I’m A Reckless Space Waster & I Didn’t Even Know It

the spacebar is not to be used gratuitously

I’m kinda geeky. No, that’s not right. I am unabashedly and unequivocally geeky. I’m dorky, too. I’m only kinda nerdy. It’s because of these qualities that I am bothered by such things as dangling prepositions and, especially, grammatical errors by people who are conspicuously attempting to appear smart. For the former, we have gems like  ‘Where you at?’ For the latter we have statements such as, ‘I feel badly for him.’ Bad would be the proper choice of word since ‘to feel badly’ means an inadequate sense of touch. The linking verb (feel) in this instance does not take an adverb; it takes an adjective. See? Dorky, geeky and kinda nerdy. But I digress.

According to Farhad Manjoo at Slate.com, I’ve been unnecessarily and erroneously adding extra spaces to everything I type. As a good little geek, I include two spaces following a period and preceding the next word. Two spaces. Not one, not three. Two. This is what I was taught, and I was penalized when I failed to do so. Two spaces. Always. Public school failed me.

According to Majoo, the one-space rule is nothing new.

“The people who study and design the typewritten word decided long ago that we should use one space, not two, between sentences. That convention was not arrived at casually. James Felici, author of the The Complete Manual of Typography, points out that the early history of type is one of inconsistent spacing. Hundreds of years ago some typesetters would end sentences with a double space, others would use a single space, and a few renegades would use three or four spaces. Inconsistency reigned in all facets of written communication; there were few conventions regarding spelling, punctuation, character design, and ways to add emphasis to type. But as typesetting became more widespread, its practitioners began to adopt best practices. Felici writes that typesetters in Europe began to settle on a single space around the early 20th century. America followed soon after.”

After surveying ten of my super smart friends, it is apparent that space wasting is a standard curricular error. Every single one of them thought two spaces is proper. (How is it possible for curricular errors to be so common?  Teachers are professionals, if not experts, right? I’m reminded of my teaching days when I once heard a student say the sky is blue because light reflects off the ocean. When questioned, the student was unable to explain why, then, the sky is blue in places like Nebraska and Mongolia. When I asked the entire class how many people were taught the same misinformation, the majority of students raised their hands. But, again, I digress. Because that’s what I do.)

I took a typing class in junior high school. It was a non-elective elective. (ie, my parents forced me to take the class.) Reflecting on all my years of schooling, that typing class was perhaps the most pragmatically useful and appreciated course I ever took during my compulsory schooling days. By far. No other single class has had such a significant utilitarian effect on my life. It was during that class that I learned the two space rule. I did very well in that class and have proudly retained its lessons through adulthood. I’ve been living a lie. And I’ve been pretentiously and arrogantly living that lie. Ouch.

I suspect Mr. Majoo is a bit nerdy and geeky and dorky like me, which is why he makes the following statement. It’s also why I cannot begrudge him this point.

“What galls me about two-spacers isn’t just their numbers. It’s their certainty that they’re right.”

Touche, Mr. Majoo. Touche. I was, indeed, certain that I was right.

It’s not going to be easy to un-learn my reckless space wasting. I’ve been two-spacing for over 20 years and my fingers do it reflexively at this point. In fact, while typing this post about the superfluous space, I’ve continued to use said space after every … single … period. Ugh. I’m getting old and, therefore, can barely learn new technologies at this point. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to successfully tackle this space problem thing.


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