Dude. Chill.

I used two spaces after the (very) short sentence in this title: Dude.  Chill. This little fact would infuriate Farhad Manjoo who recently went on a full-out rant over the use of two spaces instead of one after a period in the January 13th issue of Slate:

Can I let you in on a secret? Typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong.

And yet people who use two spaces are everywhere, their ugly error crossing every social boundary of class, education, and taste.* You’d expect, for instance, that anyone savvy enough to read Slate would know the proper rules of typing, but you’d be wrong; every third e-mail I get from readers includes the two-space error. (In editing letters for “Dear Farhad,” my occasional tech-advice column, I’ve removed enough extra spaces to fill my forthcoming volume of melancholy epic poetry, The Emptiness Within.) The public relations profession is similarly ignorant; I’ve received press releases and correspondence from the biggest companies in the world that are riddled with extra spaces.

What Manjoo doesn’t acknowledge is the fact that the Modern Language Association only recently changed this rule in their style guide – and even their change is more of a suggestion than anything else:

Because it is increasingly common for papers and manuscripts to be prepared with a single space after all punctuation marks, this spacing is shown in the examples in the MLA Handbookand the MLA Style Manual. As a practical matter, however, there is nothing wrong with using two spaces after concluding punctuation marks unless an instructor or editor requests that you do otherwise.

And while it’s true that I have mostly converted to the one-space rule, Manjoo’s outrage seems just a tad bit overblown. I mean, if you’re going to get upset about something, why not choose the your vs. you’re epidemic that is sweeping our nation?

That’s a problem that actually impedes understanding (besides making you look incredibly stupid). And that, my friendly readers, is my two cents.

3 thoughts on “Dude. Chill.

  1. Must admit that I am also vexed by two spaces instead of one. It has been years now since this change was instituted–regardless of the MLA being slow to catch on. And yet perfectly smart, educated people continue to use a computer as if it were a typewriter. I find this particularly annoying in a poem as the spacing dictates the length of a pause in the reader’s reading of the poem, i.e., I will pause longer for two spaces than for one. Did the poet intend that? Or is she just unaware that two spaces is over and done with?

    Re your vs you’re–also see a lot (or is it alot?) of it’s / its confusion. Major beef–failure to use a comma before AND after an appositive.

    • I’m seeing that more and more people are irked by the 2/1 spacing after sentences – I had no idea! Although, your comment about the impact of spacing in poetry is particularly cogent.

      Still, I can’t help feel that there are more pressing blunders out there. You make reference to several of them in your comment. I actually received an essay from a college student last year that used the letter u for you and ur for your/you’re. Sigh.

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