This morning at the day job, I worked in the computer lab and the fourth graders came in to write up some poems they had been working on. While giving directions, the teacher said, “When you type a period, you have to type two spaces before the next sentence.”
I almost had a heart attack.
It’s not the teacher’s fault. She was taught the same thing through college, and she is only a few years younger than I. Many of my co-workers—teachers and administrators—do the same thing. To my surprise, so, too, do many of my writing colleagues.
Rather than get into why the two spaces convention died, I’ll point you to “Space Invaders: Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period” by Farhad Manjoo for Slate. It includes the required snark and typography elitism.
Now, writers, here’s why you definitely shouldn’t do it.
Go pick a book up off your shelf. Do you see two spaces after every period? Nope. Go pick up a newspaper. Do you see two spaces after every period? Nope (at least, not in any non-fully-justified text, like captions). It really is a dead convention.
So, writer, if you turn in a manuscript with two spaces after the period, you know what happens? Someone has to go in and strip those out. Now, to be fair, there are easy ways to do this in any word processor app worth a damn. However, the proofreader and final designer will still have to be aware of it.
Assuming we’re dealing with professional editors and publishers, of course. In self publishing and small presses, this could be missed, especially if they’re dumping straight from Word to the final product on CreateSpace or Smashwords. Even with some major publishers, things like this have gone unnoticed. Then the writer catches some, if not all, of the blame.
It makes more sense to turn in something as close to the finished product as possible. It saves time and headaches, and your editors will thank you for it. Is it a tough habit to break? Absolutely. I’m sure some of us have a few more bad habits we picked up from school way back when, but it’s not something we should be passing on to the next generation.
That’s why I passed that Slate article on to every teacher in my district. The responses so far amount to “mind blown.” If it results in changes in instruction, I’ll have done my good deed for the year.
Editors and publishers of the future: you’re welcome.