Dec 032011

I’m a beginner in the work of writing for strangers.  I’ve spent years writing reports for people I knew fairly well.  I knew their strengths and weaknesses and wrote accordingly.  But writing for a wider audience is more difficult, so I am always on the look out for tips and good advice.

Recently I came across an article on Slate, a site I visit to read the Doonesbury comic strip.  It is a 1,400 word diatribe against people who put two spaces after a sentence, rather than one.  Read it here if you’re interested:

It includes this quote from a typographer: “in terms of what you can do wrong, this one deserves life imprisonment.”

Wow!  And I thought it was just a matter of personal taste.

The article isn’t just abusive, it does explain how the ‘two spaces’ custom arose, and what purpose it served.  In some places it is a reasoned article, in others simply angry.

I mention it because it struck me as an example someone lacking a sense of proportion.  Are there really people who want to see other people jailed for life, just because they have failed to keep abreast of modern typographical conventions?

I doubt it.  They are just getting angry about something which is, for them, a frequent source of irritation.  Then, being angry, they use disproportionate language to address the world about a problem very few people care about.

Aha!  That’s the real problem.  They know in their hearts that the vast majority of people don’t think they are important.

Poor things.

It’s a mistake I never make.  Honestly, I never ever do that.

But I do use ‘two spaces’, and now I have to decide whether, after forty-odd years of typing, I need to uproot an ingrained habit.

Or should I just rely on software to correct my sloppiness automatically?

Robin W. Ahlgren

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 Posted by at 13:27

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