Monday, July 18, 2011

Hit the Space Bar ONCE

A few weeks ago I read something that really floored me, that something I had learned at the tender and impressionable age of twelve was completely wrong. I learned that hitting the space bar twice after the period was not only incorrect, but Satan is creating a new circle of hell for those who unleash two spaces upon the world.

The article (linked here) was by Rob W. Hart on the Novel Publishing Group, LLC website. In it he breaks the news that you only need to hit the space bar once when you end a sentence.

I've shared this new revelation with others and most -- no, no scratch that -- all of them were just as shocked. I'm hoping that I can get a reprieve from Beelzebub with the, "everybody else is doing it," excuse, but I think my other shortcomings will still sink me.

At first, I wanted to understand why. After searching around the best explanation I've found is that this stems from typewriters. With early typewriters every character filled the same amount of space. Whether it be a skinny 'i' or an extra wide 'w', it consumed the same amount of space. In modern language, they took the same amount of pixels. Because of this, a period-space-beginning of next sentence was too close and the typeset caused readers having problems recognizing the beginning of a new sentence. However, with modern computers this is no longer a problem so the double-space-bar rule no longer applies.

Sorry folks, that is the best I could find. I have trouble buying this theory because you would think the capital letter at the front of the new sentence would have been a clue.

I then wondered who else believes this. Short answer: the pros. All of the styled guides prescribe to the single striking of the space bar. When you talk to the elitists, they are all in favor of one space. It is actually so well known that I can't believe I haven't even heard about the debate surrounding this topic.

I also wondered if anybody would care. After all, I've been sending out email and story submission one after another breaking this rule and nobody has ever questioned it. Not even a yellow sticky note saying, "I fixed your double-space issues." Nothing!

But it isn't these people I will be submitting manuscripts to when I want to be taken seriously. So while most people will not care, those who would care are the ones I need to impress. And I've noticed since trying out this rule nobody has written back criticizing me for being too lazy to hit the space bar twice.

That said, I'm trying to repent. After this many years of hitting the space bar twice I'm finding it very difficult to get out of the habit. Rob W. Hart insists it is a piece of cake, but I have yet to unlearn this habit. I seem to be developing a new habit, and that is hitting space-space-backspace. Arg!!
I resolve to become a one-space-bar advocate. This is going to be an uphill battle for me, and that hill is going to be full of wraiths wielding chain saws and the latest editions of the Chicago Manual of Style. I don't care, this will be a battle I will win or die trying! RAWR!!!


(And, yes, that is my keyboard)