each of us – we learn, we grow, we evolve; much like technology, typing guidelines, or whether Pluto is a “planet”. I am inspired when folks are willing to discuss and have patience, instead of firmly planting flags in one camp or another while slinging insults at, and condemning, anyone with a different vantage point.
Much respect to the author, especially for coming back around and giving us all honest vulnerability, and to “Jim C” for a brilliant display of nonconfrontational tact. May the world have much, much more of that!
Totally agree with Jim C. I did not respond well to the snark of your initial post. Am I too sensitive? Perhaps. And it’s quite possible that some of the commenters here are too callous. Perhaps they haven’t experienced ageism. Oh for a society that sees age as a source of wisdom rather than a target for ridicule.
Mostly I am writing this comment, however, to suggest that just because one space seems to be the design industry standard doesn’t mean that there is any scientific evidence to suggest it is truly the better option for reading comprehension. In fact, a fairly recent study suggests that two spaces does make a difference, albeit marginal. So why don’t one-spacers stop acting like they have some incontrovertible scientific evidence to back up their preference? Or better yet, how about you just let it go? What difference does it make to you, really? Don’t have an extra space to spare? Why so stingy with your spaces? Spread out a little! It’s luxurious! You might like it. And for the love of all that is good and holy, stop trusting software to make everything okay. I work in InDesign every day, and trust me, that auto-kerning thing–it’s baloney, at least to my eyes.
My own personal experience suggests that two spaces helps me read electronic documents. My 54 year old eyesight is failing me, and yet, most of the documents I have to read for work are put together by people younger than me who seem to be oblivious to the concept of reader-friendly design. Among their many transgressions (green on blue, completely ignorant of the prevalence of blue-green color blindness; light gray font color that is difficult to read on-screen; light typefaces that are wispy thin; ah, if only these observations were considered pearls of wisdom instead of signs that I should be put out to pasture), perhaps the worst is that they act as though space on electronic paper is on a rationing program. Two spaces after sentences makes it easier for me to read them. So does increased leading, but that’s probably addressed in some other snarky article on some other designer’s web site.
I’m not asking one-spacers to become two-spacers, however. Just leave me and my use of two spaces the [bleep] alone, that’s all I ask.
It was the transition to typing for the web, not to typing on computers, that generated the one-space convention. HTML does not preserve any white space, so one-space after a period became the rule by default on the web. Those who learned to type primarily in order to post or blog, rather than to write documents, would learn to use just one space after a period.
The best reason for the one-space rule is to simplify all spacing after punctuation marks. The best reason for the two-space rule is to make the text easier to read for the reader. The first way is quicker and easier for the writer. The second way is quirkier, yes, but it’s easier for the reader. Unless one space after sentences makes reading more enjoyable, two spaces should prevail except when texting and in casual emails. Hopefully, this was nice enough.
I loved your article, and as a 65 year old male, I did not find it “ageist.” It was humorous. It answered the question I was asking. When I read an article like this I am not expecting to have every whim of my ethics catered to. Hey, I am a Reformed, Evangelical, Calvinist, Presbyterian minister (honorably retired)! If I took offense at everything online that was not intended to cause offense I would likely have to become a hermit. Keep up the fine work!
Wow – I did a search to find out if double spacing after a paragraph had changed (as I was told several years ago)…I had no idea about single/double spacing after a period! After reading many of these comments, I see no reason to follow the new thinking (which in a 2022 comment was started for web use and not computer use), I have decided that I will continue to use my double-spacing habit after periods and after paragraphs. I find that we older people are forced to keep up with the times and change our habits to conform, and for my own use, there is no reason I need to. Some things are easier to maintain because we are used to them – and if there is no good reason to change, so be it! I am not writing for anyone else – just for me. Just because styles change, I don’t need to follow them. I found this site to be very interesting – thank you! …. (double space…)