ANOTHER UPDATE: Here’s a very well researched article refuting the Slate article: Why two spaces after a period isn’t wrong
UPDATE: Nearly two years ago I made the switch from two spaces after a period, to one space. It was not easy, and it took a long time, but its finally reached the point where it feels natural and I don’t think about it. I thought I’d bring this blog post up to the top to, I suppose, commemorate this feat.
About an hour ago I finished reading an article on Slate called “Space Invaders” that calls for the death of the second space after a period.
It pissed me off and I wanted to write a scathing rebuttal, but thought – no, someone in the comments must have beaten me to it. Everyone in publishing knows that there are two spaces after a period. It’s standard form. Strunk and White said so. Right?
Wrong. I’m glad I checked. No one brought up an example from The Elements of Style in the comments that showed proper spacing after a period, and so I had to go and look myself. I went through the book front to back and came up empty handed. So I consulted my other handy writing guidebook, the Yahoo Style Guide for online writing.
Nothing. I have nothing to back me up, but Farhad Manjoo – the author of the Slate article – has plenty to back him up. And so I am wrong.
This sucks. First my astrological sign changed (apparently I’m no longer a Scorpio) and now I find that everything I’ve ever typed is wrong?
Including this article?
So I thought, and thought, and thunk and thunk, kind of like Winnie the Pooh wandering back and forth trying to remember where his secret stash of honey is, and finally came up with where I learned the golden rule of “two spaces after a period.”
1974. Webster Junior High School. Typing class.
Oddly enough this came to my attention a few weeks ago, because I’d noticed that on one of my websites if a line breaks at the end of a sentence, the next line has an errant indent from the second space. I’d assumed a problem in the formatting, but now I have to come to accept that the problem is not with the website template. The problem is that I’m using typewriter rules in a world where typewriters all sit unused behind glass museum displays.
This is going to be hard. Over 35 years of touch-typing reflex tells my thumb to bounce twice on the space bar after touching the period button. Like just now. And here too.
The funny thing is that if I type a period in Microsoft Word and follow it with only one space, Microsoft helpfully puts a squiggly underline below it to remind me to add the second one. I found the setting in Word – it defaults to two spaces.
With some sadness I set it to one.