Even a single space can cause an argument

What is the number one thing that bothers you the most about grammar and punctuation? 

We all have something.  Even a good editor has something they have a particular amount of trouble with.  Sometimes they have trouble with it because the times are changing around them, and their viewpoint is staying the same.  In every field of study, no matter what it is, things transform with the times, and some of us are left in the dark, stubbornly saying, “Well, I liked the way we used to do it, and I’m going to keep doing it that way, so there!”

Even a single space can cause an argument.

I grew up with a typewriter.  When I was a kid, we got our first green-screen word processors for free from someone that my mother worked with.  I was content.  While families that had more money were getting computers, I just wanted to write, so I didn’t care what the thing did as long as words came out.

I don’t remember much about elementary school.  The few things that I do remember involve words, punctuation, and grammar.  I remember  my second grade teacher, Mrs. Charles, handing out a list of commonly misspelled words, seeing “the” among them, and thinking, What idiot would actually misspell the word ‘the’? In retrospect, I realize that a lot of people misspell that word, especially these days, on the internet, where a callous disregard for the English language seems commonplace, and “teh” is for whatever reason accepted in place of “the”.  Excuse me while I set aside my soapbox.

The most important thing that I remember from elementary school was what Mrs. Charles taught me about periods.

“Children, always use two spaces after a period.”  In later grades, we would be corrected on our papers if we used only one space after a period.  One space was considered wrong, wrong, wrong!

Even a single space can cause an argument.

I know what you’re thinking.  Some of you may have been taught the same thing that I was taught.  Others may insist, “Two spaces after a period is wrong, wrong, wrong!”

I decided to delve into this debacle a while ago, to figure out why there are so many differing opinions on the issue.  What I discovered was quite fascinating– at least to me– and had everything to do with changing times, and the advancement of technology.  Here’s what Grammar Girl says about the two space rule:

“Most typewriter fonts are what are called monospaced fonts. That means every character takes up the same amount of space. An ‘i’ takes up as much space as an ‘m,’ for example. When using a monospaced font, where everything is the same width, it makes sense to type two spaces after a period at the end of a sentence to create a visual break. For that reason, people who learned to type on a typewriter were taught to put two spaces after a period at the end of a sentence.”

Ah-ha! Not only did I learn how to type on a typewriter, but I’m sure that Mrs. Charles did, too.  And so did my other teachers in elementary school, middle school, junior high, and high school.  So, naturally, I have been using two spaces after a period ever since.  When I surf the internet reading about this subject, I see a number of claims that using two spaces “adds to the work”, but if it comes naturally to you, how is it “work”?

I find it extremely difficult to type anything other than two spaces after a period.  This is all fine and dandy– let’s face it, it is a purely subjective issue in many ways– until, of course, the stubborn two-spacer heads to a publisher, or, much like yours truly, edits for a living.

Oh, dear! I’m an editor.  No matter what your argument concerns– spacing, straight quotes or curled, whether to place a period after an ellipses, or what font to use –you have to go with the times and accept whatever procedure is most common in the publishing world today.  I will have to train myself out of “typewriter mode” and “get with it”, as it were.

Readers: What grammar or punctuation-related issue do you find most difficult to deal with, or adapt to?


2 Replies to “Even a single space can cause an argument”

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