1.22.2007

Space cadets unite!

Miss Snark,

I've spent the past 25 years putting two spaces after a period. Recently, I read that you should only have one space after a period. Is that true? If so, when did it change? I have two completed manuscripts and have begun to send out queries. Am I going to have to change the spacing? I don't know that I can train myself after all these years to only use one space. I never even notice using the space bar when I type.

Thank you for all the time you spend on your blog. It has been extremely helpful to me.



Have you been doing anything else for 25 years? Miss Snark wonders how well that punctuation job pays...and are there benefits?

The correct form is extremely important, as you know (Bob). To help writers in this extremely important phase, the SFWA website has posted some guidelines. Read them. Learn them. Live them. Herewith.

53 comments:

Antoine said...

That is effing funny.

Gina MarySol Ruiz said...

You are the Golden Goddess of Snark! I shall always bring gin & Clooney to all your altars. Thanks for the link.

bebe said...

My very first comment in this blog may have been something along the same lines, but...

I was really surprised how quickly I was able to kick the double space habit once I worked someplace where they do the single space thing.

Also, in Word, you can find and replace double spaces for single spaces. Or the editorial assistant at your publisher can. Either way, it takes less than a minute. So don't worry too much.

Ellen said...

With apologies to KY, it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks. I also learned to put two spaces after a period and can't seem to break the habit. Fortunately, Word has a find and replace feature that lets you replace every instance of "period space space" with "period space." This old dog learned that you can reformat an entire 400-page manuscript about 30 seconds.

Katie said...

That's freaking hilarious.

Anonymous said...

Using two spaces is considered old school now. But I wouldn't freak out about it. I don't think any agent is going to be like "Egads! I see two spaces here! Reject!"

And as someone who has worked preparing manuscripts for a typesetter (basically undoing all the crap writers do), I can say that the two spaces thing is the least of my worries. It takes a second and half to correct using auto replace if the publishing house doesn't want it that way.

Anonymous said...

the two-spaces-between-sentences thing is from the typewriter era. MSS can go directly from the MS word doc to the pagemaker or front page layout, not that most of you snarklings need to worry about that. at any rate, modern technology--and an array of fonts--makes such behavior unnecessary. i've often wondered how many extra pages double-spacing between sentences costs. but then again, these days words (and paper and toner) are cheap.

Anonymous said...

Itrynottouseanyspaces,butifyoureallywanttousethemyoucanfollowtheseguidelines: http://www.mla.org/style/style_faq/style_faq3

typewriter-trained fossil said...

It is trivially easy to search-and-destroy the doubled spaces after your manuscript is complete. I do a Replace All, changing space-space to space. That catches the odd mid-sentence double space as well.

If you do happen to have some legitimate uses of multiple spaces, do the replacement by changing period-space-space to period-space.

(However, the reverse process, inserting a second space, is most emphatically not a trivial process.)

ORION said...

I clicked on the link.
Words fail me.
But that's OK because they apparently are meaningless anyway.
I am skywriting my next novel.
A combination of temporary art and futility.

Nicole Brackett said...

Phew. Thank goodness for that butane torch my husband's got lying around. I'm good to go.

Anonymous said...

If you Google this subject, you'll find a minor war going on. For me personally, I learned to put two spaces (and I'm only 23, so it's not like I learned to type back in the Dark Ages...), I'm used to putting two spaces, and I think it looks better with two spaces. So I fully intend to keep putting two spaces. If an agent is fussy enough to reject my manuscript just because of a minor detail like that, I probably don't want to work with that agent anyway.

(But if it DOES become a legitimate issue, the Replace feature in Word can de-double-space your entire book in about thirty seconds. So no stress. ;) )

judy said...

Funny stuff!

Kanani said...

Well, obviously you learned to type when everyone had to take typing in high school, and the rhythm of the typewriters "pound pound ding" inspired countless techno ditties twenty years later. (FYI... my teacher had cat-eye glasses, read harlequin romances and reached over every fifteen minutes to flip on a new record for us to type to. She also went outside to smoke ciggies. Ah, she even had a beehive hairdo).
Anyway, it's very easy to get rid of the double space on your long form. Simply use the "find" to locate .(two spaces) and replace with .(one space). It could be my crazed mind, but I think at one point I did this and it worked. Though it could be a figment of my imagination, much like my long time relationship with George Clooney.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Miss Snark, I've been obsessing over all this stuff as I'm about to send off my Very First Query Evah (tm). I needed that.

Now I just need some US Stamps for the SASE. For some reason they feel just as hard to get as everything else mentioned in that link...

Jim Oglethorpe said...

What I learned in my 1983 typing class no longer applies. I found this out from my latest editor. Old habits die hard. (space space).

Kanani said...

Oh, and naughty, naughty. That link was VERY funny!

Terry said...

Stainless steel? Dang! I've been using titanium.

jeanne said...

Hilarious! My favorite line re the publishing industry: "Some houses are still waiting for this whole Gutenberg business to blow over."

Laura Ware said...

Well, I guess I've been doing it all wrong!

And I'm assuming one needs an industrial sized mailbox for all the responses as well?

Erastes said...

It might not matter to Miss Snark, and it might not matter to some major publishers, but believe you me, such a stupid little thing does matter to publishers. You should read some of the submission rules I've read - setting in stone every single margin, indent, size and type of font, number of spaces between sentences, the list goes on from there. They state that if the writer deviates from them, they won't be accepted. Some people insist on one thing, some, on others.

All I can say to the questioner is - if they have submission rules - stick to them. If they don't then don't worry about them and use the basic formatting rules, double spaced, courier or times roman 12, inch margin, indents etc.

I know you love to be Snarky, Miss, but unless this was actually a friend of your that you knew you could be rude to, your response was a tad harsh. And a little misleading. It seemed like a genuine request to me?

Alley Splat said...

Pure brilliance, thanks.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the e-mailer on this one. I guess I fall under the try to teach an old dog thing. -V95

Maria said...

Lately, I have been coming across magazines that are asking writers to take out the double space--I can think of two such magazines off the top of my head. Both of them accept email submissions. Both of them specifically ask in their guidelines that the extra space be removed before submission. Both of them are paying magazines, one of them professional rates.

There are standards and every publisher out there seems to insert one or two special instructions just to see if we are paying attention...and to force us to reformat before submitting Every Single Time.

Just part of the game.

Anonymous said...

As a professional proofreader and letterpress artist, this is one of my all-time pet peeves. Check the Elements of Typographic Style, the AP Stylebook, the Chicago Manual of Style--all of them are opposed to double spaces following periods. Herewith:

"In the nineteenth century, which was a dark and inflationary age in typography and type design, many compositors were encouraged to stuff extra space between sentences. Generations of twentieth-century typists were then taught to do the same, by hitting the spacebar twice after every period. Your typing as well as your typesetting will benefit from unlearning this quaint Victorian habit."

--Robert Bringhurst, The Elements of Typographic Style

judy said...

Wait!

I tried the replace function in Word and couldn't get it to work right. So I had to do every danged double space after period in the whole danged manuscript.

Let me tell you, I was not loving anything after that.

bebe said...

Also, it wouldn't hurt to find & replace for things like double spaces before submission anyway. You're bound to have some unintentional double spaces, (paragraph mark)(space)s, etc. Your ms will look much cleaner after a few minutes of simple find&replaces. It may seem trivial, but really, why not do it? You bother to do a spell check now and then (one hopes).

Janet Black said...

Gads, when I read your initial comment I thought, hell bells, ya'mean I have to retype my entire friggin' manuscript? I've been typing two spaces after the period for so long I don't even realize I'm doing it. That is a truly amusing article. Thanks.

Kim Stagliano said...

Gosh almighty - I always thought periods got further apart as you got older - I too have been horrified to learn they are supposed to get closer together. I had this "problem." Several smart list members told me to use find/replace. I used Find: ". space space" and replaced it with ".space" and voila! My MS lost at least a decade! If only it were so easy for moi.

Minnie Bittertiddof said...

Who knew such a thing?

A Paperback Writer said...

Miss Snark, that link is beautiful! I've bookmarked it.
Ah, sarcasm! 'Tis a fine art.
Johnathan Swift would be so very proud.

Twill said...

Sigh.

On the one hand, this whole thing seems silly. On the other hand, anal me needs to put in the following -

If you aren't changing all double space to single space, please don't forget to change "? " to "? "
and "! " to "! ".

Double sigh.

Anonymous said...

I could not find the SFWA web page which says put one space instead of two between sentences. The link you posted must be a mistake. It directs readers to something by a fellow named Allen, who does not write nearly as well as you. Also, what he says does not make just a whole helluva lot of sense, if you all know what I mean.

Mark said...

Where does this space issue come from. Why isn't one sufficient? Remimds me of a discussion about whcih side of the stamp to lick in many writer forums. The real problem lies in what to put in spaces that aren't blank by design.

Mark said...

"I am skywriting my next novel."

This is a special a challenge from a sailboat.

Anonymous said...

Damn it! I totally fell for that one. Could not click that link fast enough. Was practically drooling while waiting for the definitive answer. Said answer was going to set my query apart from all others in the slush.

Dave Robinson said...

Personally, I think it's completely annoying to drop the second space. It just feels right to type it. Having said that, I've no problem running the mss. through a find/replace to make sure it's in whatever format the guidelines request. I type the way that's easiest for me. I submit the way that's easiest for them. We both win.

Anonymous said...

I'm only supposed to use one space now!? Ew. It's so much easier to read with two spaces!

I'm a sophomore in college, and even I do it that way. I am surprised to find that I am now "old school," when it comes to this kind of thing. I don't think I'll ever be able to get used to it...

Dave said...

I accidently posted this comment on another entry if it looks familar. Blame it on old age.

One or two spaces is really a typographical thing.

I had to supervise a groups of contractors (graphics illustrators) who did all of our brochures, books, fact sheets - - anything printed. The first thing they made fun of my doing wrong was typing two spaces.

In their reasoning, one space makes sense and two spaces are just typing for personal letters. That's because Pagemaker, InDesign, FreeHand and other typographic programs require a single space.

You see, those programs control the amount of space between letters and words so that you don't end up a book or article filled with widows and orphans. You fit the column length. Or, you end a chapter in a book with a full or half page of type.

One aspect is called kerning, the other I forget the name. It's the spacing gimmick that gives you both left and right justified borders.

Publishers worry about that stuff.
Retyping paper copy is expensive, converting emails is cheaper and having the writer present finished copy is the cheapest yet.

Kiskadee said...

I am 55 and had never ever heard of any rule about spaces in all my life. I taught myself to type with the two finger method and went on to my own nine-finger method and never even think about spaces - I use one, but only becuase that comes naturally if you're self-taught. Nobody ever asked me either; neither agent nor publisher. Folks: THEY DON'T CARE. Just write a good book.
I'm surprised at all the serious comments here after Miss Snark made her own opinion pretty clear...

LadyBronco said...

The same standard exists for academic papers.
If you use double spaces after a period, question mark, etc...you get dinged every time. APA formatting forbids it.

Michele said...

I loved that link, but there was one problem with it. Nowhere does it say anything about having one space or two after a period. How can expect us to follow the rest of his advice when he leaves out that one crucial thing???

:)

SJB said...

Here is me worrying about me plot and me characters. Methinks me got this all backwards.

My thanks Miss Snark, as always your humour and candour has lifted my morning.

Scribbler said...

I was already laughing when I got to "who wishes to remain anonymous"

Zoe Winters said...

Thank you Ellen for that search and replace tip. I might need it. Sometimes I do single spacing after periods. Sometimes I don't. Right now I'm doing single spaces, but it feels a little weird. Of course once it got mentioned double spacing felt weird too. Oh noes! What do I do now? hehe ;)

Zoe Winters said...

LMAO @ the person who said someone probably won't freak out about it. If Ellen (and the rest of us) can search and replace in 30 seconds for an entire manuscript, it seems a bit silly for anyone to freak out, since it's not that much more work for them. By the same token though, it's not that much work for the writer to fix it and shows that they understand proper format and are willing to follow it.

whoisbenji said...

I am 21, and I learned in primary school to type 2 spaces after a period.


... I also don't like following rules so I don't think I do it any more.

Anonymous said...

The "habit" is not that hard to break. Word's grammar assistant (an otherwise useless feature) can be set to recognize extra spaces. It'll then put a red squigly each time you put more than 1 space together. Assuming you type by looking at the screen, which you damn well ought to if you picked up this habit in typing class, you'll immediately see the mistake everytime you make it.

A couple or three days and you've joined the 21st century. I did it, and there aren't many habits I've been able to break.

Kris Y said...

Too funny! Someone obviously had too much time on their hands.

Carter said...

If he spent 25 years putting two spaces after a single period, when did he find time to write two novels? Something to think about for the Zen masters among ye.

Adrian said...

We shouldn't be worrying about this., but we do anyway. I wrote quite a bit on this topic on my blog a while ago.

One Tap or Two?

Highlights:

1. Intersentence spaces should be wider than interword ones.

2. But they shouldn't be twice as wide.

3. In a small set of circumstances, the wider space helps disambiguate.

4. Actors reading scripts stumble less if you put two spaces between sentences.

5. WYSIWYG editors suck for composing text.

6. Supposed "high quality" typesetting programs that care whether you type one or two spaces suck.

Conclusions: Type how you like. Conform to your agent/editor/publisher's guidelines before you submit.

Anonymous said...

Here's what I was taught and do, if anyone really cares about the spaces issue:

Double spaces after periods are used for typewriters and non-proportional fonts. Single spaces after periods are used for proportional fonts. Which means that if you're submitting in Courier, you need two spaces. If you're submitting to someone who prefers Times New Roman, or another proportional font, use a single space.

Unless the submission guidelines say otherwise, of course.


Katherine

P.S. I'd already seen that link, but it's still funny.

Miz Treeze said...

Sorry, I don't have time to read through the 52 comments before me.

Dear Author of Letter: Can you not search through your manuscript for one period and two spaces and replace with one period and one space? Seems like it ought to be a simple thing, unless, of course, the great Microsoft has made such an activity impossible.

Even if they have, some techies should know how to do this. Try looking up Technical Writer websites, etc.