The Scourge of the Second Space.

One of the benefits of blogging is that those of us who have a deep-seated need to force our opinions on other people have a ready forum to do so, and not merely on matters of national import. This includes inveighing against our own pet peeves. For instance, a few months ago I scolded America for the profligate use of the phrase "I could care less," when what people mean when they say that is precisely the opposite, "I couldn't care less." And today, I have to applaud Slate's Farhad Manjoo for taking on the use of two spaces after a period:

Every modern typographer agrees on the one-space rule. It's one of the canonical rules of the profession, in the same way that waiters know that the salad fork goes to the left of the dinner fork and fashion designers know to put men's shirt buttons on the right and women's on the left. Every major style guide—including the Modern Language Association Style Manual and the Chicago Manual of Style—prescribes a single space after a period. (The Publications Manual of the American Psychological Association, used widely in the social sciences, allows for two spaces in draft manuscripts but recommends one space in published work.) Most ordinary people would know the one-space rule, too, if it weren't for a quirk of history. In the middle of the last century, a now-outmoded technology—the manual typewriter—invaded the American workplace. To accommodate that machine's shortcomings, everyone began to type wrong. And even though we no longer use typewriters, we all still type like we do.

As Manjoo explains, there are still teachers out there infecting students' minds with the idea that they should put two spaces after a period. Why? Because that's the way they learned. And I did too, when I took a typing class in 1985. But now we have computers, and fonts that use proportional spacing, which makes two spaces after a period look wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

We're never going to maintain our global dominance if people keep doing this. You think that 10-year-old kid in Shanghai is being taught to put two spaces after a period? No way.

-- Paul Waldman

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