SHIBBOLETH

My daughter just opened an amusing can of worms for me. Possibly even a box of frogs. Nay, a bag of spanners or even maybe nails.

What is this hate filled container of vitriolic differences?

How many spaces to put between sentences.

I know. A minefield of typographic horror.

So which is it people? One or two spaces? Let’s not trammel with the insanity of none or more – that way madness lies.

I grew up with one way – I’m not going to tell you which just yet, you can sweat a little. Let’s just tease you for a second or two and say that my age has something to do with my initial preference but that is not the end of the matter.

I laboured under this misapprehension of spatial insertion orthodoxy for years until I read the MHRA style guide, as you do. Okay it wasn’t a light recreational reading choice I confess, it was for my Masters. And there it was, the awful truth that I had been doing it wrong all these years. And I shall now reveal the answer to the question I posed…

It is one.

Apparently it was the manual typewriter that introduced the heinous aberration of  double space between sentences into the world of typography. I’m not going to labour the point about monospaced font – manual typewriters usually, versus proportional fonts, computers and trad typesetting. You can go and search for it online, trust me it is there in all its glory. The reason I learned to put two spaces was because of the mechanical and typographic idiosyncracies of the typewriter. The demise of that  beast and monospaced type meant the the return of the single pace, which real typesetters had never abandoned. Apparently.

 

So if it is one space now we have done away with the temporary glitch of manual typewriters sticking the extra space in to counter their abysmal fonts, why did my daughter spark such a trail of devastation throughout the Farrish household?

Because despite the change back, yes single space was the accepted norm before manual typewriting apparently, to single spacing between sentences, her academic writing guide suggests, possibly more than suggests, double spacing!

Hence my sudden trawl through the backwaters of typographer hell. They are quite vehement in their condemnation of the double space on the whole. Not merely suggesting it is preferable to use a single space but utterly consigning to the outer darkness those who would toy with the wasteful concept of double spacing between sentences.

So MHRA, typographers of the world and space savers everywhere or her University style guide?

(Sorry, no prizes if you got the question right, and I suspect no thanks from my daughter if you would like to suggest which route she should choose. Currently I believe she hates everyone associated with typographic rulings. Keep your heads down!)

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