Neal Sheeran

Rants, Raves, and Geekery

How Many Spaces After a Period?


Back in February, I linked to this Slate article with the subtitle “Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period” My comment to go along with the link was:

I’m ashamed that sometimes I still do this.

Then Mark Barrett at Ditchwalk wrote a very long, quite scathing, and very persuasive counter-argument. I can’t resist quoting these three paragraphs:

There is no evidence in the entire history of the universe that using two spaces after a period has caused irreparable harm, gross insult, lasting disease, mass hysteria, or any negative effect on the human species whatsoever. Why would anyone care so deeply about something so meaningless? The first concern would obviously be an undiagnosed disease process of some kind, but I’m not a doctor so I don’t want to speculate about the mental effects of things like, say, syphilis. I do believe I am qualified, however, by virtue of age and experience, to suggest two motivations that might be fueling such rants, neither of which has anything to do with typography or the needs of the vast majority of people who write or read.

First, I am convinced that people who obsess about this issue genuinely feel they are being assaulted when they come across two spaces after a period. Nobody who did not experience a psychic blow when confronted by two spaces would ever make something like that up, for the simple reason that doing so would define them as loony. Assuming that some people do have a violent reaction, then — in the same way a person might recoil at a photograph of a small, harmless, good-for-your-garden spider, let alone the real thing — I think it’s understandable that they might want to prevent such trauma in the future.

Second, anyone who believes that their own irrational beliefs should be universally adopted by others clearly shows a tendency toward orthodoxy. Practitioners of orthodoxy around the world see no problem with bludgeoning others into submission, even as they remain blind to the extremity of their own views. Typographic fundamentalists are no different.

The whole article is awesome, as are the comments. Good on Mark for replying to most of them. Now I am no longer ashamed.

Although I could be a spineless lemming.