Professor nitwit, you bet

Dear Miss Snark,

Just when I think I feel confident about formating, a new question crops up. I just barely started my MA classes and the first thing my professor said was that we are to use ONLY ONE space after a period. His said that is what publishers want.

I so do not care about this. This is why professors should keep their pointy little noses out of actual, yanno, real work and stick to parsing out the motivation in Jane Eyre.

First of all, when you write a query, you're writing to me, an agent, not a publisher. Second, I don't give a flying fig about much other than spelling and grammar such that I have confidence you are the master of your art form.

When/if/should this great masterpiece garner an offer and acceptance for publication, then and only then will we begin to have fun with the style requirements.

And fyi, and fy professor's i, there is no such thing as "what publishers want". "Publishers" aren't a monolith. They EACH have their own requirements and what flies at Random House is sneeered at by ..well..others. And vice versa. They each want it done their own way and the only good thing about it is they tell you what they want, and acquisitions don't depend on it AT ALL.

Tell your professor to get back to editing his/her beloved literary magazine and terrorizing undergraduates. Leave the advice about publishing to people who actually work in the field.


Anonymous said...

Double spacing after a period is evil. Don't do it. It pisses off anyone in publishing who's younger than 45 as well as most who are older and appreciate that language (including its formatting) moves with the times.

Write that way if you must, but do a search-and-replace for double spaces before you print the thing out.

Also, never use all-caps or semi-colons or "actually", and remove 90% of your exclamation points before submitting.

Anonymous said...

Two spaces behind a point is a left over from the typewriter era. There's no reason you should have to do it now.

I'd recommend not doing it, but if you have to, just listen to Miss Snark. It's not a deal breaker.

Dan said...


Even though Miss Snark SO does not care, apparently some people do. Here's a Q&A with a little snarkiness of it's own from a authoritative source.

Anonymous said...

lmao. I just handed in an essay on Jane Eyre to a professor just like this one. )Apparantly pressing enter twice doesn't count as a new paragraph and pressing tab is vital to the future of the human race.)

viscose turnip said...

OK, the anonymi above prove that there are people who care about these things. However, I'd say that the majority of editors working in publishing do not very much. I'm a copy-editor and have been an editor working in (non-fiction) publishing houses for about ten years, I'm under 45 and double spacing doesn't piss me off. Crap writing does.

In my experience I have to say that editors don't care about your spacing any more than Miss Snark does. Guess what? When we get your manuscript we instruct the typesetters do a 'search and replace' on spacing anyway. We also faff about your use of commas, punctuation inside/outside commas etc. etc.

Furthermore, as Miss Snark also pointed out, every publishing house has its own 'house style' which the copy-editor will use to edit your book and which no publisher would expect you to know about.

If this sort of stuff really bothers you, buy or borrow a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style if you're in the US or, if you're in the UK, either The Oxford Guide to Style or Butcher's Copyediting.

Otherwise, try to keep basic spelling and grammar errors to a minimum but just focus on WRITING WELL. Let copy-editors like me fret about spacing.

John said...

To explain a little more about the double-space thing: yes, it's a hang-over from typewriters and an old style of typesetting. The reason is that typewriters monospace the text and that typesetters use all sorts of differently sized spaces in different places. If you're using a proportional font on a computer, don't double space - the character set takes care of the spacing for you. If you're writing in a monospaced font (like Courier) then, yes, you can still double space if you really want to - but you should expect to find it vanishing when the work is typeset.

(Speaking as a professional editor here, albeit in academic and education rather than fiction.)

Anonymous said...

Sorry to disagree with Miss Snark, but having two spaces after periods gives the impression that you've never written for publication before. All mss going to typesetting have only one space after the period.

When I worked at a magazine, the copy desk would snort about any mss that had the double space.

Before you submit, do a search for double spaces and replace them with single spaces. It's simple to do, and makes the production department's job easier.

RiterLady said...

I'm not all that old, but worked at a doctor's office for years and learned the double space after a period method. To relearn it now would totally throw my typing off. And to date, of the four publishers I've worked with, not one has commented or complained.

This comes under the heading...don't sweat the small stuff.


Cathy Writes Romance said...

All right. This is the first I'm hearing of this, and I did not graduate THAT long ago. I put two spaces after a period. What does the Chicago Manual of Style say? I can't enter the site or search it.

Katharine said...

No, publishers won't reject a manuscript just because there are two spaces after every period in it. But it may make them think you're much older than you really are, because using two spaces after a period is what people were taught to do back in the dark ages of the typewriter.

And yeah, Anon #1 is right: Get rid of most of your exclamation points. Otherwise, we freelance copyeditors (with whom the pubs contract to polish your stuff) will take them out. And please do get rid of your authorial tics, such as overuse of a particular word or phrase. But semicolons? There's no reason to get rid of them, unless they're sprinkled all over the place.

-c- said...

I must chime in with the rest. It has nothing to do with what "publishers" want. NOBODY who cares about such things wants two spaces after a period anymore, for the reasons mentioned--unless you are writing on a typewriter. This goes for anything written on a word processor, not just manuscripts. It's like saying don't put a hard return at the end of your sentences. Of course don't do that--the word processing program wraps text for you now, just like it will adjust the space between sentences without the aid of that extra space.

Anonymous said...

You guys worry too much. If your manuscript reaches the publication stage, the designer is going to search and replace, deleting extra spaces and changing your underscores to italics.

bebe said...

The publisher where I work requires one space. I don't know where I picked up the habit of doing two, because I'm much younger than 45 and have never seriously used a typewriter for anything. I thought it would be a tough habit to break, but it was surprisingly easy.

But when it comes to whether authors do it or not, it doesn't really matter. There's this neat thing on Word called Find & Replace. I'm going to have to do it for double spaces anyway because even if you don't have the habit, there are going to be double spaces in there that we don't want. And there will be hyphens for m-dashes and spaces before hard returns and so on. Nobody's perfect. So it doesn't really matter.

It's more important not to do any weird or fancy formatting that I can't figure out how to get rid of.

Bonnie Shimko said...

This is a little bit nuts. I've worked with young, middle-aged and old "publishing people." Nobody's ever complained about my double spacing after a period. To change now would be like driving a car with the steering wheel on the wrong side. When your book is published, single spaces will magically appear after the periods.

Anonymous said...

anonymous #1, I've heard that since two spaces after a period are easier on the eye, many agents would appreciate this format's readability.

Anonymous said...

Dan, I can't access that site. What does it say about spacing?

Beth said...

To first anon-- What one earth is wrong with semi-colons?

Oh, wait--you're joking, right?

The Rejected Writer said...

Turnip is right. I copyedit a book at least once a quarter in our house just to keep my skills sharp. I don't care what authors do with spacing. Word has that lovely Find and Replace feature. What I (speaking from a CE perspective) wish for, is authors who know how to turn of the damndable "auto format" feature in Word. That causes me more troubles than anything else.

Sue said...

Well, after a copy-editor at a conference complained about the difficulties of getting rid of those double spaces on a manuscript*, I quickly learned NOT to do them. It isn't that hard and I've been typing longer than most of you.

*It isn't that hard to format Word either to get rid of them. Just do find/replace and for find, two spaces, for replace, one.

Cheryll said...

Heh, heh, heh.

The Snarklings have done it again: we read Miss Snark this morning and we ALL (or a significant number of us) went to the Chicago Manual of Style site and we took it down!

We have the POWER!!

And about double spacing...I really am OLD, you know. One of my earliest jobs was preparing mss for typesetters. And I was writing (and being published) before there were electric typewriters(!).

Things in the industry were much more rigid in those days than they are now. With the advent of word processors, most all of those nitpicky things that writers sweated about annoying typesetters about can be changed with the flick of the wrist on the track ball...or Word can be set to change them automatically.

Unfortunately, computers will not transform bad writing... (or perhaps not so unfortunate: I'm still finding work, even if I can't seem to train my thumbs to single space after the period.)

snarkaholic said...

This is really stupid, and the epitome of "sweating the small stuff" to avoid dealing with bigger issues like plotting and character development.

Do you really think anybody looking for a good book to publish cares about this?

Anonymous said...

Two spaces aren't a deal breaker. They merely look clueless.
- copy editor

p.n. elrod said...

LOL--since I wrote three novels (+ reams and REAMS of practice drek) on a manual typewriter I trained myself to two spaces. While retraining myself is easy enough I prefer the look they impart + the message "she's done this before."

Until my publishers insist on one space the two-space thing is the typesetter's prob. Wouldn't want to put anyone out of work!

What we have from the old prof. is proof that those who can, do, and the clueless teach.

May you have a swift and hopefully pain-free recovery from the damage of higher education!

Third Person Limited said...

Two spaces, one space -- obviously not a deal breaker. But I don't understand why Miss Snark seems so angry at the professor for being, well, a college professor. Who just tried to offer some advice. We don't have proof that he stood in front of the class ranting for 15 minuts about spaces and periods and how they can be the secret to publishing. Maybe the class was having a discussion about submission formats and he mentioned the period issue. In my opinion he was right, but again, using two spaces is not a problem.

Quaint Irene said...

Right, right, search and find, blah, blah, blah. I know everyone here is talking about hard copy manuscripts, and the double space after the period, or the hard return line break, etc. is not a big deal. To each his/her own.

However, if you are sending your MS electronically, in the body of an e-mail (as per the sub guidelines of the the online mag I edit and format and generally try to make look all nice and professional), do eschew the double space and most definitely the hard return.

Things may look fine on your eight-year-old Compaq running six-year-old Outlook Express, but it will be an utter mess when it gets to me and my Mac. And unlike Miss Snark, I don't have a staff of pail-toting minions, so it means more work for me to sort it all out. Why make your story harder to read?

Think of it this way -- it's people like me who will give you clips (and it's a good clip, too), so when you submit to people like Miss Snark, your only publication credit isn't the Dunder-Mifflin Fall 2005 Newsletter.

Kate Thornton said...

Love my two spaces - I learned to type a very long time ago - then had to re-learn one-handed (and the "wrong" hand at that) after a stroke a few years ago.

But when I polish a story for publication, if the guidelines say one space, that's what I give them. If they don't specify, they get two spaces and they may do as they wish.

I have more heartburn with pontificating windbags of the professorial variety who claim o know what everyone wants. Everyone wants something different.

And I love the proper use of a semi-colon.

Gerri said...

TBH, I hate computer printouts with two spaces after periods. They're actually harder to read for me. That's a personal tic, though, developed from grading almost endless piles of college essays.

BTW, I'm 37, and I learned to type on a typewriter. Computers were barely making their way into the classroom at that point--I learned to program Basic on a Commodore PC. We were thrilled when the Commodore 128 came out.

Ryan Field said...

I've heard about not double spacing, but no editor or publisher has ever bothered me about it. Though I'm 35, and actually did learn to double space from Sister Unforgiving back in high school, I didn't realize it was so important to so many people.

While I agree with Miss Snark in full, and no publisher or editor has ever mentioned I should change,
the snarklings here may have a point. I still have a problem ending a sentence with a preposition, I haven't been able to set a radio station in a car since you pulled the thick black button out and pushed it back in, but I think I can stop double spacing if it bothers so many people. Thanks, snarklings.

Chris said...

Is this seriously what writers are expending their energetic capital on?

Does anyone here actually think Miss Snark is going to lose a publishing deal she's working on for one of her authors because she has to say, "But s/he uses a double space after periods."?

desert snarkling said...

And having an editor assume I'm 45 would be bad why?

Erastes said...

Absolutely agree with Ms Snark. Although I DO put two spaces between my sentences, in the long run your publisher will not say "Oh my god, this writer is the next James Joyce but I can't accept his/her work because he/she has done evil things to the ends of the sentences and must be slaughtered forthwith."

I had an American tutor tell me (a Brit) that "whilst" must never be used on pain on death.

*raspberry noise*

What I'm trying to say is that, having just gone through the editing-publishing merry go round , my editor did comment that I used a mixture of doubles and singles, but she shrugged and said she could cope. It's what she's paid to do. Doesn't mean you shouldn't submit the best quality mss you can, but you don't have to be completely anal about it.

Anonymous said...

1 space is a type-setting convention, 2 spaces is a typing convention. More and more people are using some kind of proportionally spaced font (times roman) so the documents initially look type-set right from the computer. Some of us (purists) still submit using a courier font. In that case, 2 spaces is mandatory.

Anonymous said...

It all comes down to the font you're using as commenter John said.

If your mss was typed in Courier, then double space after a period. If your mss or query letter was typed in Times, then only single space. A proportional font like Times handles the spacing for you while Courier does not. It's a typesetting thing.

Ryan Field said...

Erastes said, "I had an American tutor tell me (a Brit) that "whilst" must never be used on pain on death."

I'm on my third Jaguar and I can't tell you how much I LOVE seeing "whilst" in the driver's handbook.

Rachael said...

The MLA Handbook suggests double spacing is not necessary anymore, but "there is nothing wrong with using two spaces after concluding punctuation marks unless an instructor requests that you do otherwise."

And learning to use just one space is very easy to learn and you can retrain yourself quickly. I had to do so in my first job as a college newspaper reporter. Two spaces after a sentence would look silly in newspaper copy, and I was corrected immediately. It did not take long to break the habit.

Janet Black said...

Teachers, bless their hearts, are sometimes overly impressed with themselves, and over a period of decades consider themselves little gods. They're often full of valuable information and advice and experience, but at some point you have to step back and ask yourself this two-part question: Does he know everything, and is he always right?

Anonymous said...

I've been a copyeditor for nearly 10 years, with a variety of publishers as clients. Miss Snark is right, of course, that different publishers have different house styles. But I've never worked with a publisher who wanted two spaces after a period. The first thing I do with a new manuscript, in fact, is get rid of double spaces.

Anonymous said...

What we have from the old prof. is proof that those who can, do, and the clueless teach.

At least get the joke right. Reminds of Biff in Back to the Future saying, "Make like a tree and get out of here."

Those who can, do.
Those who can't, teach.
Those who can't teach, teach teachers.


--E said...

Two spaces, one space--no one cares. It's a simple search-and-replace for the typesetter.

Double spaces between paragraphs (as we do on the internet)? BAD WRITER! NO COOKIE! Nothing says "unprofessional" like double-spacing between paragraphs. (Yes, it's easy to fix. That isn't the issue here. See my last paragraph.)

Also unprofessional? Insufficient indenting of the first line of each paragraph (1/2" minimum, please).

Granted, these standards may change over time. But right now we on the production end all know that a manuscript with no indents and with spaces between every paragraph is 90% likely to need very heavy copyediting. There's correlation between "format" and "source" of manuscripts.

Anonymous said...

I agree with third person limited. I heart Miss Snark, and I was surprised that she seemed so anti-professors. And may I give a hearty "grr" to the one who said "Those who can't do, teach." Teaching is already a hugely undervalued profession because of statements just like that. It would take an amount of patience and forbearance I (heck, most people) lack to teach people something I already know -- and to do it semester after semester -- without becoming condescending and jaded.

As for the one-space/two-space argument -- All the newspapers I read and/or have worked for insist on only one space. But I must admit I know little of book publishing -- only what I've learned from Miss Snark.

Brooke said...

I think it comes down to wanting to look like you know what you're doing.

Chances are, if you're rolling your eyes at the one-space guideline, you're rolling your eyes at others, too. And the more mistakes you make, the more you look like a nitwit.

Me, I prefer to look like I'm in the know. Like I respect industry standards and will be a joy to work with, rather than a pain. That counts when you're looking for an agent or an editor.

September Thursday said...

The writer is not the typesetter.

This prof sounds pretentious, along the lines of "this is how we literary professionals go about Our Work." Doesn't this guy have more important things to teach?

I'm a 32 year old American. I was taught--in the U.S. school system--to double space after a period. This is convention.

My European friends of the same age and comparable education were taught to single space after a period.

Maybe the prof is European or Euro-centric.

Anonymous said...

According to page 206, The Little, Brown Handbook (9th edition)--the basic textbook for freshman grammar and comp: "Leave one space after all punctuation, with these exceptions . . ." and it goes on to list the marks that have no spaces after them.

MoneyDummy said...

Geez louise! Do people actually care about stuff this trivial?

Stacy said...

Writers should concentrate harder on writing the damned books, and less on the number of spaces between sentences. The words, not the spaces, are the precious items that your publishers and editors want to see.

My company (educational publisher) stipulates 2 spaces after a full stop if the book is for grade 3 or lower, and 1 space for everything else - but these instructions are for the editor and type compositor, not the author. We have such a huge problem with lateness of manuscripts that we don't dare add to the author's burden by telling them to fuss about spaces and full stops. Hell, leave the full stops out. I'll put them in for you, just give me the damn thing already.

If you are not with and established house that handles your book from manuscript stage, troubling you only with queries about content and approval of artwork, then I imagine that you may need to pay attention to that sort of detail. We just want the manuscript, thank you very much. Part of my job is going through the electronic copy ensuring that it matches the marked up manuscript, putting in all corrections and, as far as possible, removing everything that isn't house style, including extra spaces between sentences. Would it be easier if those extra spaces weren't there? Possibly. Do I care would be a better question.

dorthygale said...

Thanks Miss Snark and Snarklings :)

I know it's small stuff, but details are important. I guess it's just a habit I'll have to break. If it doesn't matter to half the people and it really matters to the rest, I'll go with the ones to whom it matters. Of course even as I typed this little message, I have had to edit my double space three times. Make that four. And I only have six sentences! sigh. (five)

Old habits die hard.

Adrian said...

1. Concentrate on the writing.

2. Most of the people on both sides of the 1- v. 2-space debate have formed their decisions based on partial information. I have a detailed discussion of the issue on my blog:

One Tap or Two?

Deirdre Saoirse Moen said...

Just one point: if you have a manuscript that needs to go to a house that prefers two spaces, it's easier to start with two spaces.

It's fairly easy to global search-and-replace two spaces to one. Reversing the process, not so much.

I've never had this problem; I use one space.

Kalen Hughes said...

I'm a 32 year old American. I was taught--in the U.S. school system--to double space after a period. This is convention.

Yeah . . . and outdated convention that makes more work for your copy editor. Just get over it and embrace the single-space.

Anonymous said...

I was educated in Europe and have always used two spaces after a period - handwritten, typed, or word-processed. I think the page looks more coherent, more rhythmic, and less cluttered that way. And I have many titles in print, many millions of copies sold, and am currently half way through an eight-figure four-book deal. So I can safely say that publishers really don't seem worried.

McKoala said...

I was taught to double space when I did a typing course many years ago, and was then told to single space when I moved into computers and design/advertising, simply because it made life easier for the typesetters.

It took time to sort myself out, but F&R was handy, and now it's automatic. You can teach an old dog new tricks.

amyina68 said...

Miss Snark doesn't seem to care about these trivialities. After all, she keeps putting her marks of punctuation outside her quote marks, and -- as far as I can tell -- she's not British. But many other people do care. You should space only once after a period if you are on a computer, twice on a typewriter. Now, let me get back to my beloved literary magazine. . .

Anonymous said...

Oh, this just makes me laugh. Because all too often writers take everything that anyone says who is in some way connected as gospel.

It's sweating the small stuff when the real challenge is learning to craft words into a compelling story. And who's at fault? Well, everyone wants to get published, especially in an MFA program. So it's the question they ask, the one they ask first instead of the harder stuff.

Once, twice. Frankly, I'd care enough only to mention it but not enough to lambaste anyone out there whose brain format still says, "punch punch" when it comes to the end of a sentence. I'm sure if Harriet Doerr were alive today and came to you with "Stones For Ibarra," you'd jump at a chance to publish it. "Punch Punch" be damned.

Get back to work, you scallywags!. Quit writing dialog that drones like a pair of dull scissors. Cut out all the frontloading. Get rid of those adverbs. Go do some research on your setting and get the damned names of those trees right. In short..... go write a compelling story and give me something to care about. As for the editors and agent turning up their noses, be grateful when you find anything worth your time. "Punch Punch" be damned!

Anonymous said...


Well, I tend to think of evil as an annhilation of a race, of creating public policy that puts one group of people under opression.

I don't think of double spacing after a period as evil.

You need to get a grip, and figure out what is truly evil. As for pissing off everyone under the age of 45, I think they rather need it. Gives 'em summat ta live fer, and makes me rich cos I own pharmaceutical stock.

BJ Nemeth said...

It's amazing to me how strongly some people want to resist this change. They're used to two periods, damn it, and they won't change unless absolutely necessary.

Double spacing after a period is a silly habit from a bygone era. You obviously took the effort to learn to type two spaces; now it's time to train yourself to type one space. It's a very simple skill, and it won't take long.

Everything you write in the future (from blog comments to business letters) will look slightly more professional as a result.

Take pride in your craft as a writer. In the computer age, that includes basic typesetting skills.

I highly recommend the book The Mac is Not a Typewriter by Robin Williams. (Despite the title, it also applies to computers running Microsoft Windows.) It's earned a special place on my bookshelf next to Strunk & White's Elements of Style.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

I agree with Desert Snarkling. I am 45, will be 46 next month, and I don't care who knows it. I am proud of each and every year. I learned to touch-type in high school with two spaces after the period, and if people don't like it I guess they don't have to read my stuff.

My daughter's freshman comp teacher took off points for every use of the passive voice. Even, in reference to an author's work, that it "was included in X anthology" got points taken off.

Anonymous said...

It goes back to journalism/newspaper style. In the days of the typewriter, you double spaced. In the days of computers, if your column was justified and it needed to space words out to even the column, the first fix the computer would make was to add an extra space after a period. If you already had two spaces there, it would stretch it out more and look terrible in print.

Anonymous said...

if you have a manuscript that needs to go to a house that prefers two spaces

I can pretty much guarantee that you don't. I can't think of a single publishing house that uses two spaces.

I did copy-editing and developmental editing for twelve years, and I really didn't care whether the author used two spaces or one. Mmmm...find and replace.

But there is one thing authors can do with spaces that will in fact make the editor want to kill them. I've had two or three authors who, for some bizarro reason all their own, felt that there should be spaces within quotations marks, like this:

" I have no idea why I'm doing this, " he said.

It's impossible to run an F&R for this. You have to take them all out manually.

If you do this to your copy-editor, in your next life you will come back as a toilet brush.

Corn Dog said...

I have Obsessive Compulsive 2-Space-after-the-period Disorder. And I'm 50. And clueless. If I can get some drugs to cure the disorder, I will. If not, I'm concentrating on more important things like trying to figure out what gave the dachshund diahhrea.

v-word: gcaxz - noise a cat makes fighting a hair ball

katiesandwich said...

Jumping on the bandwagon here, even though I'm a little late and 57 people already chimed in. But ha! No one else has said what I'm going to say. You know, I agree; I don't give a damn whether or not you use one space or two, but I used to use two until I heard that you could just use one. And I gave it a try and discovered that it can make the difference between having a ten page chapter with one or two words running onto an eleventh page, or simply having a ten page chapter period. It annoys the crap out of me to have two measly words on a page and then the rest be white space, so I use one space. But I'm not a space bar Nazi. My husband uses two spaces and I haven't disowned him yet!

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for anyone who did not have a teacher with a beehive hair do, a thermos of coffee, a pack of ciggies in her purse, and played records with a man telling everyone to type in unison to a beat or a tune. The teacher would read the book, drink coffee and look up only to move the needle on the record.

There was nothing like it.
She even had cat glasses.
And I agree with anon and Miss Snark. "Punch punch" be damned! I don't have time for snits like this. Send me something worth reading, and I won't have to "shred shred."

GutterBall said...

If you do this to your copy-editor, in your next life you will come back as a toilet brush.

Thanks for this. I snorted Hawaiian Punch out my nose. It burns, people.

Dan Medeiros said...

I'm young, and I learned to hit two spaces after a period, so I think maybe the youth theory is anecdotal. And I still do two spaces, except when I write or edit copy for newspaper publication. I didn't realize single-spacers were so ferocious, and that double-spacing made one look like a blithering fool to pub house copy eds. So therefore I will take pains to correct myself in the future. Thanks for the tip! It's nice to know.

Maybe this is just my two-spaceness talking, but I still like the look of two spaces. It's like a little breath between sentences. Inhale and exhale. One space looks a tiny bit cramped to me. I can deal, obviously, I'm just saying. On the other hand, I don't like when em dashes have spaces on either side. I like them running urgently right into the words--like this.

Anonymous said...

The funny thing is, my ex always insisted on extra space just before her periods.

Bonnie Shimko said...


I was in your typing class! You forgot about the teacher's sleeveless sheath dress and the wormy-gray bra strap that slept on her arm.

Anonymous said...

Chiming in quite late. Here's why the single-spacers are so vexed: they are overworked staff in publishing who have too many balls in the air as it is, and resent that stubborn, clueless writers cling to a convention that causes yet more work for editors. Yeah, it's only search and replace. Multiply that by a dozen or two articles per issue, and it gets damned annoying. The potential for error creep multiplies exponentially. At least, that's how I viewed it when I edited a woefully understaffed magazine for an association.

rick said...

As an unpublished writer, I will do everything I can to enhance my chances of success when I submit a mss, including the best possible writing I can achieve with a query letter avoiding the mistakes pointed out recently, vetted grammar, and a format that will help down the line.

If the trend seems to be one space, I will trend.

If the preference is strong verbs instead of hokey exclamation marks, here come the verbs.

If semi-colons are stupid in dialogue (Leonard Elmore), begone semi-colons. (Besides, most people don't know how to use them anyway.)

For the person who posted the question, do as your professor says and get the grade. You can make up your own mind later if you want to follow his advice.

For those people writing, "don't sweat the small stuff," you're wrong. You don't know what small mistake is going to piss off someone in the publication industry on a particular day. I'll sweat the small stuff until I'm big enough that I can write my novel on toilet paper, and some shmuck offers me millions for it.

And I don't believe the Professor is a nitwit for posing this as one of probably many formatting styles he probably identified for his first day students. All he did was put all his students on the same footing on the first day in class.

-the other rick

Anonymous said...

I've done typesetting, both book and newspaper, and two spaces means slightly more work. It's not a big deal.

People insisting on two spaces being the only one true way? Bloody annoying. That rarely happened outside of typing classes anyway. Typing classes don't exist anymore, (it's keyboarding now) so it is officially NO BIG DEAL.

The fun part of all of this is how a typesetting vs typewriting preference becomes a rorschach test for nuttiness as soon as you replace "rule" for "preference."

Heh. Eurocentric. Funny, that.

Ray Rhamey, Flogging the Quill said...

I'm ancient, and learned on a typewriter with the 2-space convention, and have easily retrained myself to just put one.

Moreover, when I edit manuscripts, those with two spaces after periods, etc. "bother" my eye, and I change them to just one.

One other thing--using just one space rather than two can, with an 80,000-word manuscript, cut down on page count (and paper costs). Not by much, but it's there.

True, this should not be a deal breaker but, as it does with me, the out-of-step look of two spaces can be a nagging little negative to eyes that are making judgements on the actual writing. Why include an annoyance if it's easy to either learn to do otherwise or search-and-replace?


RyanBruner said...

I type two spaces, no matter how hard I try not to. I've known for a couple years now that that rule about two spaces after a period was old-school (although I'm not all that old...is 33 old?).

Regardless, I've been typing this way so long that my fingers won't NOT type the period. See? Even in this post, I'm using the double-space.

But, I periodically (pun intended) do a find/replace on the two-spaces just for posterity's sake.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Two spaces after a period was a rule in the day of typewriters and Linotype machines. The closest one could come to auto-spacing was on the Linotype machine. Spacers would adjust to the word groupings. However, the spacers wouldn't adjust for ease of reading.

In my quest for useless knowledge I've used a typewriter and set type on a Linotype machine. Interesting.

The person who taught me to keyboard still used that rule. I will, if I don't think about it, double space. It's not a sin, but it is old fashioned.

Being a professional teacher doesn't make one smart. Believe me, I know. I'm not telling tales, mostly because I'd like to keep my friends! But, professors can do and say and believe some really dumb things.

What's at play here are the rules of personal responsibility. Students, even post graduate students, seem to lack the initiative to confirm or disprove what their professors say.

I was always most comfortable with students who not only challenged me but who plopped their big (or scrawny) butts down in the library and went to work all on their little lonesome.

No one is immune to stupidity. That includes professors, teachers, editors, and janitors. So assume personal responsibility and inquire on your own. Reada book! Writa letter! Ask the source!

Kendall said...

Huh. I always thought one space versus two depended on whether you justified your text (even right margin) or not (ragged right margin). If the text is unjustified, two spaces after the makes a nice visual break a the end of a sentence, I was taught. But if it's justified, space between all words increases, so the extra space looks weirder or isn't as noticeable, since all spacing mutates. I always figured that explained why journalists, novelists, et al. weren't supposed to use two periods; their text is normally justified in print. But I thought the printed manuscript for submission was supposed to be unjustified and thus have two periods.

Shows what I know! ;-) But I'm curious if anyone else had heard the justified/unjustified explanation.

I'm used to two spaces and think of one space as lazy/sloppy in unjustified text, including e-mail. Gotta adjust my thinking....

HTML ignores extra whitespace in most contexts, yet here I am typing two spaces, even though I know browsers will ignore it completely. ;-) That's all kinds of silly, I suppose!

And BTW, space is a space is a space. Yes, it's the same size as other characters in a monospaced (fixed-width) font like Courier, and smaller (relatively speaking) in a proportional font like Times. But if you don't justify your text, two spaces (except in HTML and similar mark-up) will take up twice as much space as one space. If you justify your text, then your program will play with the spacing no matter which font you use, and programs can vary in this regard (though I'd hope they'd be pretty consistent with each other ;-).