The Bearded Iris

A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Your Computer Keyboard Space Bar: Less Really Is More!

Are they gone? (The kids, I mean.)

Are you okay? It gets better. Trust me.

My kids started back to school weeks ago. I live in the deep South. Folks do things differently down here…like say “We need to get together!” when they really mean “I’d rather eat a bag of hair than invite you over.”

But enough about me and my Mother in Law. (Winky face!)

Hey, you know what? I haven’t shared any good blogging tips in a while.

And since it’s Back to School season, let’s celebrate in style with a series of tips! But unlike July which was accidentally themed “Bad Smells Month,” I’m going to devote all my Just the Tip Tuesdays in September to better blogging. 

Not that I’m an expert or anything, but I have learned a few things over the years that might be useful to some of you.

And now that I’m a professional editor, I’m seeing first-hand that even some seasoned bloggers are unaware of a few tips that can make their blogs even better, IMHO.

Even if you’re not a blogger, you can benefit from some of the tips I’m going to share this month because they can apply to writing and desktop publishing in general, social media, and using photos on the Internet. So, really, this series is not only for bloggers; all are welcome here.

Welcome, you!

So let’s get started, class. (Who brought me an apple?)

This week, we’ll be discussing one of my biggest online pet peeves: S P A C I N G 

The Internet is a fickle place, my friends. My research indicates that you only have about 10 seconds to convince a new visitor to stick around and read your stuff.

If your blog is attractive enough to draw someone in and they start to read your writing, you don’t want to turn them off with a cluttered layout or spacing that hurts their eyes.

This next part might come as a shock to some of you, so brace yourselves:

In the world of computer-based word processing, you only need to put one space between sentences.

I know, I know…that is totally not what you learned in your 10th grade typing class. But that’s because typewriter characters are monospaced and most computer typefaces use proportional characters. Chances are, whoever taught you how to type was trained on an old-fashioned monospaced typewriter. And back then, two spaces after a period was the standard.

Well not anymore.

If you put two spaces after a period when you are typing with a proportional-width computer font, you are going to have big old gaps in between your sentences and it is going to be visually distracting to your readers.

You want your readers to be focused on nothing but your amazing writing, yes?

You put a lot of time and effort into things like word choice, grammar, and spelling, right? (Again, please say yes.)

So don’t sabotage all your hard work with a text layout that makes your beautiful writing difficult to read.

Don’t believe me?

Well here’s an example:

This is a well-spaced example paragraph. This is a well-spaced example paragraph. This is a well-spaced example paragraph. This is a well-spaced example paragraph. This is a well-spaced example paragraph. This is a well-spaced example paragraph.

This isn’t a well-spaced example paragraph.  This isn’t a well-spaced example paragraph.  This isn’t a well-spaced example paragraph.  This isn’t a well-spaced example paragraph.  This isn’t a well-spaced example paragraph.  This isn’t a well-spaced example paragraph.

Good God! MY EYES! Make it stop!

See how herky-jerky that second paragraph is? See how a “river” of interrupting white space is formed down the middle of the three lines? Yuck!

Don’t do that to your readers, m’kay? You love them! You need them! Treat them and their tender eyeballs with some respect, for crying out loud.

But it’s not just your readers you need to worry about, oh no. There are editors, sponsors, and potential investors and decision makers out there who are going to judge some of your worth based on your mastery of the technical side of blogging.

Let’s say you’ve been asked to write a guest post somewhere fabulous like, oh I don’t know, I’ll just randomly pick a site like In The Powder Room, for example. If you turn in your guest post with two spaces after each period, your poor editor is going to have to go through and manually delete one of those extra spaces after each and every mother-loving period. And if she has to do that when she is in a shitty mood because her 5-year-old just came home from school with Enterovirus and is puking and crapping all over the house? She might not really want to promote you from guest blogger to staff writer the next time there’s an opening. Maybe it will be easier for her to just hire someone a little more low-maintenance. Hypothetically speaking, of course!

I know this is a hard habit to break, but trust me, it’s worth it. Your posts will be easier to read and you will look like a more professional writer if you can retrain yourself to put just one space after every period.

For more great desktop publishing tips, I highly recommend the book The PC is Not a Typewriter by Robin Williams. (No, not that Robin Williams, although I’m sure his version would be a lot funnier.) There’s also a Mac version. I’ve had this book for years and it has taught me so much about professional typesetting and desktop publishing in general. It’s very easy to read and not too techie.

I hope this is helpful to you. You have my blessing to Pin it and share it with other bloggers who might benefit from making their work look more professional. Next week I’m going to share some of my favorite Twitter tips. If you’re on Twitter, you won’t want to miss it! See you then.

Sincerely and with appropriate spacing,
-Leslie

 

54 Comments

  1. You know, I do try to single-space when I’m typing these days, but I still think single-spacing looks like ass. Your “not well-spaced” paragraph looks normal to me, while your “well-spaced” example looks crowded. It looks like when people don’t put a blank line between paragraphs.

    It may be worth noting that whether or not a second space even renders on a web page depends on what software you use to compose. Many modern blog platforms will replace extra spaces with what’s called a “non-breaking space escape sequence” (which sounds way cooler than it is) so that the extra space will display. But because of the way HTML works, if you are editing source by hand, the extra spaces won’t be rendered.

    • You know, I think the font has a lot to do with it too. There are some blogs I read that have a different font and the double space after the period is very glaring and distracting. You’re right, it’s not as obvious with my font.

      You lost me at the non-breaking space escape sequence though! I use WordPress both here and at In The Powder Room, and I can tell when there are extra spaces.

      • Prepare yourself for dork-land galore…

        I’m a HS English teacher. My husband is an attorney (who specializes in ever technical APPEALS.) Naturally, we’ve argued about THIS. VERY. SUBJECT.

        Turns out, there IS a rule; it DOES have to do with font. (See that semi-colon? Huh? Huh?

        Double space after end punctuation when typing with a fixed-width font. (Courier New is the most common.)

        Single space after end punctuation when typing with a variable-width font. (Times New Roman is common.)

        It’s all right here: http://www.typographyforlawyers.com

        I have to admit, I have yet to conquer my own double-click happy thumbs. But aren’t you so excited to have proof (over your own neuroses) to back you?

        • Girl, your semi-colon is HOT HOT HOT! I get so excited when I see proper and masterful punctuation. It’s probably a sickness of some sort.

          And yes, Courier is made to replicate the type from an old fashioned type writer, so it is monospaced (aka “fixed width”). If you use that font, or any monospaced font, you should double space after each period.

          Yes, I do appreciate the additional validation. Thank you!

    • Oooh, forgot to say, not putting a blank line between paragraphs is also very hard on the eyes! My blog template does that automatically though. Thanks for reading and commenting, Mike.

  2. It is very hard to type with hooves and I hit as few keys as possible. The publicist tells me that I should be glad I did not have to learn on something called a “manual typewriter” like she did. She says I would never be able to type at all.

    She only learned to put two spaces between paragraphs, not sentences so she must have gone to a different school.

    • You’re not confusing the space bar with the return or enter keys are you? Because yes, I too learned in my 10th grade typing class to do two returns at the end of a paragraph to place an extra line space between paragraphs.

  3. The publicist says she is old, impaired and has had brain surgery so forgive her if her buttons are confused.

    I however know exactly what keys I push with my hooves. Harumph!

  4. I’m guilty of the double spacing. Can I claim ignorance? I had no idea! I solemnly swear to apply this rule from now on. Love your tips!

    • Thank you Laura! Yes, you absolutely can claim ignorance. We all only do the best we can with the knowledge we have at any given point. But from now on, single spaces after periods, right?! 🙂

      Thanks for being here and I’m so glad you enjoy my tips!

  5. My boss still puts a double space after each period in her letter drafts – as the lucky person who gets to format those letters, it drives me freaking bonkers.

    So, now you should feel reassured that there will be no double-spacing from me in my upcoming guest post on ITPR. And it’s nice to know that should I ever get promoted to staff writer, I won’t have to deal with that same crap from my NEW boss. 😉

    • I’m so glad I’m not the only one who appreciates good spacing! And you sure know the way to an editor’s heart. I fell in love with your writing and proper punctuation before I even realized you were so much fun as a person (re: your love of motor boating). You are a blogging triple threat: smart, funny, AND grammar gifted.

  6. You know, now that you mention it, I do believe that the font you use does make a difference. I learned on a manual typewriter (double space, double return, yada yada yada). I normally don’t put double spaces after a period but there are certain fonts I’ve used that just don’t look right if I leave that extra space out. It drives me nuts because I keep going back through my work to add or delete spaces.
    Now that I know I’m not totally losing my mind, I’ll just stick with the more space-friendly fonts.

    • Yes, the font makes a difference. I don’t know the science behind it; I just eyeball it. And no, you are not losing your mind! You just have a good eye for detail. Takes one to know one! 🙂

  7. Guilty as charged (on the double spacing between sentences-who’d a thunk??) I am still getting used to wordpress–lots of yelling and screaming going on in my house, and not at the teenager–THANKS!

    • Oh yes, big learning curve there, Mary Anne. I remember it well! Hey, I do private WordPress tutoring on the side. Email me if you ever want to book a half-hour session.

  8. I don’t put two spaces after each sentence, thankfully, but I have bigger problems… awful, horrendous grammar and punctuation problems. Colon? Semicolon? I never know.
    I can wait to read the Twitter tips! I’m also an awful Tweeter. :/

    • Hi Rach! Thanks for de-lurking!!! I hated Twitter at first, but once I figured it out, it quickly became my favorite social media site. If you have specific questions about it, let me know and I’ll try to address those topics in my post. Thanks!

  9. Aye Dios, Mio!!! Only one space between sentences?!? What is the world coming too??? Well, alrighty then. Ya know, I’ve been using a computer for twenty-something years now, and NO ONE, I mean NO ONE has ever told me that. Wow! Thanks my blogging goddess friend!
    Does this also apply to composing correspondence that is printed out? It’s gonna take me a minute to get this down. I keep “double tapping” as I type a sentence. Opps…see? There I go again……….much love to the goddess!! 🙂

    • Goddess…ha! (Can I keep you?)

      Yes, this is true for any document that you compose with desktop publishing tools and proportional-width fonts. So even if you are typing a letter in Word that you are going to print out, if you are using a standard font like Times New Roman (for example), you should only use one space after every punctuation mark.

      My brain is a strange venus flytrap of random facts, I tell you. I bought that book probably 15 years ago because I suddenly found myself in charge of writing a corporate newsletter and I wanted it to look really good. If I hadn’t bought that book, I never would have known this rule.

  10. I am sick and whiny. I will comment on this properly later. The hurricane blew poor little buckethead’s virus two states over.

  11. THANK YOU for addressing one of my biggest pet peeves in the blogging world! (No sarcasm.)

    Next time would you address the ellipsis? Maybe tell people they don’t just get to make up the number of “dots” they use? Please?!

    • No, thank YOU for validating that a little detail like good spacing can contribute to the overall professionalism of someone’s writing!

      Oh Lawd, ellipses . . . that is a great topic!

      Thanks for the suggestion, Lib!

  12. This tip deserves more than just an apple, so here: I’ve baked you an entire apple pie!
    (No spacing of any kind needed between bites.) xoxo

  13. Can’t wait for more blogging tips!

  14. Thanks for clearing that up, Beardy – I’ve heard the single space thing before, but it’s a hard habit to break indeed, so I chose to go with that whole, “Don’t believe everything you read on the innerwebs” thing, except I guess a friend on the innerwebs trumps that, so I’m changing my ways.

    Or I will, if I ever start breaking my paragraphs into individual sentences.

  15. Ah, damn it! I’m a double-spacer from hell. And now, in this comment, I’m going through rehab and trying to break the habit. It hurts…oh the AGONY! 🙂

    I want a pretty blog, a readable blog, so I guess I’ll take the advice. Even though I really don’t love it. 🙂

  16. I absolutely love that you’re doing this series, and I absolutely love (even more) that you’re drawing a hard line here.

    Because girlfriend? Someone has to!

    I’ve been told that I have a “comma problem.” Will you be covering that as well?

    {So very nice to be here, and meet you.}

    • I have a “comma problem” too, Galit. Join me at Commas Anonymous?

    • {Shut the front door! Galit Breen is in the hizzy, y’all. MY hizzy?! OMG. Wait, let me stash some of this clutter first!}

      Oh hey, Galit. What’s up? {Said in my best casual voice, while attempting to lean against the wall, and then missing and falling down.}

      I have strong opinions about commas. Hmmm, you’re giving me big ideas over here.

      • Dying. Just dying here.

        And, for the record, I’ll take your strong opinions about commas any day!

        {I have nothing to raise or match or meet them with, but love me anyway, mmkay?}

        🙂

  17. I’m a little surprised this post wasn’t subtitled “Dear Kim, Lose The Frickin’ Space Bar”. 😉
    Pinned and shared and trying to remember!

    • Ha! You’re not the only one, my love. It is a hard habit to break. And clearly it didn’t stop me from snatching you up at ITPR. Your numerous pros far outweigh your occasional extra spaces. 🙂

  18. Skinny Jean Colleen

    September 4, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    Holy Cats! I had no idea and now I have taught double space at the end of the sentence to the next generation (my 11 year old son). He may have tried to tell me but I was just too set in my ways. I should listen more and speak less when it comes to technology.

  19. Being a transcriptionist for 30 plus years that is really hard for me. Luckily I am not in the market to be fabulous…..or famous even in blogland.

    One other thing, you want an apple? I thought for sure you would rather have bottles of vodka.

    Ha! Had a blast taking Ally to her first week of preschool!

    • Hi Cheryl! You don’t have to be famous to want a better looking blog, sugar!

      And yes, my vodka days are behind me now. I’ve been alcohol-free since February 22 (the beginning of Lent) and have no intentions of going back down that bumpy road. I’m in a better place now, and would MUCH rather have an apple than an appletini. That’s probably a story for another day though.

      Good to see you back here! I’ve missed you. XO.

  20. tracy@sellabitmum

    September 5, 2012 at 8:26 am

    Raising hand. Guilty as charged. But my 10th grade typing teacher was HOT and I will always do what he told me to do. I think anyone born before 1970 should get a pass on this rule. Please?

    • LUCKY. My 10th grade typing teacher was definitely nothing to write home about, that old battle-ax.

      Girl, it’s your blog; do whatchawanna do. (Sing it with me now.) I can’t tell you (do-do-do-do), how to space your stuff. (Do-dooo-do-do-do-do)

      But seriously, YOU? No. I don’t believe it! Cut that out, girl. You will add a whole new layer of polish and professionalism to your already fabulous style.

  21. This was a big lesson for me when I began blogging. One space? Who knew?

    I look forward to more of your tips. I am sharing with my facebook blogging group for women of a certain age who learned keyboarding on typewriters.

  22. Jen at PIWTPITT.com

    September 5, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Son of a bitch. I’ve been doing it wrong for years. When I wrote for another site (not ITPR) they were all over my shiz about single spacing, but I thought they just made me do it because it they liked to watch me cry. I’m trying very hard to make this comment single spaced and it is driving me crazy. I can type 90 wpm with a double space between my sentences. I’m down to about 35 wpm right now. Ugh. Just had to go back and fix those last two sentences. Thanks for the tip, please don’t be offended if I say Fuck your eyes and I don’t use it. Much love.

  23. I don’t think i do it. I don’t even know if i do. Would I KNOW if i was doing it? Crap. I’m sure i do many other things wrong. I really enjoyed reading from people who do, though. I think i over-hyphen, over comma, make up words, and i fart a lot. But that was not a topic covered.

  24. Oh, Iris. You are full of . . .
    . . . useful information!
    And stuff.
    I knew about the single space, but didn’t know why. Now I know, now I know!

  25. I’m also guilty of this, it’s going to take a lot to remember to only single space. I wasn’t aware the rules had changed since I learned to type.

  26. Thank you for posting this! I cringe when I see people double spacing still.

  27. I have to comment because I seriously don’t know whether I single space or double space. Ha! I DO single space. Now all I need to do is learn to type with more than four fingers.

  28. I always try to remind my self about this simple yet a very common mistake in structuring a paragraph. Leaving two spaces after a period is way too awkward and seems tiring for the eyes. Thank you for the tips.

  29. I. LOVE. YOU. You’re my hero. I can’t believe my eyes, really. I’ve been a fan of that book since the mid-90’s when I learned in college (yes, I’m that old) that while developing content for this new-fangled thingamajig called THE INTERNET, you should get used to using only the one space between sentences! I have shared that little tidbit of information with anyone who will listen. All of them HEAR me, but they don’t LISTEN to me. So, I relegate myself to using the Find/Replace option in word processing programs and fixing any document which comes across my computer. Call me anal, I can’t help it. It’s an obsession.

    Mind you, I understand, because I have common sense and am observant, that if you are using a font which is monospaced, you go back to using two spaces between sentences. Not that hard really. Thank you for sharing!!

  30. Hold me. I found this out in the most embarrassing of ways. My nemesis pointed it out in a very classy way and I wasn’t defensive AT ALL!
    Thank you for saving others from similar humiliation.
    Kerry at HouseTalkN

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