Entry 725: Spaced Out

In my last post, I wrote about my resolution for the New Year, which was to try to pronounce the word “vegan” correctly or, rather, the way vegans would like it to be pronounced, which is incorrectly.

You may have thought that was somewhat weak as resolutions go, along the lines of Donald Trump promising to cut down on his use of the word “loser.”

Okay, fine. If you insist, I’ve decided that I’ll also stop putting two spaces between sentences.

I grew up with two spaces, and I’ve always been sure that was correct. I would have sworn it was correct. You could have won a major bet with me and perhaps taken possession of my 401k if you had known how sure I was about this. It made so much sense, after all: if there’s one space between words, wouldn’t you think there should be a bigger space between sentences?

Apparently not. In fact, I have recently learned that two spaces was never correct, and I’ve been wrong about this my entire life, just as I’ve been wrong about which New York baseball team to root for. In my defense, however, the two space rule wasn’t something I imagined. In the mid-20th Century, people were sometimes told to use two spaces because computers hadn’t been invented yet. Well, they had been invented, but they took up entire rooms, and had lots of spinning reels, and the average person said, “I think I’ll wait till you get that down to the size of a phone.”

The manual typewriters we had in those prehistoric days used monospaced type . . . that is, every letter was given the same amount of space. But that made the spacing between letters look uneven because skinny letters like “i” had more “air” around them than fat letters like “m.”  So people started putting two spaces between sentences to differentiate that from the variable spaces between letters.

Obviously, that’s no longer necessary because today’s modern computers know how to smush letters together.  You can see the same principle at work with passengers on New York City subways.  If a skinny person sits next to a fat person, the fat person fills in the space next to the skinny person, unless the skinny person manspreads (assuming the skinny person is male), or the fat person has not bathed recently, in which case the skinny person will stand, and the fat person on the skinny person’s other side will somehow expand to take up the space where the skinny person was sitting and the two fat people become like the middle of the word “simmer.”

Where was I?

Right–spaces between sentences.  Anyway, the double space bar tap is so automatic to me, I’m no more likely to stop doing it than I am to suddenly begin using the metric system.

Yes, I know. This post has one space between sentences. But it’s only because I do a search and replace when I’m done. Search “  ” and replace with “ ”.

So maybe I’m cheating a bit on my resolution. Which is why I’ve also decided to begin typing ellipses correctly.

Hey, you–put down your counterfeit moon-watching glasses!  I said “ellipses,” not “eclipses.”  An “ellipsis” is what cretins like you refer to as “dot dot dot.”

I use ellipses more than most people because I write direct mail for a living, and we direct mail writers are fond of using headlines like:

Get this Harley Davidson Leather Jacket Absolutely FREE . . .

And then continuing with “ . . . with your purchase of the 2018 Harley Davidson 1200 Custom starting at $10,999 MSRP.”

I don’t know why, but I’ve always typed an ellipsis as “…”. Now I’m told that there not only has to be a space between each dot, but there has to be one before the first dot and after the last dot, which creates all kinds of problems when your dot dot dot gets automatically line-broken and two of your dots end up on the next line.

So, anyway, here I am, staunchly prepared to do battle with my natural inclination to put two spaces between sentences and no spaces between dots, and I go to see Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, the opening crawl of which ends with:

“But the Resistance has been exposed. As the First Order speeds toward the rebel base, the brave heroes mount a desperate escape….”

And as everyone in the theater leans slightly forward in anticipation of the latest adventure, I’m taken aback with this thought: “FOUR DOTS? WTF!”

And, I looked it up and the original Star Wars had four dots . . . and no spaces between them! They had all the space they needed to put spaces between the dots . . . in fact, they had all of space available to put spaces between the dots, and they didn’t!

I hate starting a new year all confused.

See you soon.

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One Response to Entry 725: Spaced Out

  1. davidd says:

    Way back in my high school days I took a typing class. Back then it was called “typing,” not “keyboarding,” and we typed on typewriters, not on computer keyboards. The instructor was an old guy, and he knew his stuff when it came to typing. In that class, I learned that two spaces following a period ending a sentence was the correct procedure to use when typing on a typewriter. This allowed readers to differentiate between the end of a sentence and a period following an abbreviation within a sentence, like in “Mr. Smith” or “St. Paul.”

    As I mentioned, the instructor was an old guy, and he was a fan of President Harry Truman. Or Harry S Truman, with no period after the “S.” You see, so I learned in typing class, President Truman only had a middle initial, not a full middle name, so the “S” was not an abbreviation and should not be followed by a period. Periodically the instructor would throw Truman’s name into a sentence on our typing drills, and we would be marked down if we typed Harry S. Truman.

    Later on, after I left high school, computers finally got small enough to bring home. They had green monochrome screens set in beige plastic boxes, and they included “word processing software.” Suddenly typing wasn’t typing anymore, it was word processing. About this time a fun little book called “The Mac Is Not a Typewriter” was published. From this book, I learned that double-spacing following a period at the end of a sentence was not required when using a word processor. As you note, computers (or, more accurately, word processors) know how to smash letters together. They also know how to insert a properly spaced space following the period at the end of a sentence. Double-spacing became obsolete with the advent of the word processor. But prior to that, well, all I know is, I would have failed my typing class if I failed to double-space following the period at the end of a sentence.

    As for the ellipsis thing, I read somewhere once, in the dim, dark recesses of time, that a three-dot ellipsis indicates an open-ended sentence that will be picked up again, like your motorcycle jacket example. It can also indicate an omitted section at the beginning or in the middle of a sentence. If I recall correctly, President Nixon employed the three-dot ellipsis in some of his tapes. A four-dot ellipsis is actually a three-dot ellipsis followed by a period, and indicates the sentence ends, even though some of it is missing. I’ve certainly never heard of placing spaces between the dots of an ellipsis. In fact, many word processors will automatically convert a three-dot ellipsis into an even tinier, scrunched together ellipsis. Then you can put a period after it to make a four-dot ellipsis.

    I would suggest you convert the font selection for your articles to Courier or Andalé Mono and go right on typing the way you have always typed.

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