Friday, January 14, 2011

Two spaces after a period

Do you still use two spaces after a period when typing documents? I remember learning this rule when I first started working with computers in the early 90s, but somewhere along the way I stopped doing it and never gave it much thought. I think a large part of the reason is that I typically use some form of markup, such as LaTeX, for doing any sort of moderately complex typography. Who really wants to learn and manually try to adhere to all of the silly rules for how to prepare a manuscript? Just use some markup with a typesetting engine to take care of all the mundane stuff like conforming to whitespace conventions. Nothing to get all worked up about.

So I was a bit surprised to see how worked up Farhad Manjoo gets over people using two spaces after a period in his article Space Invaders: Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period. What really struck me was that he mentions the antiquated typewriters that gave rise to the double space convention, but he doesn't seem to take issue with users having to carry the burden of adhering to this style. One of the reasons I hate WYSIWYG editors is that they force the user to worry about the style as well as the content. Try to write an article having to worry about rivers, widows, and orphans that will change and need to be corrected every time you edit the text. Add to that all of the consistency issues of sentence spacing, fonts, page numbering, references to figures or sources, etc. WYSIWYG was first available, at least on a computer, in 1974 with the Bravo editor and by 1978 and it was obsolete for any serious writing tasks with the release of TeX.

No comments:

Post a Comment