I’ve run into a bit of a snafu while editing my book. It seems that somewhere along the way in writing it, I wizened up to the fact that the rule had changed from two spaces after a period or end of a sentence to just one. As a result, about half of my book is written one way, half the other.
I dropped an email to my writing coach asking her if I could let this slide, fully expecting her to say ‘yes.’ She said ‘no.’ I have to change it. And if that weren’t bad enough, I didn’t know where the handy ‘Find and Replace’ feature was on my Mac. I wasted an entire week trying to change every single sentence in my book until a certain writer/editor I know clued me in.
I was lamenting about all this to a friend when she asked, “When did that change?” Good question. I looked into it and found out — years ago! The Internet is full of discrepancies, of course, but one source says it changed with the dawn of the personal computer! Good grief! Talk about feeling stupid. And I call myself a writer.
But apparently, I wasn’t the only one in the dark. Some friends (writers and non-writers alike) didn’t know either. If, like me, you learned to type on a manual typewriter (all you youngins — see photo above,) then you’re familar with the two space rule. See, typewriter fonts are monospaced. Each letter takes up the same amount of space. The logic goes that the extra space was needed between sentences to improve readability. Now that most of us are typing on a computer keyboard with its proportional font (i.e. an “m” takes up more space than an “i,”) we no longer need the extra space. Supposedly, with improved technology, came better readability. Maybe it’s my double vision or failing eyesight, but I found it easier to read before. But no one asked me.
I want to scream at the injustice of it all. Can they do that? But I know the answer. Rules change all the time. Of course they can. I don’t even know who “they” are, except maybe the powers that be at the three most widely accepted authorities on the subject, The Chicago Manual of Style, the AP Stylebook and the Modern Language Association. Personally, as I get into the nitty gritty of grammar, I like the Grammar Girl site so much it made my list of favorite places (see sidebar.)
But, don’t sweat it. The average person receiving your emails isn’t likely to start counting spaces. Especially, in a world where “ur” and “nite” have become acceptable. If you’re a student, a writer or just a person priding yourself on your grammatical correctness, then by all means, get with the program! Hey, I don’t make the rules, I just pass them on. Even if I am years late.