Adventures in Typing

January 18th, 2011

Amongst the numerous blogs and RSS feeds that I read, or at least glance at, is I enjoy their technology columnist Farhad Manjoo. (Oohh… Just found out he has a blog for things that don’t go into published articles… sign me up for that…) So it was to my great surprise last week when an article popped up about punctuation: “Space Invaders, Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period“.

Every modern typographer agrees on the one-space rule. It’s one of the canonical rules of the profession, in the same way that waiters know that the salad fork goes to the left of the dinner fork and fashion designers know to put men’s shirt buttons on the right and women’s on the left. Every major style guide—including the Modern Language Association Style Manual and the Chicago Manual of Style—prescribes a single space after a period. (The Publications Manual of the American Psychological Association, used widely in the social sciences, allows for two spaces in draft manuscripts but recommends one space in published work.) Most ordinary people would know the one-space rule, too, if it weren’t for a quirk of history. In the middle of the last century, a now-outmoded technology—the manual typewriter—invaded the American workplace. To accommodate that machine’s shortcomings, everyone began to type wrong. And even though we no longer use typewriters, we all still type like we do. (Also see the persistence of the dreaded Caps Lock key.)

Now, I know about the Caps Lock key issue. It’s something that really only gets in my way in two places. When I’m playing a video game I may bump it, and find myself unknowingly coming back to Windows with it on. Switching between languages uses the ‘alt’ and ‘shift’ keys, and I occasionally hit the ‘caps lock’ key instead of the ‘shift’ which leads to the double annoying thing of typing in English capital letters instead of the intended Hebrew.

I don’t care much for grammar rules. They and spelling were the bane of my existence in school, and that’s before I remember that I had to learn it all in two languages. One of the things I do remember is being told that, without exception, a period is followed by two spaces. And I took it to hart. It’s become a natural part of my touch typing ability.

It’s not that I really care one way or the other about how many spaces there are between sentences. It’s just that now, since reading Manjoo’s article, I can’t think of anything else while typing. I’ve begun to over think typing, which was one of the places in my day to day that I didn’t have to think about.  I feel like the best thing to do, even if it isn’t 100% correct, is to keep on with my double spaces. Sometimes, you have to stick with what you are used to, even if it turns out to be wrong, especially when nobody is getting hurt.

*Other grammar issues that I think about when I type include my over use of commas.

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