The double space and the title case


The first time I ever had to follow a style guide (of sorts) I was working as a word processor operator at an engineering firm. My manager reiterated that there should be certain punctuation in addresses,¬† two spaces after full-stops, and title case (ie initial capital letters) for headings. This was during the time of the typewriter being phased out and the the computer being phased in. I was using Wordstar to create documents and I wondered what this Windows software was that would enable me to copy and paste things between programs. I didn’t yet have a mouse to navigate around menus, but had to use the keyboard. The World-Wide-Web was a twinkle in Tim Berners-Lee’s eyes.

However, I digress slightly. I carried on with the two spaces after full-stops and initial caps for all words in headings for some time.

After travelling overseas for a couple of years I found temporary work doing desktop publishing where I worked with editors who had a style manual to refer to for such things. After some solid work, my habit of two spaces after full-stops and my use of initial¬† caps was gone and I was converted to using one space after a full-stop and minimal capitalisation and I’ve been a disciple of this ever since.

I regularly, and I mean very regularly, have to correct space and capital usage in work I’m editing and I’m not usually questioned on it, but sometimes I am.

I once had a bunch of fact sheets to make accessible for the web so as part of my work I merrily did a search and replace to remove the double spaces after the full-stops. I sent the fact sheets back to the author and she questioned me on it. I explained why I did it but she was adamant that they stay in. I explained that it just wasn’t done any more because computers mostly use proportionally spaced fonts, unlike typewriters which used the same space for every letter, ie mono-spaced. Here’s more of an explanation.

We ended up meeting about this as I felt it was easier to explain in person. After this meeting I requested it be added to the internal style guide so I didn’t have to go through this again.

Having a company style guide is invaluable to show people who insist on title case capitalisation. I probably refer people to it every couple of weeks when I’m questioned.

What about you? Are you guilty of adding two spaces after full-stops?

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