A few weeks ago, an issue arose at work that highlights a generational gap between those who learned to type on a typewriter and those that learned using a keyboard. First, for those of you who don’t know, there are no more “typing” classes taught in schools. It’s now called “keyboarding”. Another noun that has morphed into a verb.
Anyway, this co-worker in his late 20s comes into my office and sits down looking somewhat bewildered. He tells me that another of our co-workers, a very nice woman in her 40s, mildly admonished him for submitting a document to her where there was only one space between sentences. She told him it was proper to put two spaces after a period.
Well, my youngish coworker wanted to know from me what was correct. He told me he had never HEARD of this two space concept. He had always used one and was never told otherwise. Until that day.
Now, I was taught to put two spaces after a period at the end of a sentence, but I learned to type on a typewriter. To this day I put in the two spaces. Writing this blog post I’m using two spaces. But that apparently isn’t the law of the land anymore.
I know of some workplaces that require you to only use one space. I also have been aware that the need for the two spaces has long since disappeared. The two space concept started because original typewriters had mono spaced fonts and the extra space was needed for the eye to pick up on the beginning of a new sentence. Fonts today are new and improved rendering the double space unnecessary.
Well I assured my younger co-worker that he was fine with the one space and that the other co-worker was just repeating what she ha learned many years ago. Basically, I told, him both were “correct”.
However, I did an informal survey of friends and co-workers and here’s what I found: your space usage mostly depends on whether you learned to type on a typewriter or (two spaces) on a keyboard (one space). Generally speaking, that broke things down along age lines with the division being in the 30-35 age range today. However, I found one other determining factor: for those learning on the keyboard, sometimes the teacher was old school (or just old) and taught the two space method. But generally speaking, you will find those over 35 using two spaces and those younger using one space.
And by the way, the two-space thing is so ingrained into my typing that I don't know that I could ever break the habit.
Update: Will, in comments, makes a good point: whatever your choice, one space or two, be consistent within the same document. This is pretty much what I told my youger colleague. I actually run into this problem when I’m editing documents that were cobbled together from different sources. Anything you get off the Internet is going to be one space while something you copy and paste from a Word doc (depending on the author’s choice) might have two spaces.
Also, to be clear, I don’t think there’s really a good reason to be using two spaces. I do it out of habit, but, my commenter’s rationalizations aside (good one College One!), it’s pointless.