Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Two Spaces

A Small Victory - Faith No More (mp3)

“That’s just how I was taught.”

Interesting how that phrase gets used by most of us. It’s a defensive statement. It tends to mean, “Hey, don’t blame me. Someone else did this to me. I was just a kid, and this is what I learned.”

When it comes to matters of prejudice, bigotry, or hatred, and when it involves someone inheriting/learning from the small-mindedness of previous generations, many of us are impatient or outright angry at the excuse. Being raised by racists, or being raised by a misogynistic father, or being taught that the original lunar landing was a conspiratorial hoax by a wacky teacher... None of these are excuses for carrying forth with or propagating such nonsense.

But if you throw down the gauntlet about something like the proper number of spaces between sentences, folks come out of the woodwork in defense of two spaces with this very desperate cry, “I was just taught that way!”

Or, better yet, “It’s just a matter of habit!”

Slate.com offered a polemic against double-spacing recently, and were it not for the hype of a Tiger Mother, it might well have been one of the most unpredictably viral screeds of the week. Slate’s page received a barrage of commentary, well over 100 at last count. Of particular fascination is how much time many people took to observe that the entire issue was a waste of time. That is, people wasted their own precious time to point out the time they clearly wasted to read the piece and scroll down and sign in and offer opinion.

Compared to matters of warfare and world hunger, the issue of space width between sentences is certainly trivial. Yet more than 100 people, myself included, find ourselves wasting time and some level of emotional energy on the matter.

Two spaces versus one. Edward versus Jacob. Yankees versus Red Sox. We Americans crave meaningless and superficial debates about things which ultimately mean little or nothing, because we seem so poor at handling matters of greater import. We are so irresponsible in how we debate and discuss truly important issues, and we embrace such a low level of intellectual discourse, that we instead drift into debating things with little true significance. Because, ultimately, even the lowest-educated soul can find some way to argue for a favorite football team or a preferred lover for Bella. You need only read two books or sit in front of a TV for a few hours, and suddenly you have all the firepower necessary to engage in a heated and passionate debate.

With the matter of sentences and spacing, the bar is set even lower: Have you ever written a paragraph? If you answer in the affirmative, then you are immediately capable of injecting your opinion into the debate.

While Mr. Manjoo comes across too much like a snooty bully for my tastes, his “side” of this debate is backed with more than ample research and information which, if you remove his taint, is quite convincing.

The real deal-breaker: everything anyone reads online or in newspapers or in magazines or in books. Almost every printed piece you’ve ever laid eyes on that wasn’t written for or by an educator uses a single space after sentences. Even the most conservative, anti-evolutionary, most change-o-phobic sites on the Interwebs use a single space between sentences.

What’s more, most of us have accepted this online reality without batting an eye. We read the papers and the Internet articles, and few of us notice or care about the single space.

Personally, here’s the reason I prefer single space: I’ve rarely if ever seen a single-spacer inconsistently use that option in writing. Double-spacers are maniacally inconsistent. Rarely if ever do I run across anything of modest length by a double-spacer where at least one or two sentences are followed accidentally by a single space. (My job requires that I read and edit lots of copy from lots of sources, so this isn’t some willy-nilly claim.)

A single space is economical. Eventually, piled up sentence after sentence, single spaces save trees. Compared to two-space people, I’ve probably saved a whole tree. And each tree means something to some little dog out there in the world, needing to take a piss. Or a bird needing to build a nest. Hell, it's possible I've helped save an entire small ecosystem compared to those wasteful, space-eating, greedy two-space sumbitch bastards.

Help save the planet. Stop pressing that space bar so many dadgum times. Quit using that lame “That’s how I was taught” nonsense and join us here in the 21st Century.


Hank said...

I have been a double spacer my entire life, but Twitter finally broke me of the habit. Had to have the extra character of hilarity.

Daisy said...

The spacing issue is just one more way to make me feel like a fossil. I am still reluctantly trading texting for talking and now I have to give up my double space too? What's next?

Bob said...

Daisy, the apostrophe will be next.

troutking said...

I asked Bruce and he said, "Two hearts are better than one, but two spaces? Not so much." Stevie added, "You said it, Boss!"

BeckEye said...

Urgh, I hate double spacing. As far as Jacob vs. Edward, though, I have no opinion.

Daisy said...

Bob, Say it isnt so. I cant take it!

Amy | She Wears Many Hats said...

That drives me bonkers. I thought I was being a tad bit OCD editing out others double spaces, whilst gritting my teeth. I can rest at ease now, knowing I've maybe saved a resting spot for a squirrel.

Amy | She Wears Many Hats said...

Had to stop back by after just reading a post. Well, partially reading a post of a friend who used the double space. I read (pause, pause) and read (pause, pause) and could take no more. After all the pausgin, I'm not the least bit curious as to how she ended her story. Maybe I'm struggling with adult onset ADHD or something, but too much pausing.

Billy said...

@Amy - Your. Comments. Greatly amused me. But I wouldn't give yourself too much credit for either OCD or ADHD, because it's the other people who have a disease: the AlwaysDoneItThisWay disease.

But it's the kind people in the world who see other people's weaknesses and try and find explanations in themselves. Rest assured: they're the ones who are screwed up. ;-)