Larry Yudelson has sent us a link to a a blog post by “heraclitus” on how many spaces to put after a period.
Heraclitus’ arguments are basically
- Old books used more space after the period than modern books do. Anyone who has looked at a pre-20th century book already knew this.
- Old style-manuals direct the use of more space after periods. Heraclitus cites several old manuals, though they are mostly British, and he ignores Theodore Low DeVinne’s 19th century Practice of Typography.
- People who claim that the extra space after a period was introduced with the typewriter are wrong. Is there a widespread belief that the typewriter is the source of the extra space after a period? Heraclitus cites only modern blog posts in support, then he conveniently knocks it down. Classic straw man argument.
- Therefore you can space as you wish after the period.
“Martrix,” our favorite typography maven, commented on Heraclitus’ article as follows:
Who the heck is writing this diatribe? Isn’t almost everything we do in typography convention or custom? Sometime in June I decided to research the ellipsis. Uh oh! Another sacred cow has been ground up into hamburger. All’s fair on the printed page these days, if you believe everything you read on the web.
I decided that non-typographers can and will do as they please, e.g. what is easiest. They don’t know squat about character encodings in UTF-8 and they could care less. Legibility? Why would anyone who relies on a screen the size of a cigarette pack and texting care about legibility?
My standards are still legibility and my eye. If it violates convention and it looks bad, it is bad. If I were to pick up a hardback and discover that they’d double-spaced after the periods, used three periods in succession as an ellipsis and let it drop down to start a new line, used two hyphens instead of an em-dash and let orphans run wild at the top of pages it would disturb me as much as seeing ‘columny’ [sic] as the first word of Kristof’s editorial in the NY Times Sunday Review section last week. It all detracts from whatever pleasure I anticipated receiving for my $28.
eBooks (I received a Nook for Mother’s Day 2012) are the worst; never mind the typographical horrors, it’s as if publishers have decided that readers aren’t entitled to legibility, proofreading or basic literacy because they only paid $9.99.
Well, you certainly got my dander up!
Two final thoughts:
- If you think Heraclitus is right, you should get used to some other archaic typographic conventions like “Capitals being generally ſet with Spaces between each letter. . . .” That beaut comes from The History and Art of Printing (London, 1771), which Heraclitus cites approvingly.
- If you think books and periodicals should be typeset in a consistent, familiar, and pleasing manner, you’ll have to put up with the conventions of the obsessive-compulsives who care about such things. Après eux, le déluge!