Thursday, January 13, 2011

One or Two?

I just read this rant on Slate, and my head almost exploded.

You see, it's about the old "one space or two at the end of a sentence" debate. The author doesn't feel it's much of a debate, really, and that the "rule" was established long ago by typography professionals (in favor of one space).

I thought about this for a good while. Being my age, and having learned to type on a typewriter before the dawning of the age of computers, I was taught and always practiced the "two space" method. When PCs and Macs became part of the fabric of everyday life, I still continued the way I was originally taught, with the two spaces. However, I recall getting in a debate with some of my compatriots at the ad agency where I worked, and we researched this thoroughly. Even though this was pre-google, and you couldn't find over THIRTEEN MILLION RESULTS on the topic, we did reach a consensus (for many of the reasons outlined in the Slate article) that we should all be putting only one space after a period. That became our standard, and I'm fairly sure I retrained myself to comply for all my typing.

However, as I was reading the article, I started to wonder if I was a one space person, or a two space person. I honestly couldn't remember. I opened up Word, and started to type random sentences. I put one space at the end of a sentence. It felt wrong. I put two spaces at the end of a sentence. That felt wrong. Well, fuck, I know it's not three. I kept typing, and just couldn't determine what was normal for me, and my brain scrambled.

That reminds me of a trick we used to play when I played a lot of golf. Somewhere, mid-round when there was a bet on the line, you would casually ask your competitor if he exhaled or inhaled during his backswing. 99% of golfers never actively think about this, but once the thought is in your head, it eats you alive like a starving piranha at an aquatic Golden Corral. Golf is so delicate and mental anyway, it's usually good for 2 or 3 strokes in your favor.

I think part of my issue trying to figure it out is that I KNOW I do the double-space on my BlackBerry. Double-space there, and it automatically puts a period in to end the sentence and capitalizes the next letter you type to start the next sentence. However, it really only inserts ONE space; the two gestures tell the system what to do with the punctuation and capitalization. Once I figured this out, and started typing this blog post, it dawned on me that with "real" keyboards, I've adapted to the modern world and become a "one space after period" person.

Still, it was frightening to spend ten minutes typing endlessly away not having any idea of what the holy hell to do when I reached the end of the sentence.

What about you? One space, or two?