Our current reality is dictated by an abundance of static rules that we all must live by. We stop on red. We go on green. Our kids need to go to the bathroom exactly one second after passing the rest stop on the interstate. We quickly tap the space bar twice after completing a sentence.
What’s that you say? That final one isn’t even a rule anymore and everyone who still does that is old and out of touch? You can’t be serious?
This is one of those things that bothers me. I like rules that are constant, even if they don’t particularly make sense. I didn’t even know that a growing number of people had stopped using two spaces after a sentence until I read a Grammar Girl book (written in 2008!) where she mentioned it. I’ve seen a couple of publications specifically as for this in their guidelines, and figured it they were an anomaly, but now I’m not so sure.
I just assumed it was standard manuscript format to use two spaces after a sentence, so I went to the holy grail of manuscript format examples for writers (http://www.shunn.net/format/story.html) to get my answer.
Here is what I found:
“In the days of typewriters, the usual practice was to put two spaces after the end of every sentence, and also to put two spaces after every colon. This helped make the separations between sentences more apparent, and helped editors more easily distinguish periods from commas and colons from semicolons. With the dominance of computers, that practice is changing, and it is more common now to see only one space between sentences. Ingrained habits die hard, though, so if you’re used to hitting the spacebar twice after a period, you shouldn’t stress out about it, particularly if you’re using a Courier font.”
So with no correct way to do this, here is my plan moving forward:
First, as William Shunn recommends, I won’t stress out about it.
Second, what the hell? Let’s try to move into the current century and switch to one space. I’ve only been typing two spaces after a sentence for the last 25 years. I’m sure I can break the habit if I work at it. And if not, I’ll just stick to two spaces unless I’m told otherwise.
I am curious, however, to any writers reading this, what is your preference?