Two spaces or one; change and persistence

Selectric-ElementI learned to type before I learned to drive; now nearly 50 years ago. I was taught that you put two spaces after a period at the end of a sentence. Eventually, I left typewriters behind and began to write with text editors and word processors. I learned a little bit about proportional fonts and typesetting and, at some point in the somewhat less distant past switched over to using a single space.

This morning, i came across the following link in my Facebook newsfeed – Space Invaders: Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period. – posted by Andy McAfee. It’s an old item and it’s an old controversy (for example, see Why two spaces after a period isn’t wrong (or, the lies typographers tell about history)).

What I find interesting about this is what it reveals about change and habits. The very first comment in response to Andy’s post was from someone who had also learned to type a long time ago. In their view, the controversy was a silly waste of time and they intended to happily continue to insert two spaces until the end of time. I’m sure that if I went back to the thread. someone else will have weighed in otherwise. There will be yet another impassioned argument over a convention. How do you get new knowledge into an established system of practice? How do you get from new knowledge to new practice?

We are now three hundred years or so past the Enlightenment. How long do you think it will be before reason triumphs over tradition?


4 thoughts on “Two spaces or one; change and persistence”

  1. I remember the need for the two spaces after the period. Nowadays, on Windows, the program gives you the stupid blue wavy line saying you’re wrong. I just go with the flow.

  2. The reason people “don’t change” is that there is no true compelling reason to change. What is really wrong with using one space or two? NOTHING. Sure, in the Neats vs Scruffies world, there are fun arguments. But it really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t use additional space or cause famine. And if you are really doing typesetting, you will do it correctly (or have someone there to help you).

    For me, I can’t help hitting the spacebar twice after a period. It’s buried in my fingers. And I am younger that Jim. 🙂

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