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.