Keyboard evolution

So I’m teaching a basic business writing class last night, and someone asked about whether or not they should double-space after periods and colons. I said that that had been the rule at one time, but as a practice it was pretty much dying out. Like most things having to do with the dos and don’ts of writing, this is something I know to be true, but I’m more than a little fuzzy on the why.

They (of course) asked why.

And I heard my mouth say:

  • Much of it comes from graphic designers who think that the big white space after a sentence is ugly, especially now that few people use mono-spaced fonts  like courier. Those double spaces really stand out in true-type/proportional fonts.
  • But even if that weren’t the case, there is no point in wasting time with double-spacing after periods today, because most anything you write will end up on a website somewhere, and web browsers never show more than one space after the period, anyway. (Even if you do it, no one will see it, so it’s wasted effort.)

After my mouth was done talking, my brain was left wondering “Is that right? That actually sounds right.” (My brain is justifiably suspicious of my mouth.)

Turns out, it pretty much was. It’s fascinating to me, the way in which our environment (-cum-technology) visibly and continually redefines “normal” in writing/communication.

(And I’d like to thank Twitter for helping my unlearn a two-decades-old double-spacing habit.)