Using one or two spaces at the end of a sentence


For those over the age of 50, you can probably remember taking a typing class in high school. After the advent of the computer, students learn to type at a much earlier age. 

Many of today’s youth, from their cell phones and computer games, probably know how to type before they even enter school. 

Today it’s called keyboarding.

Not many people use an actual typewriter in 2019. In our office we have a few typewriters around for nostalgia sake. For that same reason I collect old cameras and have kept at least one of every Macintosh computer that we have ever used.

We have a Royal typewriter, two Smith-Coronas and an old electric Adler. I found an Adler just like ours on eBay for $75 (parts only).

The oldest typewriter we have is an Oliver No. 9 that Jacob found at a flea market in 2015. The No. 9 was produced from 1915 to 1922. All Olivers are “down strike” typewriters, meaning the typebars strike the platen (also known as the roller) from above, rather than from below.

I’ve priced Oliver No. 9’s on eBay anywhere from $100 to $1,395 (reconditioned).

My high school typing teacher was Mrs. Wotipka. We were taught the fine art of typing on an IBM Selectric II. The Selectric was an amazing machine — listed on eBay today from $67 to $395.

As the name implies it was an electric typewriter. Instead of the “basket” of individual typebars that swung up to strike the ribbon and page in a traditional typewriter, the Selectric used a “typeball” that rotated and pivoted to the correct position before striking.

I don’t remember much about typing class in high school. But one thing that was jammed into my head over and over again was to double space after a period at the end of each sentence.

If we didn’t use two spaces it resulted in a big red circle on the page and points deducted.

Just a few short years later, when I entered J-School in Columbia I had to relearn that skill.

The Associated Press Stylebook (the bible for newspapers) says to use a single space after a period at the end of a sentence. Times change and rules change. It’s part of life.

When we receive a news release by email from anyone, one of the first things we do is use the search and replace feature in InDesign (our page layout program) to find any double spaces and change them to single spaces. I even checked this column before it was completed. It had four double spaces.

With a little research it is easy to find out why the rule has changed. Typewriters use monospacing, which means that every character uses the same amount of space on the page. The letter i uses the same space as the letter w, even though it does not need to.

With monospacing in typewriters we were taught to use double spaces at the end of a sentence in order to make it easier to see the beginning of a new sentence.

Word processors, computers and everything that is not a very old typewriter uses proportionally spaced fonts, which adjust spacing to the size of the letter. That’s why a proportional font can squeeze 12 letters into the same space that a monospace font can only fit nine:

Proportional — 11 pt. Times New Roman

Monospace ­ 11 pt. Andale Mono

I suspect  the main reason use a single space in newspapers is that it saves space. We only have so much room to print the news. Adding two to four pages can be expensive. Sometimes it costs less to add four pages than it does two.

That is why our page count is always divisible by four. Our printer can run 22 pages, but the cost to print 22 pages can be more than 24 because 22 pages takes more time to set up on the press.

Where else can you get more for less?


In last week’s column I explored the changes, over time, in high school proms. One thing I observed was the difference in time that students spend decorating for this yearly tradition.

For our 1977 prom the gymnasium was closed for a week as we decorated using extension ladders and scaffolding to reach the ceiling. Today proms are mostly held off site making it harder for students to do any decorating. If they do, it’s just the night before, because that’s when they have access to the venue.

I did not think about it until this week but that lack of work removes ownership from the students. 

It’s similar to giving a senior a car for graduation. They appreciate the car more (and take better care of it) when they work for it and buy it themselves. Then they own it. Students today don’t own their prom because they don’t have to work on it.


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