The two-space debate is over

See this expression? Lordy, I love this expression.

comma

It belongs to Mary Norris, a proofreader at the New Yorker who is also the “Comma Queen.”

Her job these days is often to pull out the two spaces that some people leave after a period, leaving one, an issue that tears newsrooms and offices apart.

Who would do such a thing?

That’s right. Old people. And that’s why she has that expression, which is laugh-out-loud funny.

Watch the video here.

Related: Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period. (Slate)

  • BJ

    Last week I finally gave in and started using 1 space. I still see websites and other places where the font used should call for a two space end to sentence. I guess that is fine, personally I still like the look and flow that 2 spaces gives.

    • You can like it all you want, it’s still wrong.

      Now, let’s discuss the “Oxford” comma.

      😉

      • Veronica

        I have my BA in English and I somehow weaned myself off of that second space.

        They will have to pry the Oxford comma out of my cold, dead, and awesome hands.

        • Jeff

          I didn’t know there was a war on the Oxford comma. Sigh, first the war on Christmas – when will it stop? (Humm… can I use a “dash” here? I like dashes.)

          • Veronica

            I love dashes.

      • BJ

        Journalists, Typesetters, copywriters, proofreaders, and people with BA’s in English. A list of the only people I know that ‘push’ for the single space. Ack. I still gave in.

        • Do they still have typesetters?

          I remember as a Cub Scout, touring the local newspaper in my hometown and seeing the big vat of molten lead from which type would eventually come.

          It’s amazing, really, how far we’ve come.

          • It’s still part of the “artisan” movement with handmade books and what not.

            Personally, I set type and images digitally but was exposed and trained in the basics of manual typesetting.

            /Graphic Designer

          • X.A. Smith

            My dad was a typesetter. Started on Lineotypes, then Compugraphics (computers the size of a desk), then Macs.

            There is a great documentary about Lineotypes here:

            "Linotype: The Film" Official Trailer from Linotype: The Film on Vimeo.

      • wjc

        Now I have Vampire Weekend’s “Oxford Comma” going through my head. Thanks. 🙂

        “Who gives a f*** about an Oxford comma?”

    • jon

      I know you are trying to communicate with us, but the sentences don’t seem to be followed by two spaces. I suspect you are speaking some sort of foreign language.

    • ChrisF

      I’m with you. I’ve tried to use just one space but I just can’t. Okay, there I tried it. And again. Nope, I was born a two space guy and I’m going to die a two space guy.

      • Anna

        My computer brain has been permanently etched with the two space rule. I was an executive secretary before I became a nurse and transcribed dictation as a legal secretary at 80 WPM.

        I’ll die like you— a two space woman.

        I agree with another poster: let the software take care of it!

    • tboom

      I’ll always use two spaces, just as God intended. If the software wants one space let the damn software take out the second space.

      • tboom

        oh, it did.

      • >>I’ll always use two spaces, just as God intended.<<

        Ah, you are a true believer…

        😉

    • kg2v

      If the site had intelligent kerning, it would make no difference. I tend to type two spaces out of habit, but a smart editor would replace the double space with an EM space (vs EN between words), as the typesetters for books and newspapers etc have done for centuries. In most fonts, the EM is oh, 1.4-1.5 EN spaces wide. Type setters new there needed to be a bit more than between words. If we could get the folks who program the text editors on the web to understand… (BTW, Word, when setup properly does this – type two spaces, it inserts one EM on the screen, and in the document, even if it shows YOU two spaces, and it even knows how to kern gliphs)

      • boB from WA

        Huh?

  • Kassie

    The video says only people who typed college papers on a typewriter use two spaces after a period, and those people are all about 60. Which is just not true! I learned to type with two spaces after a period in 1993 in a high school typing class. I’ve broken myself of the habit, but did it until I started using twitter regularly, where every character counts.

    • Josh

      I learned two spaces in a typing class in high school, and I graduated in 2002. So this is still more “modern” than the article suggests.

    • Maren Kirkegaard Walz

      Good-for-something Twitter!

  • Duran

    I think the report speaks for itself: Everyone beats Typographers.

    But seriously, I leave more space after a period in handwriting too. Also after colons, but not semi-colons.

    All that despite being young enough to recognize it’s the age of the 140 character limit…

    • MplsGal

      What’s handwriting?

  • Michelle Par

    Oh, dear Comma Queen, I wish I could post on your actual New Yorker site, but alas, I cannot. In the school year 1987-1988, when I was a sophomore in high school in Montana, I took a keyboarding class. We were on computers half the time, and electric typewriters the other half. We alway did a double space after a period (and I still do). I’m 42 now, not in my 60s or 70s, and I still do it. To me, the double space is a cleaner look, and breaks up correctly, the thought that a single sentence is supposed to convey.

  • John

    I am in my mid thirties. Learned to type on both electric typewriters and early Macintosh computers (the ones that you occasionally see converted into fish tanks these days) in the early to mid 90’s.

    I am a two space guy. I am also a big fan of the Oxford comma. I will continue these practices until the many hours of typing I do every day cramp my fingers up to the point where I can no longer hit the space bar twice in a row, and my right middle finger can not find the comma key.

  • Brian

    I also learned the 2 space “rule” in keyboarding class (which I took in the early 90s). Perhaps it is because I wasn’t a great keyboarding student, but I have 100% kicked that habit and now use 1 space. I think 2 looks too long and will delete them if I accidentally include 2.

    (For reference, I am a mathematician. While not in the humanities, studying math may have may also lead to caring about minor details like spacing styles.)

  • Carol S.

    I learned two spaces in typing class in the early 1980s (which puts me in my late 40s, not 60s/70s), but somewhere along the line have switched to one. Frankly, I just don’t care about the space issue. But, dear God, do I HATE the Oxford comma.

  • Tim

    I learned to use two spaces in elementary and junior high school, and since most of what I wrote in college had to follow AP style (which at the time called for two spaces, though it doesn’t anymore), I kept doing it there too. But somewhere along the line, I switched to one, and do that now without thinking about it.

  • Jerry

    I never realised people were so passionate about their bad typing habits.

  • amycrea

    My husband went to a networking group once where an executive recruiter spoke and said she automatically discards resumes that use two spaces after a period or colon, because to her it indicated the applicant was out of touch with current style.

    • I guess that would be a legal form of age discrimination.

      • amycrea

        Heck, he had an exec recruiter at one meeting who said that about 40% of her clients tell her not to send resumes of people over 50, so if they don’t mind being that brazen about it, what’s a little style judgment?

  • Jack Ungerleider

    On the web no one will see your second space.

    • wjc

      Unless it’s ”  “

      • wjc

        That is, “(ampersand)nbsp;(ampersand)nbsp;”

    • boB from WA

      And in space no one can hear you scream.