I’m having a flashback to my youth, AA Stagg High School, circa the mid to late 1980’s. It’s a room on the lower-level of A-building, where Mr. MacGregor taught typing. Whether on the IBM Selectric or the other, more new-fangled electronic typewriters I was able to crank out more than 80 words per minute on, one behavior remains to this day. A behavior that is apparently so heinous that when I came across an article this week it made me stop and I’ve now got to set my mind and right thumb to, in the words of Apple, “Think different.”
I’m a two-spacer. It’s how I learned to type and every time I diligently end a sentence with a punctuation mark, it happens. <TAP TAP> goes my right thumb. It’s as reflexive as blinking now after nearly twenty-five years (gasp) of typing things.
The author of the article does a wonderful job of pointing out WHY this is: Typography. Fonts are something I am starting to pay more attention to in my profession as style, spacing and coordinating them grow more important in conveying the message my clients seek to convey. I’ve even purchased a book on the subject which is sadly behind a pile of other non-work reading I need to do first.
Apparently spaces were subject to the whims of designers over time, with Americans and Europeans and others each having their own conventions. What should be the norm, according to at least two style guides cited in the article, is one space and one space only.
The reason given for my (and potentially several generations worth) personal affliction is that a typewriter was a monospaced type, in other words each letter took up an identical amount of horizontal space.
Monospaced type gives you text that looks “loose” and uneven; there’s a lot of white space between characters and words, so it’s more difficult to spot the spaces between sentences immediately. Hence the adoption of the two-space rule—on a typewriter, an extra space after a sentence makes text easier to read.