Guess I’ll go eat some worms

By the way, did you know you can freeze worms and as long as you thaw them slowly, they won't die? Also, that they have multiple hearts? You probably did.

Recently a couple of friends posted this article  on Slate about using only one space after a sentence. I read it, because I’m a two-spacer, and I was pretty shocked at the level of anger associated with it. OK, OK, I’ll try to stop. I didn’t realize it was such big shit. I mean, I’ve got my own pet peeves when it comes to writing. But I’ve been a two-spacer for years. And I’d never heard that two spaces was wrong. So I admit I felt a bit hurt by everyone’s condemnation of two-spacers. I’m pretty new to the writing community, and admittedly I lack some of this kind of knowledge. 

I can’t remember if that’s how I learned to type (on a typewriter!), but I do know that in my work, two spaces are required. I’m a medical transcriptionist, and my supervisors insist on two spaces. Which is why the default on my word program is set to greenline when there’s only one space.  So even if I wasn’t in the habit of doing it already, I’ve gotten into the habit of tap tapping after a sentence, because it’s required of me. Granted, the people I work with also insist on hyphens in words like long-standing or up-to-date, which really gives me the red ass (no hyphen). I’m also forced to type numbers instead of write them out, which makes sense in the medical world, but which also forces me to continually change 4s to fours in draft after draft. 

So I’m not sure how I missed this seemingly extremely important tidbit of grammatical gold, but alright already, I’ll stop. Right after I delete all the extra spaces in this post. There. Done.

18 Comments

  • Lucas says:

    Maybe you could defend your two-spacing as a stylistic affect designed to give the reader some insight into your persona. Most people won’t notice, but people who have written in the legal, medical or business worlds will recognize you as one of their own. I know that when I worked as a paralegal two-spacing was required, otherwise paragraphs of dense legal-ese are too fatiguing to read. Something to consider.

  • Rachel Hartley-Smith says:

    I’m a habitual double-spacer too – since my early days. I’ve known it’s wrong, and I’ll correct it (sometimes) in edits, but, in the flow of things, I just can’t stop myself. Maybe we should form an anonymous support club?

  • Geneva says:

    A lot of text passes through my hands at work, and I can say that one-spacers are in the minority. Deleting extra spaces has become my career.

    I remember in typing class, though, that double spaces were required, or you got a tick off your score at the end of the exercise. Double spaces were so ingrained in my head, it amazes me that I even could make the transition to one, without realizing the effort.

  • Sam Edmonds says:

    Tempted as I am to call you out for ‘alright’ (‘all right,’ says I) Gertrude Stein a-okayed it as one word in her essay, “Poetry and Grammar,” and she’s kind of a badass, so I’ll let ya have it! Besides, I’m pretty sure badass is hyphenated, so what do I know. It’s certainly not two words, however: as I heard quoted somewhere, in defense of the hyphen, “There’s certainly a difference between a bad-ass tattoo and a bad ass tattoo.”

  • Shira Richman says:

    I was a double spacer until Memorial Day Weekend 2009 when I caught wind that it wasn’t necessary anymore. I asked my two copy editor friends how they felt about double spaces after periods. One said it made her eyes bleed. The other said, “My eyes don’t bleed but my fingers itch.”

    • tanya.debuff says:

      Oh my! Wow, it’s going to be hard to unlearn that one. But I certainly don’t want anyone’s eyes to bleed when they read my essays. I like that you remember the weekend you made the discovery.

  • Marcus says:

    Two spaces I find distracting, but I also know that two spaces were the rule for, well, pretty much ever, and that it’s going to take a long time to weed it out of people. That said, I do find it a bit distracting, visually. It interrupts the flow for me. But I’ve seen people shouting in support of everything from one space to two spaces to an em space to an en space. So, whatever.

    The biggest thing for me is that it’s a bit of a pain when it comes time to do typesetting, and having to run through four rounds of find/replace to get all those double (and triple and quadruple) spaces down to one. It only takes a few minutes, sure, but I’m repeatedly amazed at the various typing conventions people use. Some folks do the five spaces to start a paragraph thing, some use a tab, some auto-indent first lines, etc. It’s an adventure trying to come up with a setting process that can account for all the variables, not to mention the different word processing programs.

    Anyway. Keep double-spacing if that’s your thing. Someone’s eyes will bleed regardless of what you do.

    • Actually, according to that article the two-space rule was only a brief interruption in the one-space rule, so I just don’t get it’s prevalence.

      • Marcus says:

        It’s a trickle down thing, I guess. The 40-somethings who taught 20-somethings to type were taught by 60-somethings who were taught two spaces. It’s going to be a while before the 20-somethings become the teachers (of the teachers).

        Also, this is a good argument for continuing education (of educators, especially).

  • tanya.debuff says:

    I like that you give me a different perspective, because I don’t often think about typesetting. My goal is to make things as easy on other people as possible, so it’s good to know some of the unwritten rules, as well. THough I’m not saying the two space thing isn’t a written rule, because I have no idea.

    But I think you’re right, someone’s eyes are going to bleed when they read my shit. Hahaha! I know you just meant generally, I’m not taking offense. I just thought it was funny.

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