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You may have thought that idea of rhinoceroses peeving about semicolons (when they're not snorting and snuffing) was silly. But the comments on Mark's post Peeving and breeding have devolved to a level of even greater silliness: the pressing question of whether to type one space after a period or two.

Although you might wonder how there can be anything sillier than rhinoceroses peeving about semicolons, since that is completely fanciful, the difference is that nobody thinks the idea of rhinoceroses peeving about semicolons is a serious question. The same is unfortunately not true of the question of PFSS (Post-Full-Stop Spacing). There are people, many of whom are lawyers working in one of the more self-consciously nerdy areas of the law (the comments are open for your guesses), who seem to care deeply about this issue. Some of them may care about it almost as much as they care about Oxford commas. (Did you know that there are people who say in their Twitter profiles that they use Oxford commas?)

Now the Oxford comma is fine and all, but I hardly think that using it entitles you to bragging rights.  Don't get me wrong—I think the world of the Oxford comma, and I use it myself.  But I also wear socks, and I don't go around bragging about that.  And compared to the one-space-or-two issue, the Oxford comma is a veritable matter of international security.  Oxford commas can prevent ambiguity, which is a noble function.  But the only consequence that results from your choice of how many spaces to leave between sentences is…um…how big the space between your sentences looks.

Once again, don't get me wrong. I'm a one-spacer myself. And I've been a one-spacer for 15 or 20 years. So when it comes to one-spacer cred, I got your cred right here, dude; don't fuck with me, ya got that? So for all you people who feel proud about using just one  space, first of all, it turns out that typewriters aren't really to blame for two-spacing. And second, I have one word for you:

Stop.

Just stop bragging about it, stop complaining about people who use two spaces, stop feeling smug about it.

Of all the issues that have anything at all to do with writing, the question of one-space-versus-two is without a doubt the most trivial issue ever.

If you really feel the need to use some obscure typographical practice as a badge of identity, please at least pick something that makes a difference, like "In MS Word|File|Options|Advanced|Compatibility Options|Layout, always check 'Do full justification the way WordPerfect 6.x for Windows does'".

That, at least, will make a visible difference.



74 Comments

  1. Neal Goldfarb said,

    March 5, 2018 @ 9:49 pm

    Speaking of visible differences, I consistently used a single space after sentence-final periods in this post—except in one paragraph.

    Did you notice?

  2. Chris C. said,

    March 5, 2018 @ 10:15 pm

    It was, if memory serves, one of the lawyers in question that first got me reading LL, by way of a mention in his well-known legal humor blog.

    Since I'm replying reasonably promptly I don't know if I should spoil one of the answers or not.

  3. Ellen Kozisek said,

    March 5, 2018 @ 10:23 pm

    Web browsers turn multiple spaces into single spaces. (Though, as I've discovered though conversation, not all web browsers.) So we readers (at least many of us) can't tell how many spaces someone typed after a period in their post, because however many get typed, it gets shown as just one.

    [NG: In my browser (Firefox), the double spaces are preserved in the paragraph in they are used, but not in the title of the post.]

    And, for the record, I've been using a single space between sentences in this post. I checked. I guess somewhere along the line the double space habit got replaced with single spacing.

  4. Lex said,

    March 5, 2018 @ 10:25 pm

    Yes, I noticed. It was unsettling — like seeing someone wearing socks with sandles.

  5. Kate Gladstone said,

    March 5, 2018 @ 10:28 pm

    Seeing "rhinoseroses" (rather than "rhinoceroses") several times in this posting has made me start to wonder whether "rhinoceroses" is obsolescent. Please advise.

    [It's not. Neal was wrong. I logged in and changed it without his permission, as noted in a comment below. I was losing sleep over it. The word is hard enough without Neal messing with our heads. —GKP]

  6. Anthony said,

    March 5, 2018 @ 10:35 pm

    Historically, it seems that typing has imitated local printing practice. (My own practice, 2 spaces, dates from eighth-grade typing class).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_sentence_spacing

  7. Paul Clapham said,

    March 5, 2018 @ 10:35 pm

    My daughter is a lawyer and she spends a lot of time reading and drafting contracts. And I recall her saying to me once that she spent an inordinate amount of time changing one space after a period to two spaces. Or maybe it was changing two spaces to one? I didn't pay much attention at the time because I have enough of my own nerd-alia to deal with.

  8. Haig Evans-Kavaldjian said,

    March 5, 2018 @ 10:49 pm

    Oh, so I haven't read the other comments yet (surely a mistake), but… what about spaces versus tabs? (Ask a coder.)

  9. Haig Evans-Kavaldjian said,

    March 5, 2018 @ 10:51 pm

    Also, did you realize that many of the places your post is appearing turn your double space into a single? Ooops, HTML. Shoot! ;-)

  10. Haig Evans-Kavaldjian said,

    March 5, 2018 @ 10:51 pm

    Also, I still love this…

  11. Haig Evans-Kavaldjian said,

    March 5, 2018 @ 10:54 pm

    Also, do you remember WordStar for CP/M or — gasp — NorthStar DOS?

  12. ktschwarz said,

    March 5, 2018 @ 11:44 pm

    Didn't notice spaces at the end of sentences. Did notice "just one space" (was that intentional? why?) and "anything at all o do with writing".

  13. ktschwarz said,

    March 5, 2018 @ 11:49 pm

    Gah! I copied-and-pasted "just one space" from the post above, where there are two spaces between "one" and "space", but the browser turned the two spaces into one when it posted my comment.

    @Lex: "sandles" is a lot more unsettling than any number of spaces. On purpose?

  14. Garrett Wollman said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 12:01 am

    As noted above, the HTML specification _requires_ that all sequences of whitespace, of whatever type or length, be treated identically to a single space character (unless the formatting explicitly indicates that all whitespace is to be preserved, as in a "pre"[formatted] element).

    I use two spaces, because I use Emacs, and Emacs has commands for dealing with sentences. Two spaces (or a newline) after a period is how it recognizes the end of a sentence; this practice dates back to the 1970s. Decent typesetting software will collapse sequences of whitespace, just as browsers do. (Why doesn't Emacs accept one space after a period? Abbreviations.)

  15. Neal Goldfarb said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 12:35 am

    @Kate Gladstone

    Seeing "rhinoseroses" (rather than "rhinoceroses") several times in this posting has made me start to wonder whether "rhinoceroses" is obsolescent. Please advise.

    What? You think you're allowed to go all prescriptivist on me about spelling? This is Language Log, dammit.

    All I have to say is that when you do a Google image search on rhinoSeros, this is what comes up.

    [I couldn't bear it, so I logged in and changed the spelling to the correct one without Neal's permission. He is way too laid back for me. I'm surprise he even wears socks. —GKP]

  16. Jerry Friedman said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 12:39 am

    In line with what Garrett said, the only time I notice how many spaces are after a period is after abbreviations that end with a period, when I can get snagged for a split second because it looks like the end of a sentence, especially if the next letter is a capital. That doesn't happen to me if there's extra space after sentence-ending periods. I'm sure it doesn't always happen if there isn't.

    (Of course some people don't use periods after abbreviations.)

    In defense of the passionate one-spacers, though, professional type designers get pretty serious about it. See the Wikipedia article for examples.

  17. Neal Goldfarb said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 12:40 am

    @ktschwartz

    Didn't notice spaces at the end of sentences. Did notice "just one space" (was that intentional? why?) and "anything at all o do with writing".

    I forgot to mention that there was also a proofreading test embedded in the post. Congratulations, you passed.

  18. Chris C. said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 12:45 am

    @Paul Clapham — That just confirms my suspicion, developed after reviewing drafts of a trust I set up last year, that lawyers don't know how to use word processors. There's no reason at all to spend an inordinate amount of time on such a thing.

    On the other hand, it *does* mean more billable hours. Not that I'm bitter about having to pay for the lawyer to fix their own errors in the trust, including misspellings of my name and provisions included contrary to my express instructions on which I saw her take notes. Nope. Not upset at all.

  19. ErikF said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 1:57 am

    @Chris C.: It is far less true today than in the past, but I think it was a given that nobody could type unless it was in their job description (see the conversation in the first episode of Yes, Minister [https://youtu.be/SdVFD1MuPrU?t=534], where none of the secretaries mentioned by Sir Humphrey could type!)

  20. Ian D. Bollinger said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 2:02 am

    Apparently Microsoft removed the WordPerfect full justification feature from Word in 2013; I don't use Office so I can't verify. Also, your document will still probably look ugly if you use it unless you are diligent about hyphenation.

  21. Michael D. Sullivan said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 2:39 am

    Before the typewriter, printers used single spaces between words and between sentences, but they were different widths. Between sentences, they used em-quads, the width of the letter m, and equivalent to the height of the text; between sentences, they used smaller spaces. In modern typesetting, only single spaces are used as input, but the typesetting software can (and often does) perform a similar operation to that of the earlier printers and typesetters and use varying width single spaces. Open a volume of the U.S. Supreme Court's official reports and you will find that the intersentence space is roughly double that of the interword space. When typewriters came into vogue, they only had a single width of space, so typists acquired the habit of spacing twice between sentences.

    With regard to online spacing: HTML reduces white space (meaning spaces, carriage returns, tabs, or whatever) in normal text to a single space unless there is some sort of override, such as a non-breaking space, an HTML paragraph break, etc. But this only applies to HTML text in normal form. It doesn't apply to specially formatted text, such as code samples. It may or may not apply to text that is entered into a form, as I'm doing now, depending on how the input text is processed into HTML display text.

  22. Michael D. Sullivan said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 2:39 am

    It looks like this blog's comment function collapses multiple spaces for display.

  23. rosie said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 2:55 am

    One-spacers aren't bragging that their way is better than the two-space way. They're countering two-space prescriptivism by saying that the two-space rule is a zombie rule.

  24. Rubrick said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 4:38 am

    The proper rule is to always use one space unless the preceding sentence contains a relativizing which, in which case you should use an em dash whose color matches the background.

  25. Kapitano said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 4:50 am

    My mother is a secretary, my father a typographer, and I'm a graphic designer. None of us had ever heard of this controversy.

    And we managed to recently disagree on optimal blockquote widths, first-line indents, and the proper definition of "byline".

  26. Adam F said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 4:53 am

    For typesetting (rather than typing), I prefer the way LaTeX does it: the intersentence space is roughly 1.5 times the width of the interword space.

  27. David Morris said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 6:53 am

    To misquote Orwell (dangerous thing to do around here): one space good, two spaces bad.

  28. Dick Margulis said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 7:33 am

    Lacking knowledge, people make stuff up. I used to get upset at all the nonsense people spouted about one space vs. two spaces and try to educate them about the history. But I realize now that I've posted plenty of comments on Language Log on topics I know nothing about where I've hypothesized or speculated and been corrected by people with facts at their disposal, so I should be more generous toward people who wander into my field and spout off about their own wild speculations or urban myths they've internalized. This is apparently something humans are good at.

  29. Ray said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 7:48 am

    how does everyone here feel about the british practice of no spaces between the initials of someone's name? like, for example: J.K. Rowling (she's J. K. Rowling on wikipedia, nyt, and the new yorker, but J.K. Rowling on her website and twitter)

  30. Ralph Hickok said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 8:08 am

    @Ray:
    In AP style, there is no space between initials in a person's name. That prevents initials from breaking across lines.

  31. bill said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 8:11 am

    Yes, I noticed and it looked weird. But your overall point is correct and I may try to reduce my complaining.

  32. languagehat said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 8:44 am

    I use two spaces for two reasons:

    1) It's how I learned to type and I see no reason to change.

    2) It annoys the annoying one-space peevers.

  33. Terry Hunt said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 9:19 am

    Neil Golfarb links to a blog post by Thomas A. Fine, which in turn links to and criticises a blog post by Heiko Spallek. As a former editor with some training in traditional typography, I disagree with Fine's criticism: I think he has misunderstood (or deliberately distorted) Spallek's argument.

    Fine counter-argues on the basis of the linear distances between the adjacent extremes of letters, but Spallek is clearly discussing not these distances, but the white spaces or areas between them. It is these areas which the reader's eye perceives, and they vary according to the shapes of the particular characters involved, which is why in large display fonts (for example, newspaper headlines), inter-letter spaces have to be individually adjusted or 'kerned' so that the areas of white space between each pair of letters is, as far as possible, equal.

    As Spallek describes, the non-proportional or monospace fonts created by mechanical and earlier electric typewriters were forced to allot the same width of paper to each character, so in monospace thin characters (like "i"), necessarily had more white space to either side than, say, "M". Monospace typefaces like Courier tried to mitigate this by, for example, increasing the width of serifs on narrow letters, but could only do so much.

    Typing manuals and courses, such as those I used in the 1970s and took in the 1990s, therefore mandated two monospace spaces after a closing stop to increase the contrast with inter-word spaces and hence reduce readers' unconscious tripping over the latter. In RSA typing examinations, one would lose a mark for each instance of not using this double space (and losing more than 2 marks from the entire exam would eliminate one from the top "with distinction" slot). Their use was also preferred by publishers for typed manuscripts, as it made typesetters' work easier.

    Proportional fonts as even then used in book printing and now in computer applications can use proportionally spaced fonts and various non-unitary spaces which eliminate much of the problem (which can also be exacerbated by the effects of full justification), as Michael D. Sullivan explains in more detail above. I too, like Goldfarb, have long since adapted to single post-stop spaces, but I wish he had not relied on what I regard as Fine's flawed analysis.

  34. Jerry Friedman said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 9:36 am

    rosie: One-spacers aren't bragging that their way is better than the two-space way. They're countering two-space prescriptivism by saying that the two-space rule is a zombie rule.

    See the Wikipedia article Sentence Spacing. The best quotation is, "Ilene Strizver, founder of the Type Studio, says, 'Forget about tolerating differences of opinion: typographically speaking, typing two spaces before the start of a new sentence is absolutely, unequivocally wrong.'"

  35. Troy S. said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 10:05 am

    Psh, a man of letters would know it's "rhinocerots" or "rhinocerotes."

    "And the Unicornes [or: Rhoncerots] shall come downe with them, and the bullockes with the bulles, and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatnesse."

    Isaiah 34:7, King James Bible

    "Beyond that Country of Birds, is another wilde and mountainous, where abide many creatures much worse than those Birds, Elephants, Rhinocerotes, Lions, Wild-swine, Buffals, and Wild-kine."

    -Samuel Purchas

    "Don Surly, to aspire the glorious name
    Of a great man, and to be thought the same,
    Makes serious use of all great trade he know.
    He speaks to men with a Rhinocerotes' nose"

    -Ben Jonson

  36. David L said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 10:31 am

    I have no strong feelings about whether you should use one (1) or two (2) spaces after a period — well, other than to say that people who insist on two (2) spaces are hopeless sticks in the mud — but it bugs me no end that some of my lawyer friends insist on doing the number (numeral) thing even on directions to their house for barbecues and the like.

  37. J.W. Brewer said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 10:49 am

    Neal Goldfarb says he's been a one-spacer for "15 or 20 years," which, given his age, suggests that he was a two-spacer well into his adult life and professional career. I personally concur with languagehat's point 1, i.e. why invest the time and effort to unlearn something already both learned and "automated" (i.e. the two-spaces-after-a-period thing was from circa 10th grade in my "muscle memory" rather than a thing I had to pause and think about)? It seems roughly akin to learning how to touch-type on a non-qwerty keyboard that The Experts Say is more efficient to use — once the substantial transition costs of unlearning how you already do it and learning a new and different way are incurred. So I am curious as to why Mr. Goldfarb (or anyone else who self-consciously changed their own practice after having gotten to the automated/muscle-memory level with a prior and different practice) decided that the new way was not only better in the abstract but so much better as to be worth the hassle of making the change.

  38. Guy Plunkett III said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 11:45 am

    J.W. Brewer asks why "anyone else who self-consciously changed their own practice after having gotten to the automated/muscle-memory level with a prior and different practice" — in my case, I was never a very good typist, so the muscle memory was close to non-existant. And fewer keystrokes were easier. On the other hand, I continue to waffle on the issue of spaces in initials, and am easily influenced by what already exists in a document I am working on. Which I'm sure collaborators love when they get to references/literature cited.

  39. Ralph Hickok said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 11:52 am

    @ J.W. Brewer:
    I'm in a situation similar to Neal Goldfarb's. I learned typing my senior year in high school, 1954-55, and I wrote articles and books on manual typewriters and an IBM Selectric until well into the 1980s. Every style book or style guide I worked with during that period, including those for Hawthorn Books, McGraw-Hill, and Sports Illustrated, called for two spaces after a sentence.
    In 1989, I signed a contract to write "The Encyclopedia of North American Sports History" for Facts on File. I was surprised to see that their style guide specified just one space. Now working with a word processing program on a computer, I tried to follow that style but wasn't very consistent. Fortunately, global search and replace allowed me to change all the double spaces to single spaces.
    My next two books were written for Simon & Schuster and Houghton Mifflin, both of whom also specified just one space after a sentence, and I gradually became more practiced at doing it that way, although I still used global search and replace to make sure.
    By the time I did a complete revised and updated edition of the Facts on File encyclopedia, just about 10 years after the first edition, my muscles had thoroughly acquired a new memory and I had no problem at all sticking to the one-space style.

  40. Matt said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 12:01 pm

    I don't remember why (was it something Bryan Garner wrote?), but about two (2) years ago I decided to make the switch from two (2) spaces to one (1). The result was not good or bad, just different. And even after using two (2) spaces for almost fifty (50) years, it was easy. Not quite effortless, but easy and quick and certainly not a hassle.

  41. Coby Lubliner said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 12:13 pm

    I think I'm older than either J.W. or Neal, but after many decades of automated two-spacing I changed to one-spacing with no great effort. I still remember to two-space when I use Courier.

  42. Dottyeyes said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 12:15 pm

    Paul Clapham's daughter needs to learn about global search and replace (re: "she spent an inordinate amount of time changing one space after a period to two spaces").

    Anyhow, yes, I did notice the two spaces in the one paragraph, but I also routinely notice, say, an errant boldface full stop. I'm an editor, so I've spent my required thousand hours to become an expert at nitpicking.

    The one time I was truly bothered by the two- or one-space issue was when my son had a few points taken off a high school essay. Unbeknownst to me (and, apparently to him, because he hadn't read the teacher's instructions thoroughly), the English teacher told the kids that two spaces was the proper way. I had taught him to use only one. He learned that my way was the right way (haha!) but that life is unfair and sometimes you have to make your "boss" happy!

  43. J.W. Brewer said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 12:29 pm

    Ralph Hickok: Ok, "I changed because I needed to change in order to get paid on a series of projects I was working on, and eventually the new way seemed natural" is a perfectly understandable answer. I suppose the obvious follow-up question is whether (to the extent you can know the counterfactual, of course) you would have invested the effort to change without that financial incentive, and if so what would have been sufficient motivation (desire to appear au courant and/or avoid the wrath of one faction of peevers? being convinced that the new way was in some objective sense superior? something else?).

  44. Paul Clapham said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 12:46 pm

    @Dottyeyes: It's easy to do global search and replace to change period plus two spaces to period plus one space. It's much less easy to change period plus one space to period plus two spaces — especially if you only want to do that at the end of sentences but you want one space after a period which denotes an abbreviation in the middle of a sentence.

  45. Dottyeyes said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 1:03 pm

    Ah, good point, Paul Clapham. You could first change all full stop, space to full stop, space, space. Then use Word's wildcard search to find full stop, space, space, any lowercase letter. Then, when all those instances were highlighted (pressing "find in main document"), you could replace the two spaces with one spaces. And then you'd just have decide as you read if there were any abbreviations followed by, say, an acronym or a proper noun.

    As I think about this process, I feel exceedingly glad that all my clients want only a single space after the full stop!

  46. Vulcan With a Mullet said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 1:36 pm

    I learned one stop spacing when I was in journalism class about 25 years ago and I have done it ever since.

  47. David Bertenshaew said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 1:38 pm

    @Garrett Wollman

    AFAIK, emacs works fine with single spaces after sentences — I've been using it that way for years and have not noticed any problems with abbreviations. Spacemacs even comes that way by default.

    The variable is sentence-end-double-space – set it to nil to have decent sensible one-space behaviour…

    Doesn't that work for you?

  48. bill said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 1:39 pm

    J.W. Brewer: "why invest the time and effort to unlearn something already both learned and 'automated'"

    Because it didn't require any time and effort. It was pretty much "oh, so what I learned in typing class all those years ago no longer applies when typing with these new computer thingys…cool."

    And then I showed some adaptability and only hit the space bar once. Times change, standards change, practices change. What you learned as a child does not always exist as an eternal truth.

  49. languagehat said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 1:48 pm

    What you learned as a child does not always exist as an eternal truth.

    No, of course not, but we're not talking about eternal truth, we're talking about pluses and minuses. I'm not going to change how I type unless someone provides me with a more convincing plus than "you'll make some peevers happy."

  50. Dick Margulis said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 2:06 pm

    Nor should you, assuming your text is going to be processed by someone or something else. Despite the occasional whinging of some of my copyeditor colleagues, it makes not a whit of difference whether authors type one space or two, because it takes a single click of the mouse to fix the problem (really, there's a button for it that comes with a macro package most editors have installed as a Word add-on). And if you are writing for the Web, as others have noted, HTML consolidates all white space to a single space anyway. The exception is when you double-space in Word and then save the Word document as HTML. For unknowable reasons, Word takes that as a signal to insert a space followed by a nonbreaking space, and thus a double space appears on the webpage. The obvious solution is to not use Word to generate HTML, but anyone who has looked at the garbage code that results from doing so should have the sense to never do that again.

  51. Eleanor said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 2:10 pm

    *whistles innocently*

  52. Eleanor said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 2:15 pm

    No, in all seriousness, I apologise for giving in to a regrettable trolling impulse.

  53. aka_darrell said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 2:18 pm

    Unicode has 25 different spaces for some reason so they must be important to someone somewhere.

  54. Dick Margulis said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 2:26 pm

    @aka_darrell: Yes, they're important to someone somewhere, but they're not important to people writing running prose with a clunky word processor. If you're setting complicated mathematical expressions freehand (that is, not using an equation editor), some of those spaces will come in handy, as others of them will in other specialized circumstances. But really, writers are not supposed to have to worry about such minutiae. Just get your thoughts down cogently and let editors edits and compositors compose.

  55. Sean Richardson said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 2:59 pm

    Taking this discussion to another dimension … I note that of four dozen comments, most appear to have more than one paragraph, and of those only one that I see does not use the convention of a blank line between paragraphs to delimited them. In plain text contexts, the extra line is the only reliable way to make sure that paragraph boundaries are seen regardless of font size, column width, justification type, etc., on a reader"s display. In practice, that is typed as a double tap on the carriage return or newline key.

    Well, that is exactly cognate to marking sentence boundaries by a double tap on the spacebar.

    This being Language Log, it makes sense to note that if a text uses the double space after a full stop convention, machine-assisted linguistic analysis where sentence boundaries are cogent is made considerably easier, the boundaries already being unambiguously marked.

  56. BillR said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 3:24 pm

    In the earliest days of computer-aided typing, storage media was expensive, and the capacity thereof was limited. Depending on what you were writing, one extra space, I.e., one more character in storage, after every sentence, could add up significantly. An author such as William Faulkner saved untold amounts of storage by writing pages-long sentences, or would have, if he'd used a word processor.

  57. maidhc said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 4:58 pm

    Ray: I've noticed on the BBC website they would put JK Rowling.

  58. Richard Hershberger said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 6:44 pm

    "If you really feel the need to use some obscure typographical practice as a badge of identity, please at least pick something that makes a difference, like "In MS Word|File|Options|Advanced|Compatibility Options|Layout, always check 'Do full justification the way WordPerfect 6.x for Windows does'"."

    Oh, goody! A chance to be smug! You know how I make my pages look like WordPerfect? By working in WordPerfect. Rumors of its demise are premature. It is alive and well. The curious thing is I often see people write wistfully about it: a memory of a happier, more innocent time. Yet when I point out that they can regain their lost youth with all its Reveal Codes glory, they rarely seem to consider this a possibility. I'm sure there are some jobs where collaboration with outsides makes using the lowest common denominator word processor necessary, but for lots of purposes it doesn't matter. If I am sending a file that is simply a text document without fancy formatting, saving it as rtf works just fine. Yes, I need to have the capability of receiving a Word file from time to time. I have Open Office for that.

  59. Jonathan Lundell said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 7:17 pm

    Surely the better rule is "don't use full justification".

  60. Ralph Hickok said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 7:42 pm

    @J.W. Brewer:
    The simple answer to your follow-up question is that without an incentive to change, I wouldn't have changed. The possibilities you mentioned wouldn't have been incentives to me.

  61. Ray said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 9:39 pm

    @maidhc
    "Ray: I've noticed on the BBC website they would put JK Rowling."

    OMG. see, I'm so conflicted about this. because I generally side with british conventions (using Mr instead of Mr., or putting punctuation "outside the quotation marks", like so). but I never liked their no-space-between-initials. but now, seeing a pair of initials without any periods — that I can live with! (the initials become a kind of monogram…)

  62. mg said,

    March 6, 2018 @ 11:46 pm

    @NG – if it's not too much of a pain, would you be willing to follow your LL colleagues' practice of using a different color font when responding inside comments? For those of us with visual processing issues and/or middle-aged eyes, it makes it much easier to differentiate the responses from the comment text.

  63. Levantine said,

    March 7, 2018 @ 12:32 am

    I noticed the anomalous paragraph immediately, even before knowing what the post was about (I was running my eyes over the computer screen while talking on the phone, and the offending paragraph stuck out like a sore thumb). My reason for hating double spaces is aesthetic: they look ugly to me, and very conspicuously so. If we take the typesetting of modern publications as normative, why would anyone favour the unnaturally long gaps that the use of double spaces creates? I understand why inserting two spaces made sense in the days of typewriters, but word processing has been around long enough to put an end to the practice. The Oxford comma is a different matter, as not even those who strongly prefer it would argue that its omission is nonstandard. But I don't know of any modern style guide that recommends the use of two spaces.

  64. Levantine said,

    March 7, 2018 @ 1:06 am

    I stand corrected: the APA recommends two spaces in draft manuscripts even as it acknowledges that single spaces are the publishing standard. But it's an outlier.

  65. Magpie Dan said,

    March 7, 2018 @ 3:38 am

    I had double spaces drummed into me, but that was in a place where green text was only to be used by the chief of navy. They fairly gloried in their anachronism.

    For someone wot gots ta edit a horrendous amount of boring stuff, I'd say that the double space is stink because it's too hard to spot, and you end up obsessing over the entirely wrong thing.

    But then, it can come down to font. Some fonts make a single space terrible hard to be sure of, requiring a desperate click backspace re-space sequence just to be sure. I always feel a little bad for murdering keystrokes I don't need to.

    Times have rolled on, and we don't really matter anymore. HTML wants single spaces, typewriters are gone, and the young folk will dance distractedly on our graves, single-spaces in their eyes.

    Not much point worrying about winners. The truth is measurable: a single space takes one less keystroke. It will win eventually. Done and done and done: Occam's space will still be there when we're dead.

    (And, from my stricter editing days, I'll share my brightest glory: once, much to the mingled delight, horror and contempt of the audience who witnessed my prancing glee, I did find a bold space, stranded alone inside a segment of hacked and regretted and above all modest text.

    The moment was as magnificent as you can probably imagine.

    And if that's not saying much, it's because I'm not either).

  66. Adam F said,

    March 7, 2018 @ 4:33 am

    @languagehat "I use two spaces for two reasons:" — same here.

    @Garrett Wollman — Bonus points for Emacs!

    Anyway, there's a difference between typing and typesetting.

  67. Michael said,

    March 8, 2018 @ 3:27 pm

    Funny, I thought it was the two-spacers that bragged, not the one-spacers. In fairness, it took me a certain amount of effort to learn to switch to one space when I started using a computer for all of my writing, so I suppose people are bragging the way that one brags about learning any difficult new skill.

  68. Gwen Katz said,

    March 8, 2018 @ 11:31 pm

    &NBSP after every sentence. It's the only correct answer.

  69. Bruce said,

    March 9, 2018 @ 2:08 am

    Actually, " " is the only correct answer

    (sorry, got carried away by all the peeving in the comments here!)

  70. Bruce said,

    March 9, 2018 @ 2:10 am

    Nuts. Everyone is just going to have to take my word that the thing was intended to be an " & n b s p ; "

    And now I've added a whole slew of improper spaces …

  71. James Wimberley said,

    March 9, 2018 @ 5:29 am

    Come on, LL commenters. Make an effort. You surely can't leave the thread on such a vital Endian linguistics controversy at a mere 70 comments (71 now). A ton at least.

  72. languagehat said,

    March 9, 2018 @ 8:44 am

      — the final frontier…

  73. mg said,

    March 9, 2018 @ 12:06 pm

    ouch!

  74. Adam F said,

    March 19, 2018 @ 3:19 am

    A bit late, but I've just seen this on the Daily Mash:

    Last human to use two spaces after a full stop dies

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