Hmm. I haven’t yet made two posts in any single day, but an issue came up on Twitter that I absolutely have to say something about. It’s a typographical issue, about which I can speak with a bit of authority, since I have done layout work both for books and magazines.
Should you use two spaces after a full stop.
The short answer: NO!
The long answer: NO! NO!
All answers in between: please for the love of whatever deity you prefer, don’t. Just don’t, OK?
Right, got that off my chest, now I’ll tell you why.
At some stage back in the day of typewriters, it became fashionable to add two spaces after a full stop. I don’t know why, but there must have been some sort of typographical reason for it.
These days, all layout is done by computer. Professionals, and semi-professionals, and anyone who likes to look professional, don’t use Word for layout of magazines or books. They use a desktop publishing program, like InDesign, or QuarkXpress. These are highly specialised (and expensive!) pieces of software that can move blocks of text around, change the space between characters, change the width and height of characters. Basically, DTP programs treat text like a graphic. They are not, however, a text editor. Unlike Word, they don’t ‘read’ any of the words. You can’t search for a word or a phrase, or anything in the text. As I said, they treat text like bunches of meaningless pixels. Any formatting in a wordprocessor document is lost. DTP programs import text as ASCII (this is the reason why adding formatting to your submissions is not recommended).
Imagine this: You have an article that needs to fit on one page A4. There are two smallish photos to go with the article, and the text needs to wrap around the photos. The text is in two columns, and is fully justified (both left and right margin are straight). This means that the program will automatically proportionally increase the size of a space between words so that the line will fill out the page.
OK, you’ve finished, but what’s that? Unsightly gaps in the text, especially around the pictures. OH [insert the worst swear words imaginable]!!! The writer of the article has used double spaces after full stops! [more swear words]
Worse – remember what I said about DTP programs? They don’t read the text, so you can’t search & replace two spaces and replace with one. At this stage, you have two options: 1. delete all spaces by hand, 2. go back to the Word file and delete them there, but in the process, you lose ALL you previous work, because DTP programs don’t even copy italics from word. [swear words]
We are no longer in the age of the typewriter. Love your layout person (who usually does the job for nix), and get rid of those double spaces.
Please, please, please, please!!!!!
ETA: Of course I know that for an editor or layout person, the spaces are easy enough to delete, if, and that is IF, this person has the experience to know about the unsightly gap problem, and realises that you can’t edit anything once you’ve imported text into the DTP program. If you submit something to a professional publisher or magazine, there should not be a problem. However, most SFF magazines are run by volunteers with no formal training in DTP, people who hand over their jobs every year or so, and already struggle with complicated DTP programs.