Category Archives: Culture
The Washington Post recently published a piece in their Speaking of Science section that claimed science has finally and definitively proved the superiority of the double space after a period.
The late Roy Hobbs, who we’ve written about before, would have rejoiced at this headline if he wasn’t dead (and fictional), and subscribed to the print edition of the Washington Post, as this would be the only way he’d hear the good news. Let’s face it, he wouldn’t have owned a computer or tablet or smart phone in order to read it online, a fact he would proudly boast about as if his intentional ignorance towards technology and an evolving world in general was a badge of honor or sign of superior character.
“One space between each sentence, they said. Science just proved them wrong,” read the headline that Roy would have cut out of his newspaper and mimeographed so he could mail out copies to his grandchildren.
But the devil is in the details and with all those extra spaces between sentences, and Roy’s glaucoma, he’d probably tire out and stop reading before the revelation in the article itself that the study barely proved anything at all. At the very most, it proved that those who already double space (and playfully shout at friends over the landline in their kitchen, “will until it’s pried from my cold dead fingers”) are faster readers only by milliseconds when double spaces are used. And that is the only measurable benefit. Reading comprehension is not effected at all. But when was comprehending anything actually important?
“Reading speed only improved marginally, the paper found, and only for the 21 “two-spacers,” who naturally typed with two spaces between sentences. The majority of one-spacers, on the other hand, read at pretty much the same speed either way. And reading comprehension was unaffected for everyone, regardless of how many spaces followed a period.”
So science proved two spaces are better for people who already double space and refuse to evolve. Groundbreaking.
This kind of regressive scientific study doesn’t come cheap though, so that’s why the estate of Roy Hobbs is asking for your help to keep the march of progress from taking even one step further. For a limited time you can support a cause dear to Roy’s heart by purchasing your very own “Make America Double Spaced Again.” hat.
Somehow, a satirical article author Hugh Howey shared that I reposted on Gas Station Burrito Facebook and initially forgot all about became my most seen and commented on post pretty much ever. There’s about four people who regularly like things I post (and I’m one of them) so when the reach exceeds 1000 people and a few days later there are still comments popping up on it, that’s a pretty solid performance.
It seems to be a rather divisive topic too. Check out the original article and let me know what you think. Most of the comments were people asserting that they were, in fact, still alive, which I take to mean they are still double spacing after a period and take great offense to the author’s presumption all double spacers have died out with Roy Hobbs.
Personally, the double space as a habit pops up more so when I’m typing on a keyboard. Sadly, most of my writing these days is done on my phone simply as a matter of convenience. I write in very, very short bursts when I can, since like most of you, I’m usually doing twelve other things. When I end a sentence therefore and hit the space bar twice on my phone, it will insert a period and single space before auto-capitalizing for next sentence. The old double space isn’t an problem for then, but if I’m typing on a keyboard, I’m constantly going back to delete unnecessary spaces.
And they are unnecessary. There’s an entire Wikipedia entry devoted the history, evolution and misconceptions of the double space. Its a riveting story; Amazon already bought the rights to it, so extra spacing should be exclusive to Prime members soon. You can debate it all you like, but despite your Facebook comments, civilized society has established the rules of the new world order of typesetting already. Quite a while ago, actually. According to the Complete Manual on Typography from 2003, “The typewriter tradition of separating sentences with two word spaces after a period has no place in typesetting” and the single space is “standard typographic practice”.
The Elements of Typographic Style from around the same time also advocates a single space between sentences. They also said, “your typing as well as your typesetting will benefit from unlearning this quaint [double spacing] Victorian habit”.
In the cutthroat world of typography that may be about as close to a mic drop as it gets.
So for anyone clinging to their double spaces, now you’ll have to adjust your monocle and yell, “Take that, Reginald!” every time you maniacally double space.
Despite the typographic mic drop and the fact that the Daily Mash article was a joke, (and that Roy Hobbs is not real) the debate over redundant spacing rages on and certainly isn’t limited to one grammatical/typographic quirk. Several people saw fit to drag the Oxford comma into it, although there’s no word on what Roy Hobbs had to say on that matter
For a limited time you can support a cause dear to Roy’s heart by purchasing your very own official Roy Hobbs’ commemorative “Make America Double Spaced Again.” hat.
The estate of Harper Lee, managed by Tonja Carter, is suing the stage production of “To Kill a Mockingbird” that is being produced by Scott Rubin and Aaron Sorkin.
The lawsuit alleges that the production deviates too much from the novel in regards to the portrayal of Atticus Finch, who begins the play as an apologist for the racism around him and evolves into the righteous man the world knows from Lee’s original novel and the film adaptation starring Gregory Peck.
What makes the argument the estate puts forward so ridiculous is how much the “sequel”, ‘Go Set a Watchman’, deviated from the original novel in regards to the portrayal of Atticus Finch, who is a segregationist and believes the Supreme Court acted too hastily in granting rights to African Americans.
Apparently such deviations of character are only allowed when Carter is facilitating the release of that material. Perhaps if the producers offered Carter—I mean, the Lee estate—a larger royalty, a lawsuit might be unnecessary.
Explaining the changes in character, Aaron Sorkin said, “As far as Atticus and his virtue goes, this is a different take on Mockingbird than Harper Lee’s or Horton Foote’s. He becomes Atticus Finch by the end of the play, and while he’s going along, he has a kind of running argument with Calpurnia, the housekeeper, which is a much bigger role in the play I just wrote. He is in denial about his neighbors and his friends and the world around him, that it is as racist as it is, that a Maycomb County jury could possibly put Tom Robinson in jail when it’s so obvious what happened here. He becomes an apologist for these people.”
From that explanation and having watched Sorkin-penned arguments throughout “A Few Good Men” and seven seasons of “The West Wing” (not to mention the letter Sorkin wrote to his daughter on the election of Donald Trump), I’m eager to see the evolution and on-stage transformation of a man when faced with racism and forced to recognize it for the debilitating evil it is.
How relevant that scenario is now, that he should be given and takes full advantage of the opportunity to discuss it with a person of color. That this person person of color is Calpurnia, a black woman in his employ, should make the conversation even more meaningful. This woman, who is considered socially beneath him and dependent on Atticus for her livelihood, needs to educate and elevate him. However, it shouldn’t be lost on the audience that it is Atticus, and the entire Finch family, for that matter, who depend on Calpurnia for all their needs. How meaningful would it be to recognize that finally in this stage production and rightly attribute Atticus’ strong moral compass to the woman who set it on course?
It seems to have taken the framework of the novel and adapted it to fit with the major themes of our current world. And isn’t that what keeps theater so vibrant? The freedom and fluidity to adapt stories to fit a contemporary lens? To make a historical struggle relevant to what we may come face to face with today?
In doing so, Sorkin has embraced the spirit of “Go Set a Watchman” in that where Atticus himself wanted to break down Scout’s version of him as a flawless ideal and show her he was a man as faulty as any other. So does Sorkin’s Atticus begin as the imperfect man. In this version he is allowed to evolve and to demonstrate for the audience that we are all flawed and bigoted, whether intentionally or by privilege. But it is in confronting that ignorance, questioning it, arguing it and speaking the uncomfortable truths as Atticus and Calpurnia allegedly do, that we can grow closer to the ideal that Atticus Finch has always represented since “To Kill a Mockingbird” was first published in 1962.