Just One Space. That's All It Takes
Or, Be Brave and Be on the Side of Change
Note: This is the second in a series of editorial observations and writing advice garnered from my first year back as a full-time professional editor (and writer). Forewarned: I may or may not bring Jesus into it.
When writing—anything—only use one space after a period.
I can’t believe I even need to type this in the Year of our Lord 2024. But alas, every now and again, this debate pops up on the socials, and we get people thinking they sound smart, saying:
“They can pry my two spaces out of my cold, dead hands.”
Okay. Fine. But it’ll probably also be out of your cold, unpublished hands.
Of course, I jest. If you are publishing on your own sites or printing your own books, you are welcome to do as you wish (although, many sites correct this for you). But if you want your writing to be taken seriously—whether it’s in a professional setting or in hopes of being published—and you continue to leave the double spaces even after you know better, it reveals something about you as a writer. And it’s not great.
It reveals an unwillingness to learn, to grow, to adapt, and to operate within the long-accepted practices of an industry.
Of course, our typing teachers were correct when they told us to click and clack two spaces on our Smith Coronas forty, fifty, sixty years ago. Typewritten documents needed that extra space for readability (I think this is the reason). But like so many other changes that we’ve embraced over the past nearly half-century, the advent of word processing has eliminated this need. And thus, the “rule” to leave two spaces after a period died away more than thirty years ago.
I understand that change is hard—especially when we’re changing things we learned back in the days when, for some of us, life was easier, better. Back when periods and people knew their place—and that was, two spaces removed!
Habits are hard to break. As is acknowledging that what we once learned is now wrong or unnecessary. It’s like learning our parents or pastors did not in fact get everything right! This can lead to a crisis of self or faith. A “deconstruction” and an opportunity for reconstruction and new understanding.
Accepting one space is much less dramatic. But it points us somewhere just as good. Because change is good! Change is the movement of life, the rhythm of the world. We grow. We explore. We discover. We learn. We progress. We evolve. We press on.
And yet, I get it. These ideas—growing, exploring, discovering, learning, progressing, evolving—terrify some folks.
But fear not!
All around us folks are making terrible decisions based on fear—fear of failing, fear of being alone, fear of being wrong, and fear of losing power.
But being a writer takes courage. Like all prophets, our high and holy call to put our words into the public sphere leaves us open for rejection, for ridicule, for shaming, for shunning, for loss of livelihoods (all of which I have encountered, by the way—and I am prepared for any delight folks might have upon discovering a likely typo in these editorials…).
And yet, we write.
Though, we are wise to listen to the sword-wielding guardian angels (i.e. editors) who guide us, protect us, and tell us: ditch the double spaces.
In short: Be wise. Be brave. Be on the side of change.
PROMO NOTE: Frankinschool 2: The Cupsnake Escape comes out February 6! It’s available for pre-order at Bookshop.org, Amazon, B&N, or your favorite local bookseller. I have a few copies to give away to deserving schools or libraries. If you have a favorite teacher, school, or library who might enjoy the latest in the award-winning series of “delightfully creepy” chapter books, email me at Caryn.firstname.lastname@example.org to have them entered into a drawing for a free copy!
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