double space – i think not!

Must be a slow news week. Both CBC and The Globe are obsessed with wether or not to put two spaces after a period when typing.

Must be a slow news week.  Both CBC and The Globe are obsessed with wether or not to put two spaces after a period when typing.

Can you see the difference? I CAN see the difference. Why? Because. It’s so deceptively simple. The typewriter is dead. That’s why. It’s why we should NEVER underline (underline is a typerwriter’s excuse for not having italics). Typewriters didn’t kern – that typographical tool that adjusts the space between letters. But computers DO kern. They kern in a delightfully appropriate way. Thereby negating the need to double space. Just because your grade ten typing teacher insisted you double space between sentences does not mean that in the age of kerning capable computers you should do the same thing. You shouldn’t. It’s inefficient and ineffective. In the information age, there is no need to put two spaces where only one is necessary. And if you don’t believe me, remember Knowlton Nashh. Remember him? The beloved host of the  National pre Peter Mansbridge. He always said “never use three words if you can use two”. And he wouldn’t want us using two spaces when we can use one. It’s wasteful. If you’re going to use your keyboard, don’t waste space! If I had double spaces between every sentence here, I would have lost 22 valuable spaces. Room enough for words like nonrepresentationalism. And Knowlton Nash would never, ever, have missed a chance to use that word, of that you can be sure. Type on, my friends. Type on.

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One Response

  1. How nice to have a question raised that has a clear and sensible answer. The typewriter carriage advanced in fixed increments and those increments had to be wide enough so that wide letters such as “m” and “w” would not overlap their neighbours. Of course, that left narrow letters such as “i” and “l” sitting in the middle of an expanse of white space. The eye had no clear way of identifying which large white space marked the end of a sentence and which was a product of adjoining narrow letters. The double space was a useful tool to allow the eye to register the end of a sentence in typed material. It was never used by typographers in typeset printed material as the space alloted to each letter was appropriate to the width of the letter. As you so clearly point out, with the proportional spacing offerred by almost all computer type fonts (Courier being a notable exception), the extra space to denote the end of a sentence is superfluous, and jarring to my eye.

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