Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Of Periods and Spaces

Last Monday, I wrote about the controversy over the capitalization of the term "tea party" (or "Tea Party"), and wondered to myself whether there wasn't anything more important we could worry about.

It turns out that there is: should you use one space after a period, or two?

You can read all about this critically important typographical crisis in Farhad Manjoo's article on - Space Invaders: Why You Should Never, Ever Use Two Spaces After a Period.

Two spaces after a period ... oh, dear God, the horror!!

It seems that the convention of using two spaces after a period is a throwback to the days of monospaced, rather than proportional type. Because some letters took up less space (think "i" and "l"), and others took up more (think "m" and "w"), monospaced type such as that used in early typewriters made printed words look weirdly-spaced, with inconsistent spacing between letters and, thus, words and sentences. The idea of two spaces after the period was that it helped to better delineate the break between sentences, thereby improving readability. Nowadays, of course, almost all type is proportional, meaning that individual letters take up varying amounts of linear space, depending on their size and shape; in theory, this makes text more readable and obviates the need for extra spaces after periods. You can read more than you ever wanted to know about the principles of typography here. And here is an interesting use of variously-spaced fonts ...

All of which is very interesting (at least, if you're an aging, cranky, one-time Linguistics major), but ultimately useless.

I, myself, take no position on this issue, although I firmly believe in giving a woman as much space as possible during a period. It's just safer.

Have a good day. Give everyone some space.

More thoughts tomorrow.



Amanda said...

I always thought it was a single space after everything. Never occurred to me that there was any debate over it.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

I didn't know about the rule. I just like the looks of two spaces.

When it comes to the other type of period, two spaces is recommended! And not just for guys.

Gilahi said...

Well, it IS the final frontier and all that.

I can remember being spaced out (or can I?).

I think you should use the two spaces. (like I did there). One terminates the sentence and the other can hold a sign that says, "This space for rent".

KathyA said...

Not only will I continue to use two spaces after a period, but will throw caution to the wind and do so after a colon as well!

And God will get you for that 'period/woman' comment.

This from an aging linguist. :)

Bilbo said...

Amanda - there has to be SOMETHING for us linguists to argue about.

Angelique - no comment.

Gilahi - you must be channeling Groucho again...I can hear him making that last comment.

Kathy - good idea. It will keep you from having an ... uh ... impacted colon. As for the rest, well, us aging linguists have to stick together, don't we?

Mike said...

Isn't monospacism proportional in its own way?

KKTSews said...

My teenage daughter and I argue about this all the time. I double-space and she single-spaces. I had a very nice typing teacher in 7th grade, but I can still remember her HORROR when someone didn't double-space. I don't think I can be retrained at this point, but I will at least stop arguing with the teenager about it!