I’m gonna get a little soapbox-y here. So all that froth you see is not me foaming at the mouth. Read on without fear of contacting rabies….
I was reading something on social media (I forget where, but it was probably while I was supposed to be doing something else, like oh, I don’t know, actually writing) and it came around to a topic that I’m sure is of burning interest to all of you out there: whether you put one or two spaces after a period when you’re typing on a computer.
Now, fans of typography know that in the modern era, you only need to put one space after a period. Because fonts on a computer are by and large proportionally spaced. This means that a thin letter like lowercase i takes up much less space than a wider letter like an uppercase W.
Ah, but it used to not be like that, kids. If you’ve ever been on an archeological dig (or gone into, say, an antique store or your parents’ attic), you may have unearthed an artifact known as a typewriter. Typewriters were the equivalent of Microsoft Word in ancient times. You used them to write things like letters (similar to email but they were on paper and you had to put them in an envelope and use these things called postage stamps to send them to someone through a thing called the mail; so in case you ever wondered where the word “email” came from, that’s where), or you wrote your school papers on them. Now, a typewriter used the same amount of space to type an i as it did to type a W, or a period. So, at the end of a sentence, you’d type two spaces to make it clear that hey, sentence over, moving on.
Some people who, like me, are old enough to remember when you used a typewriter (we call people like that “fossils,” and us fossils should be handled with care) persist in putting two spaces at the end of a sentence. Which brings me back to the social media post I was talking about, where writers were weighing in on the one space or two space rule, and basically, the two-spacers were really vehement about it. “Your can’t make me stop typing two spaces! If we all type one space after a period then THE TERRORISTS WIN! Fascists! Blasphemers! BURN THEM WITH FIRE!”
Okay, so I’m totally exaggerating, but only for effect.
I pointed out “you know, if you type two spaces, as an editor I’m just going to have to take them out, so you’re making more work for your editor.” As you might expect, people weren’t having it. I quietly bowed out of the conversation before people started lobbing flaming bags of poo.
(Please note, no poo was flung.)
Here’s the thing though. Sometimes I wear an editor’s hat (usually in my day job, where more often than not I’m an editor and proofreader) and other times I’ve got my writing cap on. (I like hats, what can I say?) when I’m in writing mode, or more precisely, when I’m being edited, I try to pay close attention to what my editor tells me to do as far as formatting and preparing my manuscripts. And I especially do this when I’m submitting to a literary magazine; I follow their guidelines to the letter because I don’t want to be that guy who gets rejected without even being read because I used single line spacing instead of double or used Comic Sans instead of Times New Roman.
Just kidding. I would never use Comic Sans.
But anyway, my point (and I do have one) is this: listen to your editor. They will save your skin more often than you can possibly realize. They will catch inconsistencies that went right by you, they will notice when your point of view has shifted, and they will sure as hell see when you used it’s when you should have used its.
And if they want me to use one space after a period instead of two, even if it seems silly to me, I’m going to bloody well do it.