We live in a time where politics, religious beliefs and even child-raising techniques have the ability to trigger polarizing outrage that, after a while, becomes a sort of white-noise. A desensitized standard of living that no longer results in intense, acute anger…but rather a continued feeling of anxiety. Except when it comes to car seats…people always get spazzy when it comes to car seats. I mean, think about what would happen if you posted a picture of your 18-month old (yep, I used months for my one-and-a-half-year-old) in a forward-facing car seat while, gasp, wearing a puffy winter coat? The slaughter would be fast and furious.
However, one thing that apparently still has the power to infuriate the masses, is how many spaces should be used after a period at the end of a sentence.
You’d be hard pressed to find someone who is not passionately decisive on what is right or wrong in this situation. I mean, when you only have 280 characters to get your point across, you’re not going to waste precious character counts on a space…amiright?
In the beginning, during the age of the typewriter, the rules of the spacebar were simple. Two spaces after each period. Always. Every single time.
Typewriter font had a uniform width and sentences looked cramped without the extra space. Then, with the dawn of the computer, and with it variable-width fonts, anarchy ensued, and the rules of typography fell into chaos.
While there are two completely separate schools of thoughts on this, a recent study out of Skidmore College made waves by being the first scientific study to look at spacing and reading speed. The study concluded that an increase in spacing between sentences resulted in an increase in speed of three percent when reading text with two spaces following periods, as compared to one. This comes out to about nine extra words per minute.
This is a small difference, but if a change like this saved even a tiny amount of time, or prevented a tiny amount of miscommunication, the net benefit across billions of people could be enormous. Entire economies could be made or broken, wars won or lost.
Not to be dramatic or anything.
I, personally, find two spaces after a period unsettling. I immediately assume the writer is the type to still have their phone’s keyboard sound effects on and/or refers to their jeans as dungarees. Does that make me ageist…whelp…if the dungarees fit…
Ultimately, there is not enough research out there to say without any doubt that one way is right or wrong. It’s a personal, strongly held belief that you’ll be hard pressed to change someone’s opinion on. You’d probably have more luck changing someone’s view on how long to keep their child in a rear facing car seat. (spoiler…impossible)
In conclusion, when it comes to one space or two, my unscientific, barely informed belief is that half of people are correct…as are the other half.