The penguin Opus, with Bill the Cat as his running mate, has entered the presidential race in the revived Bloom County comic strip. At the end of last week Opus came out strongly on the divisive issue of how many spaces to use after a period. His position, I am sorry to report, supports two spaces after a period. That this is a highly emotional issue can be seen from the comments when my friend Jane Redmont posted the first strip on her Facebook timeline.
My position is that two spaces after a period is a factor of the monospaced fonts used on typewriters, and that when using a computer with proportional fonts spacing is handled automatically, and only one space is needed.
Mignon Fogarty, known as Grammar Girl, not so much an authority in her own right, as someone who has undertaken the work to do the difficult research on our behalf, takes this position. Likewise, the Web site GrammarBook.com, based on The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, published by the respected technical publishing house Wiley, agrees. Also in agreement is the The Chicago Manual of Style Online Q&A.
Oddly, grammar.com states: “In word-processed documents, two spaces traditionally follow a sentence-ending period.” But it then admits that the rule is changing and goes on to cite the Modern Language Association:
Publications in the United States today usually have the same spacing after a punctuation mark as between words on the same line. Since word processors make available the same fonts used by typesetters for printed works, many writers, influenced by the look of typeset publications, now leave only one space after a concluding punctuation mark.
I can only think that that first sentence refers to early word processors, when word processing and computing were done on different hardware.
Mignon, in her Grammar Girl post on the subject, refers to what she calls “a long and fascinating piece” that takes the dissenting view. Personally, I found the piece much more of an angry rant, but for the sake of completeness, I include the link here.
Bottom line: Sorry, Opus. It’s one space after a period.
Today, March 4th, is National Grammar Day. It is promoted, though not though was not originated by, Mignon Fogarty, otherwise known as Grammar Girl. Mignon is the Dear Abby of grammar. If you’re interested in quick tips on grammar and writing visit her Web site, where you can peruse recent tips and subscribe to her newsletter. She also has podcast which you can access via the iTunes store and an app for the iPhone and iPad on which you can listen to the podcast. She’s also on Facebook.
Mignon is the composer of “The Grammar Song,” which I hope you enjoy.