Never in my life have I heard of this…

In true style of any admissions department we are constantly working together as a team on each and every current project. This morning I was working with my fellow employee Caitlin Stillwell on a simple letter to confirm prospective Saint Rose class of 2016 students overnight visits. Insert plug now: Overnights are a great way to get a real feel for campus life at any school, I highly suggest taking advantage of this opportunity, to sign up for an overnight click here now!

Now back to the point, I said these exact words to Caitlin, “What are all of these extra spaces? Get those out of there.” She looked at me like I had nine heads saying “What do you mean, it’s two spaces?”

Image used from http://www.toonpool.com/cartoons/9%20heads_15849

I’m now extremely confused and state “Yeah, exactly, two spaces there’s only supposed to be one.” By the look on her face I knew that something was up and without further hesitation I ran across the hall to another coworkers office and practically yelled “Justin, when you’re writing a paper or a letter how many spaces do you put between sentences?” He looked up and simply said “Two.”

Whoa whoa whoa! Am I crazy? I have NEVER heard of this. I was a communications student with a minor in English meaning I was constantly writing papers or articles for The Chronicle. How, in the twenty three years of my existence have I not heard of this? How could no one have ever told me about this? Feeling extremely left out and beginning to question everything I was ever taught in middle school, I proceeded to run to every office in my building (yes that means up and down three very steep flights of stairs) to figure out what everyone else does in this situation.

Here’s the data:

Of the 13 people I asked 6 have heard of it but don’t use it, 5 use it, and 2 (myself included) have never heard of such a thing.

I have since looked it up and have come to various conclusions. The biggest conclusion is that it is generational, but this does not hold true with my data because the 5 who use it vary in age. I understand that this goes back to the use of type writers.

A classic typewriter. Image used from http://site.xavier.edu/polt/typewriters/

A classic typewriter. Image used from http://site.xavier.edu/polt/typewriters/

A Wikipedia article on “Sentence Spacing” states that “With the introduction of proportional fonts in computers, double sentence spacing became obsolete according to many experts.”

Other articles I read discuss that this is a matter of style. Grammer Girl says, “Although how many spaces you use is ultimately a style choice, using one space is by far the most widely accepted and logical style. The Chicago Manual of Style (1), the AP Stylebook (2), and the Modern Language Association (3) all recommend using one space after a period at the end of a sentence.”

So maybe i’m not crazy?

Wanting to know a little bit more I reached out to Dr. Kim Middleton, Associate Professor and Chair of the English Department here at The College of Saint Rose.

Everyone....Dr. Kim Middleton!!! image used from http://wordpress.strose.edu/?p=9191

And this is what she said:

“It’s funny, a friend of mine who worked as a copy editor at Random House for a number of years just posted on this topic on her Facebook page.  She suggested that it should be everyone’s New Year’s Resolution: never ever use two spaces after a period.  Whoa.  Hardcore.”

Dr. Middleton agreed with what we said above about this whole debate stemming back from the use of typewriters and guess what she uses two spaces in between her sentences! Nonetheless she had some pretty witty commentary to add to this matter.

“My excuse, which I’m now going to assert as universal, is that it is directly attributable to generation and habit.  In the midsts of yesteryear, there were these enormous clunky machines called ‘typewriters,’ to which they would chain unsuspecting middle school students for classes on ‘touchtyping.’  [Picture it: an entire classroom of IBM selectrics, each with a piece of paper taped over the keyboard.  The expectation was that you’d slide your hands under the paper and learn to type without looking at the keys.  American public school at its very best!]  Anyway, in the typing drills of my youth, the expectation was that you’d place two spaces after the period to signal a new sentence.”

Lastly Dr. Middleton stated, “My conscious brain knows that I’m adding extra, unnecessary spaces, but my fingers haven’t gotten over their training from seventh grade.”

See now that’s what i’m talking about “unnecessary spaces”!

Ok, ok, ok so I get it but I am just wondering, am I the only one who never knew? There has to be others out there like me…come on…somebody…anybody?

  7 comments for “Never in my life have I heard of this…

  1. Kayla Germain
    February 3, 2012 at 10:49 AM

    Abby- While I have seen the two space thing before, I am with you on this. I graduated with a communications BS and MA from two different schools and was NEVER told to input two spaces after a sentence. I definitely think it is a thing of the past that is occasionally, as Dr. Middlteon said, habitually practiced.

    ^ For the record, I think my one-spacing up there looks JUST FINE.

  2. Kristine
    February 3, 2012 at 11:00 AM

    We were just talking about this in my Wednesday night grad class! My professor said that the APA manual has been newly updated… I think it’s at its 6th edition now? So, the 4th edition called for two spaces, the 5th reverted back to one space, and the 6th is now suggesting to go back to two spaces. I was never taught to put two spaces between sentences, but my friend (who is the same age) was and does it automatically. All through college, hearing professors request “double-spaced” made me think double-spaced lines, never spaces between sentences.

  3. Hilary
    February 3, 2012 at 12:43 PM

    I have been using the double space since the 9th grade! I do not think I would feel comfortable with one space. Perhaps it’s just my subconscious telling me 2 spaces allow the reader to pause.

  4. February 3, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    Comments from my Facebook and Twitter:

    Katie: I was definitely taught 2 spaces after a period even up through undergrad. the reason i was given in college was that when someone is reading your writing, they don’t always have the same cadence of speech, and so it forces them to take a pause before continuing to read. Especially when read out loud.

    Liz: Haha totally on your side Abby. I’ve never in my life heard of that much less used it…and I was an English minor too!

    Brittany: haha I am with you Abby, I was an English major and I never heard about this

    Martha: we had to use 2 spaces in like middle school, but I def don’t any more!

    Tim: I was taught to use double spaces and never thought about it until my two English-major roommates enlightened me. Since then, I’ve always opted for just one and that’s been the standard for the companies I’ve worked for.

    Bessie: I learned to use two spaces my senior year at Saint Rose in my class with Dr. Haynes. Before that I had never once heard of it. He acted as though we were crazy for not knowing and we all settled on using whatever we were comfortable with. In my case, one space haha

    Emily: In graphic design, putting two spaces after a period is REALLY REALLY wrong! Points off in school, in publication work it’s a big no no.

  5. Jeff Schenck
    February 3, 2012 at 2:14 PM

    I’m pretty sure that, when I was an undergrad, the MLA manual directed us to use two spaces after a period; one after a semi-colon. Of course, this means that I am old. My memory could be failing.

  6. February 3, 2012 at 2:30 PM

    Abby,

    Great post! The double-space things comes up occasionally in copy-editing at The Chronicle. Some kids are still taught to use it so we sometimes have to remove it.

    Here’s a quick anecdote: When I testing out a graphic design/typography major one of my quirky graphic design teachers ploughed it into our heads that this WAS indeed an old-fashioned leftover from typewriter days and that if he ever found double-spaced sentences we would have committed an egregious graphic design sin. He never specified the consequences, but none of us–to my knowledge–ever tested him about it.

    And all this coming from a sixty year old Scottish man who had spent his career days working in the age of type-writers, back when he still had hair.

    Also, you can STILL write for The Chronicle if you’re interested! 😉

    Again, great post!
    Ian Benjamin

  7. Lily
    February 5, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    Hi Abby!

    Interesting post! I have never heard of this, adding two spaces after a period thing. Thank you for enlightening me on something I didn’t know about it.

    –Lily

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