On the Other Hand, We Have An Eccentric Typographical Issue With Unspaced Dashes

“What galls me about two-spacers isn’t just their numbers. It’s their certainty that they’re right. Over Thanksgiving dinner last year, I asked people what they considered to be the ‘correct’ number of spaces between sentences. The diners included doctors, computer programmers, and other highly accomplished professionals. Everyone—everyone!—said it was proper to use two spaces.” [Slate]


On the other hand, I’ve tossed resumes of people who only used a mere one space between sentences.

Sorry, I’m a TWO spacer and I’ll die a two spacer. Damned if I change because some shithead is too fucking lazy to add an extra fucking space between a beginning and the end of a fucking sentence.

@ManchuCandidate: People like you cost people like me time cleaning up your damn Word docs for proper layout.

You’re gonna lose this one, nojo. Two spaces marks a cleaner break between sentences, clarifying whether your unclear font has placed a comma or a period there. It’s been the style for years and years, as far as I’ve ever been able to tell. It always bothered me that HTML arbitrarily reduces any number of spaces greater than 1 to 1. I don’t want to use nbsp, thank you very much.

Interestingly, I just had a friend on FB pose the following question: do you capitalize the next letter after a colon? She claimed that she was unable to get Strunck & White or the internet to agree conclusively. I’d be interested to hear Stinquers’ thoughts. Obviously I’m in the “no caps” camp for normal circumstances (barring when the thing trailing the colon is a quote).

I was a two spacer until I began doing appellate work and starting having to live or die by page limits.

@IanJ: Me, an army of typographers, and a shelf of style manuals will take that bet. Period Space Sentence. Period.

My beef with unspaced em-dashes is that they ruin the flow of a sentence. Nobody’s yet caught me sneaking spaces in there, but I’m guilty if charged.

Regarding colons: Very Situational. I usually capitalize for emphasis. Depends on the clause that follows.

@nojo: Guess I’m wrong, then. Doesn’t stop me double-spacing after sentences.

@ManchuCandidate: It never changed. Two spaces were always a Typewriter Thing. Professional typography always uses one space. Grab a book off the shelf and see for yourself.

1. Two

2. Lower case, unless it is a proper noun.

tj/ my new clients will get seated as the Governor and Lt. Governor of their New Mexico Indian pueblo tomorrow after a brief but intense leadership struggle involving questions relating to tribal law and their constitution. We kept the issue of the role of the traditional religious leadership in a constitutional system out of court.

/declares victory and goes home

How many ones and zeroes died for that Slate piece? This is like the tessalated cheese dispute … silly.

@redmanlaw: But how many spaces were in placed in between constitutional sentences?

Anyone who’s worrying about this and isn’t using a real typesetting system that does it automatically needs to chill the fuck out. Word for memos is fine, but using it for a book should cause one to die in a fire.

@blogenfreude: And yet there are 1001 comments on the Slate article.

@IanJ: It always bothered me that HTML arbitrarily reduces any number of spaces greater than 1 to 1.

Yes, but as a practical matter — especially with programmed pages — that’s very convenient. All those spaces and line breaks can be ignored when you’re fitting HTML pieces together.

@al2o3cr: Me and InDesign would like a word with you, pal.

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: What the fuck are you talking about? Constitutional sentence? I’m the guy who thinks a pronoun is a noun that has lost its amateur status. My kid was studying parts of speech I never even heard of the other night.

So anyway, my contribution to the courthouse flag project is down at the bottom (Santa Fe NM).


@nojo: And yet the legal world — Jamie’s point notwithstanding — would disagree.

@mellbell: Oh, they probably would. My own ersatz style guide is a gumbo of AP, Chicago, and the New Yorker. I cheat like hell until somebody calls me on it.

@nojo: Hey, if it’s good enough for the Supreme Court…

@blogenfreude: Yes, but after the past week, isn’t it time we had a fun argument?

Oh come now, two spaces is archaic and comes from the old typewriter days when all the kerning was fixed, and the two spaces helped readability. I use two spaces, but will I die on my sword for it? Not likely.

@Tommmcatt is with Karin Marie on This One: I should have saved an IBM ball for a hood ornament when I had the chance.

It’s a generational thing. Two spaces look completely anachronistic in modern correspondence, especially e-mail. One space is now the norm.

@IanJ: You are supposed to capitalize after a colon, but no one does it for some reason (me, included). Also, it’s lowercase only after a semicolon.

@redmanlaw: Don’t mind me. I fully support tribal sovereignty in all aspects of government. So if the pueblo want their constitution in comic sans with three spaces after every em-dash, I say we tell nojo to suck it!

Nice photo, by the way.

@mellbell: Tell me about it. I had some guy complain about an amicus I drafted that dared to have only one space between sentences. But I refuse to take stylistic directions from people still using courier font.

@mellbell: I’m with Mellbell on this one. I also use sets of two dashes sometimes — like this — which some programs mindlessly transmute into one. In letters, I double-space between paragraphs, but not in briefs because I usually need all the pages I can get.

Stacked hyphens: Typographical convenience, or Hellspawn of Barbarians? Discuss!

@¡Andrew!: My wife buys the capitalization after a colon argument, but I do not. We have agreed to disagree on this because I’m too stubborn to change.

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: Thanks. I wanted to get the early morning light coming in from the east (right side of picture).

2-SPASE sounds like some mean-ass pimp, like the kind you’re gonna hear the laydees screamin’ at 2 o’clock in the morning for him to give them their money.

Well, I’m certainly not going to go down guns a-blazin’ on two spaces after a sentence, but it’s the way I was taught and is as deeply ingrained in me as any other typographical convention. I do it out of habit, even, that last sentence break, when I’m thinking hard about not doing it. I could change my habit if I had to, but why bother? If I need to lay something out beautifully I use TeX (which probably uses a single spaces in cases where you can actually tell). If I need to lay something out graphically, I use Illustrator or InDesign (usually Illustrator). If someone wants to bitch me out about my use of two spaces, I will welcome them to become my pro bono copyeditor.

@Dodgerblue: Stacked hyphens are word-breaks at the end of a line. Newspapers, with their narrow columns, allow three in a row. But I recently designed a book for somebody who couldn’t stand more than two.

Double hyphens are another typewriter archaism, also carried over into email because (a) nobody knows the em-dash key combo, and (b) older email formats didn’t allow for that fancy shit. I still use them in email for safety’s sake.

@Dodgerblue: Oh, here we go! [Or for those of you who watch The Fashion Show Oh, here go hell come!]

I was a single space between paragraphs and indent at the beginning of a paragraph person until my last boss insisted the only proper way to write a letter was no indentation and double space between paragraphs. Oh, and justify text along the margins.

Which is correct? Discuss.

@nojo: There is an em-dash key combo? What is it?

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: Right-justified text is an abomination in a letter, email or brief.

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: For anything except formal typography, I double-space with no indents. To my eye, it just reads better that way.

This applies especially to web pages. HTML doesn’t have an indent tag, although you can fake it with CSS if you set your mind to it. But even then — like letters — I think web pages read more easily with spaces.

And justified text? Unless you’re using layout software where you can properly control word-spacing, best avoided. Web browsers are better than they used to be, but justified text on web pages still looks awkward to me.

@Dodgerblue: On a Mac, option-shift-hyphen. And since I also deal frequently in class years — ’’’’’’’ — right-quotes are option-shift-bracket.

Plus, just to amuse myself: ¶. I lurve ¶. Option 7.

One space after periods in word processing b/c of kerning.

Em dash — no spaces. En dash — spaces except between a number range. No one can tell the difference anyway, so I usually use spaces. Never confuse em and en with hyphens.

@nojo: Aha. On Windows, it’s Alt 0151 but you have to use the number pad — which makes no goddam sense.

Oh, and orphan and widow control! And never have your graphic looking off/facing the edge of the page. Flip it!

@Dodgerblue: Jeez, that’s cumbersome. No wonder designers prefer Macs.

@JNOV: Hah. I use a space before and after an em dash — as I believe you did in your post.

Text alignment only justified in block quotes, and even that’s changing.

@JNOV: Beat me to widows and orphans…

And while Classic Layout Principles tell you to flip photos, in journalism that’s just not done. If I encounter a head facing the wrong direction, I have to deal with it.

@nojo: All creative people use Macs, do they not? It’s just us drudges on PCs running Windows.

@Dodgerblue: I did! I don’t give a shit here ;-), but I do what Diana Hacker says in papers w/r/t em and en, and I do what print shop people taught me about desktop publishing. But that was eons ago.

@nojo: Oh. That would make me twitchy.

@JNOV: You are absolutely correct about — and –. En-dashes between numbers or dates. Unless you’re lazy and nobody cares.

@Dodgerblue: Lonnnnnng story about why creative types prefer Macs. Starts with Macs offering much better typography back in the Dark Ages. That, plus PageMaker, Illustrator and Photoshop. For years, Windows offered nothing comparable.

If you’re typesetting, it’s one.

If you’re typewriting, it’s two.

@FlyingChainSaw: Where is Cynica? This is her kind of thread.

Ellipsis marks: … when you’re cutting out part of one sentence.

… . when you’re cutting out part of one sentence and part of the next sentence(s).


@JNOV: That’s one of my Major Cheats.

Most of the time, letter-ellipsis-space-continue. I rarely float ellipses.

Properly, you’re supposed to add a fourth ellipsis when finishing a sentence. I just can’t bring myself to do it.

@Dodgerblue: You’re both right.

Colons according to Hacker:

“Do not capitalize the first word after a colon unless it begins an independent clause, in which case capitalization is optional.”

and in a footnote in the “Punctuation” section regarding colons she says this:

“When an independent clause follows a colon, it may begin with a lowercase or a capital letter.”

@JNOV: General reasoning behind my typographic eccentricities: Typography expresses thought. Good typography — including font choice — removes a scrim between writer and reader. I’ll happily violate Rules when I think they occlude understanding.

@nojo: Yeah. Screw that fourth ellipsis.

@nojo: That’s the bottom line. Is it readable? Are you conveying a cogent thought, or does the reader get lost in all kinds of weird looking dodads?

By the way, you’ll encounter the geek version of all this when you deal with programming code. Programming rarely needs to follow a set style, so you’re free to “lay out” code to taste. My taste usually varies from everybody else’s.

@Dodgerblue: Ha! I’ve had to work all afternoon, but was reading through the thread with pleasure.

One space between sentences. Lower case after a colon, unless a proper noun or a quote. Double space looks nicer between sentences. I hate justified text but have to use it at work. I’m a big user of the em-dash and I usually don’t use spaces around it, but I’m inconsistent in that regard. I do use spaces around the en-dash, properly used between numbers in date ranges but not here at work because it’s too hard to code in Access (don’t ask).

@ManchuCandidate: I got the same question. Where I went to school you were beaten if you didn’t have two spaces.

@nojo: What’s a stacked hyphen? Never mind.

@JNOV: This is one of the few things I’m set in my ways about. I must have the fourth period in an end of sentence ellipses.

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: I would say, double space between single-spaced paragraphs, indent optional.

@JNOV: Yes. I’m a three dot floater and a four dot anchor. I don’t know why.

@karen marie has her eyes tight shut: I just looked at some old correspondence and realized I misremembered what my boss had me do. It was indent and double space and justify.

@nojo: @JNOV: One thing I love about Bluebook is that it gives you half a dozen or so different ways of using the ellipsis, each of which signifies a completely different thing. It’s so specific.

@karen marie has her eyes tight shut: I think the indent is wrong in that application. It detracts from the clean look, and you don’t need it to tell the reader that a new paragraph has started.

Okay. New Question:

commas and periods inside or outside end quotation marks? And do you use smart quotes?

@mellbell: Correct. The different uses convey information to those in the know. Like the nerds on this thread.

@mellbell: Oh, that Bluebook I burned? I might need to buy a new one. O_o

@JNOV: I was always inside the quotation marks but a friend told me that’s not correct if the punctuation mark is not part of the quotation. I try putting the period outside the end mark but it still looks wrong to me.

@Dodgerblue: This is the most fun I’ve had all goddamn week.

I still can’t figure out how to play dominoes in the comments on this site. Nojo, is that your fault?

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: I’ve heard that rationale, too, but I’m a inside the quotes kinda woman. No matter what Nojo does. And, yes, it makes me twitch to see them outside.



Short version: I cannot make up my mind about punctuation and quotes.

I really can’t. Just read a sample post. Sometimes I’ll do both within paragraphs of each other.

@JNOV: Dominos? What?

And the es plural debate begins!

@nojo: Tomatoes, tomatos/potatoes, potatos … let’s ask whether there’s a space after a slash.

Are there spaces between the dots in an ellipsis? ;-)

Two topics guaranteed to spark a lively Stinque discussion: Sex and Typography.

@JNOV: No, dominos and dominoes are both accepted. But I had to look it up to make sure I didn’t pull a Quayle.

@JNOV: The great and powerful Wikipedia says either is correct.

@nojo: OED Lite on the dashbboard lists “-oes” as the first plural choice for “domino,” but they’re Brits…

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: @nojo: Well, MS Word autocorrects and adds a little kerning. Not a full space, but still . . . .

Do you prefer to offset parentheticals with parentheses, commas or dashes?

Parallelism: Should that read “with parentheses, with commas or with dashes”?

Comma before the conjunction in a list?

@nojo: I never have anything interesting to say in the sex conversations*. Typography is all I have. :(

*They are educational, however.

Footnotes: Does anyone ever use letters rather than numbers? If not, why is that an option on MS Word?

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: This is the most fun I’ve had all goddamn week. Same here!


1. Depends on how far off the beaten path my parenthetical is from the topic of the sentence. Commas if it’s fairly important to understanding the argument, parenthesis if it’s more of an aside.

2. No.

3. No, but I can be persuaded to follow a leader’s preference on that one. I’m nojo-esque about it.

Numeric lists:

@nojo: Yeah. Domino(e)s. There’s Unicode and Hex for them. 🀰


@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: Letters in footnotes, eh? What happens when you hit Z (or should it be “Z”)? Do you start with “aa”?

@JNOV: I find them a helpful way for my reader to find the primary subject and verb. The parens are there to let them know they can skip that part of the sentence and come back to it later. Use of commas alone means a moderately compound or complex sentence becomes an orgy of commas present for often widely varying purposes.

Is it ever okay to split an infinitive?

@JNOV: I don’t know. I never tried for fear that it would look weird to have a superscript letter at the end or beginning of a word.

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: I do it ALL THE TIME, but I’m sure it’s not. I also have a problem with setting off appositives.

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: Oh, I meant the parens after a number in a list. I agree with how you deal with parentheticals.

So, this got buried: “possum” or “opossum”?

@JNOV: Oh, I see. I’m a period rather than parens person too. I think it’s PTSD from years of having to deal with WP and Word automatically turning (c) to ©. But, on the other hand, people who write statute subsections as 13-424 (C2) make me wonder if they’re retarded.

@JNOV: My boss makes me put spaces between the dots in an ellipsis, and it drives me nuts. He also insists on spelling “aesthetic” “esthetic”, which makes me weep. (And that is an example of when I put the comma outside the quotation marks, which he also forbids.)

@JNOV: Southern-style possum.

I think we’ve scared off the rest of the stinquers. I spoke too soon.

@Mistress Cynica: That not only looks wrong, it sounds wrong to me. Isn’t the e silent?

@Dodgerblue: Yeah, it’s just a look. Some peeps like it.

@JNOV: Inside. Outside makes my skin crawl. Hate smart quotes.

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: Parenthesis within a sentence, period in a list, for personal preference.
God, we’re hopeless geeks.

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: It was originally a ligature, æ. The Brits keep the ae spelling, while some Americans drop the a. Don’t know why he chose that route. I, of course, would prefer to keep the ligature, just because it’s way more affected.

@Mistress Cynica: “esthetic” is a word?

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: I grew up saying “opossum.” I grew up saying lots of strange things. I wasn’t allowed to say “stuff,” “um” or “like…”. <– Heh. ETA: Or “You know…”

@karen marie has her eyes tight shut: Love smart quotes! Laugh at people when their quotation marks are pointing the wrong way.

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: Ha!

I’m still working on this domino thing.

@nojo: Isn’t there some rule about whether the root is Latin or Greek when it comes to plurals?

@JNOV: I’m pretty sure we’re already playing dominos. (Firefox is giving me the squiggly red line for omitting the e.)

And don’t you mean “thwart”?

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: I had to say the specific noun. I could use it as a verb, but I couldn’t put my “stuff” down or whatever. It was so annoying.

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: w00t, Firefox! Chrome is crap. (I wasn’t allowed to say “crap” either.)

One space, people, for chrisssake. We don’t use typewriters. Only screenwriters are allowed two spaces because unless they follow every fucking rule of the formatting gods they are made to watch re-runs of Glee.

Don’t capitalize after a colon. Punctuate inside the quotes if it’s dialogue. Outside if you’re quoting. I use em dashes without spaces either side because I want to create an effect. Not because I’m affected. That’s different.

Now I’m going to bed. Night.

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: Oh! Thwart was my first choice, then I decided to go Little Rascals!

LOLZ! David Frum and Andrew Breithbart are getting their panties in a twist on Twitter about a party invitation. Ladies, let’s stop this petty bickering! You’re both ugly trolls.

@JNOV: Isn’t there some rule about whether the root is Latin or Greek when it comes to plurals?

I’m sure there is, because people who make those rules have nothing better to do. Schoolmarms, Mencken called them.

I don’t know shit about word roots, and very little about technical terms for parts of grammar. It’s mostly intuitive with me — literally, visual.

If somebody asks me to spell a word, I have to write it down. I have to see it. I can’t recite it, because I get lost after three or four letters.

@nojo: Are you left-handed? (That’s today’s question for everyone.)

ADD: If you close your eyes, can you see the word?

@FlyingChainSaw: You need to tend to your FB flock. You haven’t posted anything inflammatory in two days.

My cat is talking in her sleep. I’ve heard her snore before (read: all the fucking time), but WTF is this? Do animals dream? I’m going to go wake her up in case she’s having a nightmare and then watch some depressing documentary about the national debt.

Night, All.

@JNOV: Eye disease has nothing to do with legibility or page scan.

It’s like this.

You use two spaces, the fucking layout guy comes upstairs, holding a page mechanical with strips of waxed copy running off of the bottom.

He asks to the asshole that used two spaces and copy editor who sent the copy without removing the extra spaces.

Then he kicks them the fuck to death.

@JNOV: I’m pretty sure my dog dreams. She barks and runs in her sleep.

I need to get away from the computer or I’m never gonna fall asleep. See ya.

@FlyingChainSaw: That’s how I remember it. Except the violent waxer-wielding backshop person was a girl. You did not cross her, upon pain of nobody getting out of the office until 4 a.m.

@JNOV: I’m not a freak of nature, but NojoPop and NojoBro are.

Jesus christ, waxers. Our waxer broke in the highschool paper (the only newpaper experience I ever had), so we used it as a wax heating pot, and applied the wax with small brushes. What a horrible joke that was. Leaving the newspaper office sticky every time, without even having had any fun getting sticky.

Our next thread should be all dick jokes.

@IanJ: A backshop guy who also tied flies gave me a lump of wax the used for paste up of the newspaper. He said it was the best stuff for sticking fur or poly dubbing to thread for tying fly bodies. That was over 20 years ago and I still have a tiny piece even after tying dozens of flies each year since then. I still remember ol’ Jerry in his red plaid shirts, denim apron, goofy teeth and balding head. He didn’t fish at all anymore at that time but he loved flytying and helping out a young fisherman.

@nojo: I’m not a freak of nature…

You sure about that?

I can’t read 143 comments to see if someone else has already pointed out that in the olden days when all the world used typewriters, all the world was taught in their typing classes to put two spaces after a period. Old habits die hard. (For instance, my seventh-grade English workbook drummed a lot of good things into me, one of which was using “fewer” and “less” properly. Thanks to slovenly dicta in the AP stylebook, most of the world has now abandoned “fewer” almost entirely. Now I constantly hear barbarities such as “less people now do thus and so.”)

Don’t most of the word processing programs automatically delete extra spaces?

@nojo: “I’ll happily violate Rules when I think they occlude understanding.”

Bravo, that’s a sentence for the ages.

The sad thing is this: I have been able to handle every discussion we’ve had here in the last week–painful as they’ve been–because I can detach myself from the emotional impact of it all (except during Obama’s speech, when I cried like a baby). But this discussion I cannot handle. I got about four comments in before I wanted to start bouncing heads off pavement I was so annoyed. If you want to have a discussion with me where I lose my shit, just try defending double spaces between sentences or the omission of the serial (Oxford) comma, for starters. So for the sake of my blood pressure and my sanity and my desire not to alienate people whom I otherwise adore but would like to take to the woodshed right now, I’m backing slowly away from this thread and I’m going to pretend I never saw it.

Add: And lest you think I’m being unreasonable or (FSM forbid) hysterical, imagine what it would feel like if everyone thought they could do what you do for a living, despite the fact that you have had years of training and experience and they had a grammar class in 6th grade. Such is the plight of a professional editor.

@flippin eck: I completely understand. It’s not even my real job but I can’t help correct other people’s articles and briefs.

@Dodgerblue: I’d like to see that.

So we’ve gone from Stinque After Darque to Grammar Porn.

@flippin eck: I used to win sentence diagramming contests in grade school. Top that.

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