the wrongness that won’t go away.

the wrongness that won’t go away.

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  • May 5, 2018

From yesterday’s Washington Post: One space between each sen­tence, they said.  Science just proved them wrong.

Some reac­tions:

The Headline is Stupid

As has become com­mon­place, the head­line is a lit­tle overzeal­ous. The sci­en­tists behind the study prob­a­bly wouldn’t use such strong lan­guage, and the rest of the arti­cle is a lit­tle more cau­tious in the lan­guage it uses when draw­ing con­clu­sions from the research.

They Used Courier New

The researchers used a fixed-width/­mono­space type­face. To say that misses the point is an under­state­ment. Even most of us one-space zealots admit that two spaces makes sense for mono­space type.

One of the study’s authors says it’s still rea­son­able to infer from this that their results would also apply to pro­por­tional type, but her rea­son­ing only makes sense if you don’t under­stand how fonts work, or the real rea­son one space makes more sense:

…the point of dou­ble-spac­ing is to make up for how mono­space type looks weird and janky.
It’s about aes­thet­ics.

Habits are Important

The “ben­e­fits” of two spaces after a period were only observed in study par­tic­i­pants who… wait for it… are peo­ple who usu­ally type two spaces them­selves. Maybe they didn’t actu­ally learn any­thing about typog­ra­phy or font leg­i­bil­ity, but rather about peo­ple being stuck in their own habits.

The Article is Beautifully Formatted

Major kudos to the Post article’s author, Avi Selk, and to who­ever was respon­si­ble for for­mat­ting the online ver­sion. The piece uses a mono­space font and all sorts of crazy spac­ing tricks to lit­er­ally show instead of just tell. It’s thought­ful, cre­ative, and very effec­tive.

(And you gotta love the note at the end, which is — iron­i­cally enough — a nail in the cof­fin of the two-space argu­ment: “Note: An ear­lier ver­sion of this story pub­lished incor­rectly because, seri­ously, putting two spaces in the head­line broke the web code.”)

In Conclusion…

Sorry, but the “sci­ence” doesn’t prove any­thing here. Lifehacker’s take on this is right on: “No, You Still Shouldn’t Put Two Spaces After a Period.