Most of my students learned to type on typewriters long before computer keyboards were developed. High school typing classes taught us to space twice between sentences. There is a reason for this: typewriters use monospace type, with every letter occupying the same amount of horizontal space. As a result, monotype text has an uneven look to it, with more white space around certain letters than others. Two spaces after a period clearly sets sentences apart from each other. With the advent of computers and proportional fonts, where an “i” takes up less space than an “m,” for example, the two-space rule became as passé as the two-step.
Old habits die hard. My students submit stories that confirm it. Riddled with telltale two-spaced white blotches, these stories tell me their authors updated their equipment, but not their mindset. When I explain the one-space rule in class each term, I often see doubt flicker in their eyes for a second. Oh, they try to hide it, but I can hear them saying to themselves, “She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”
For the doubters among you, go here for a superb explanation of why I’m right and you just may be wrong. While you’re at it, you may want to consider dropping a few other typewriter habits you’re still clinging to, habits like…
- Underlining, instead of using italics
- Using two hyphens, instead of the dash
- Indenting paragraph beginnings by hitting the space key five times, instead of using the tab key
- Using your mouse like a carriage return at the end of each line, instead of letting your text wrap all by itself
If you began the new year resolving to drop some old habits, add these no-no’s to your list.