Friday, March 7, 2014

To double space or not to double space?

A recent thread on Wendy Stevens' Facebook page leads me to dash off a quick post to gather some links regarding the contentious issue of double spaces after periods - ie between sentences. At TrekUnited Publishing I always used The Chicago Manual of Style as the provenance for taking out double spaces in published works...
The view at CMOS is that there is no reason for two spaces after a period in published work. Some people, however—my colleagues included—prefer it, relegating this preference to their personal correspondence and notes. I’ve noticed in old American books printed in the few decades before and after the turn of the last century (ca. 1870–1930 at least) that there seemed to be a trend in publishing to use extra space (sometimes quite a bit of it) after periods. And many people were taught to use that extra space in typing class (I was). But introducing two spaces after the period causes problems: (1) it is inefficient, requiring an extra keystroke for every sentence; (2) even if a program is set to automatically put an extra space after a period, such automation is never foolproof; (3) there is no proof that an extra space actually improves readability—as your comment suggests, it’s probably just a matter of familiarity (Who knows? perhaps it’s actually more efficient to read with less regard for sentences as individual units of thought—many centuries ago, for example in ancient Greece, there were no spaces even between words, and no punctuation); (4) two spaces are harder to control for than one in electronic documents (I find that the earmark of a document that imposes a two-space rule is a smattering of instances of both three spaces and one space after a period, and two spaces in the middle of sentences); and (5) two spaces can cause problems with line breaks in certain programs.
Joel Friedlander's website, The Book Designer - my goto for commercial publishing - has this as the #1 rule of his '10 Quick Tips to Get Your Manuscript Ready for Publication'...
Get rid of extra spaces. Whether you’ve used them for spacing or between sentences, your file should contain no double spaces at all.
Joel, however points to Dave Bricker's website, The World’s Greatest Book, which is more conciliatory saying,
Few subjects arouse more passion among writers and designers than the debate over how many spaces should follow a period. If you adhere to a style manual, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that doesn’t specify a single-space—but popular arguments in support of the single-space turn out to be mostly apocryphal. The single-space after a period is a simple style evolution—and it’s a fairly recent one.
Farhad Manjoo, writing in and Business Insider, is absolutely unequivocable...
Can I let you in on a secret? Typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong.
Unfortunately there seems to be no consistency in the teaching of typing, with comments on Wendy Steven's Facebook thread saying how typing teachers in two consecutive classes at the same school were teaching opposing standards! However perhaps the most helpful from a practical sense (as always) is from Jacci Howard Bear in her web series for on Desktop Publishing...
Professional typesetters, designers, desktop publishers, and anyone who truly cares about fonts and typography should use only one space after a period or other ending punctuation. However, it doesn't necessarily need to be a standard space character. Desktop Publishing software makes it easy to experiment with other space characters to achieve the best appearance on a case-by-case basis. Save the double spaces for typewriting, casual email, term papers (if prescribed by the style guide you are using), or personal correspondence. Learn how to remove extra spaces between sentences. For everyone else, do whatever makes you feel good.

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