Back in the day, Ms. Nancy Duty taught me—and the rest of Bruceville-Eddy High school—to use two spaces at the end of every sentence and after colons. Most of us were learning to type on IBM Selectrics, although a few were using the newfangled electronic typewriters. (The previous year, my eighth-grade class had started to learn typing on Macs, but the school still had a limited number of computers.)
I never gave any further thought to this practice until I read an article on typesetting in John McWade’s Before & After magazine. This design guru said that the extra space wasn’t necessary in computer typesetting. I stopped using the second space immediately, but I’ve continued to encounter—and delete—countless extra spaces over the last 15 years.
As Cathline Marshall of Studio K&M once pointed out, that extra space “shows your age.” It tells readers that you learned to type in the BC era (before computers), when fonts were monospaced and the letter “m” took up just as much space as the letter “l”. In fact, HTML automatically deletes the second space, requiring serious effort to stick in that little character.
And really, why would you?
Did they ever give us a good reason for that extra space? Ms. Duty told us to use it, period. Sort of like the Ten Commandments coming down from Mount Sinai. Originally, this rule improved readability by clearly showing the end of a sentence, but with the advent of computers and variable-spaced fonts, it was no longer necessary.
Now, it’s annoying. (I can’t count the number of times I’ve found an extra space lurking in an otherwise-pristine document—usually because I tried to manually eliminate all the little offenders.)
Maybe you’re old school, and you honestly think that there’s a legitimate reason for using that extra space. Please accept the fact that this is no longer standard practice, and try not to be offended when editors remove every last one of those buggers.
Don’t believe me? Check out the Chicago Manual of Style.