A Matter of Style

Typewriter
Ahh, memories. 😛 Image Source: http://www.ltnow.com

Many moons ago, I took a class to learn how to type.

On a typewriter.

A manual typewriter.

I was one of the lucky ones.

New-fangled electric typewriters had just come out.

Our class was divided in half – half with electric, half with manual.

I was in the manual half.

After the first semester, we switched.

It’s funny now, looking back, but boy, were those people in the electric half mad. 😛

In typing class, I learned to put two spaces after a period to indicate the end of a sentence.

I still do it.

These days, the kids learn ‘keyboarding,’ not typing.

In fact, my children have had a teacher who has banned the word ‘typing’ from her classroom.  They get in trouble if they use it.

They have been taught to only use one space after a period.

In working on some RL projects, the subject of two spaces after a period came up.

To format a work for e-publication, only one space after a period is mandatory.

In addition, the AP Style manual says to use only one space.

However, this is a STYLE choice, not a rule for everything.

Most people will tell you that the whole ‘two spaces after a period’ thing started with the invention of typewriters.

Not true, as I found after a few minutes of research.

Using two (or even three) spaces between sentences has been around since at least the 1700’s.

Dave Bricker has a nice article on the subject, complete with visual examples.

Then there are people who will tell you that using only one space between sentences makes it easier on readers, since most computer fonts have kerning built-in, and web pages ignore extra spaces.

Because I’m all for making reading easier, I was curious if there were any studies to prove that this is true.

After another few minutes of research, I found there have been studies (who knew?).

But the studies showed there was really no significant difference in readability whether there was one, two, or even three spaces between sentences.

Because I am a literature teacher, I use the MLA Style manual.

The MLA manual states, “As a practical matter, however, there is nothing wrong with using two spaces after concluding punctuation marks unless an instructor or editor requests that you do otherwise.”

The AP Stylebook (used by journalists) says to use only one space after a sentence.

So, it’s a matter of choice, as well as debate.

As is the Oxford comma.

I use the Oxford comma.

Religiously.

In college, I used MLA Style, APA Style, and Chicago Style formats (WHY are there so many?!), and all of them use the Oxford comma.

The AP Stylebook says not to use the Oxford (or serial) comma.

So instead of “I ate peas, carrots, and beans,” you would write, “I ate peas, carrots and beans.”

Again, it comes down to choice.

As for me, I will continue to use two spaces after sentences AND the Oxford comma.

It’s my style. 😀

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5 thoughts on “A Matter of Style

  1. For two years before I went to university my first job out of high school was as a proofreader for the biggest Australian publishing house at the time. They had a “house style” book which we followed slavishly. So I learned to be a bit pedantic about these things as well as grammar in general.

    I still use two spaces after a period AND the Oxford comma and despite living in North America for many years I still continue to use the u in labour and honour etc although I seem to have adopted the z in words like realize and organize. But if I ever adopt “off of” I hope someone will shoot me!

  2. Haha! This resonated with me, Kat. Punctuation and grammar are important, and I cringe whenever I see someone ‘in a position of power’ spell things badly. It looks awful and sometimes, to me, says much about how I view the company in question. I’m a little less precious about it in the blogosphere and errors, typos mostly, will creep in. And yes, I will sometimes let little grammar rules slide for blogging, as in ‘never end a sentence with a preposition’. Like you, I hate ‘could of’ instead of ‘could have’, and people not knowing the differences between where, were and wear or their, there and they’re. Or to, too and two, for that matter.

    I also get amused reading the comments sections of newspapers when someone is trying to be clever and superior about some point, yet ends up being let down by their appalling spelling and grammar. I feel it’s almost a duty to point it out when it occurs.

    Ella

    1. One of my favorites is when someone says ‘defiantly’ when they mean ‘definitely.’ Or ‘loose’ when they mean ‘lose.’ I once saw a high school sign that said ‘Congradulations Graduates!’ -.-

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