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Thank-you! I thoroughly enjoyed this. I don’t have time to read the comments, so please forgive me if I’m repeating something that has already been said. I am a double spacer, but then I still capitalize the names of the seasons and the compass points. I see no reason to undo my education in a world where “between you and I” is heard regularly. Interesting idea about paper saving scheme! I agree with your conclusion that technology did in the emspace. At the same time the printing technologies were eliminating many characters, computer tech was also hating on two stroke space typing. On a computer, each character has a discrete code and meaning, and there is only a single blank space in ASCII. Typing two spaces would alter the meaning of many columnar codes, and in many early programming languages would throw off the data. Fifty years later, we account for that disparity of one or more blanks in markup (HTML), by automatically reducing all strings of blanks and carriage returns to one space. Multiple spaces may be there in the transmission, but they are not displayed. This makes spacing in the code to be more readable, and allows typists of all stripes to easily use the same system. The good news for the dinosaurs is that double striking the space bar at the end of a sentence on an iPhone/iPad will cause it to put the period in. New tricks for old dinosaurs!
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If the analogy to dashes holds true, the enspace is a “middle ground,” much as an endash (used mostly for ranges of numerical values) is somewhere between a hyphen and an emdash in width. The enspace character is included as a usable unicode character in digital typography but I have been unable to find a single example of it or instructions for its use. I think it may sometimes appear between footnote numbers and the text that follows them. Some old-school typographer is welcome to enlighten me, but unless I’m missing something, the dispute between single and double spacing advocates revolves around a typewriting convention that originally emulated emspacing, the prevailing typographic style for many centuries. The affects of justification on the examples are, in fact, mentioned in the article. Justification was usually handled by adjusting only the word spacing. Notice that even in the justified examples, the spacing after a period is proportionally wider than the spacing between words. Additionally, a non-justified example was appended to the article to address that very concern.
I’ll point out that your informal survey captures one change (dropping the second space at the end of a sentence) but not the first. If you look back to early literature, you’ll find that the first printed texts used no space at all; commas and periods were simply set loosely, and the beginning of the following word was about as close to the end of the preceding word as if no punctuation had been added. I have the vague impression that spaces after punctuation were standardized by Robert Granjon (printer & type designer in17th century France), but would need to do some research to confirm that. What’s unclear to me is when it became standard to use more space after sentences than between words. I’d always heard it was a Victorian convention, but your samples prove otherwise.
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Aha! So what is needed here is an “em space” single character in the font! Any decent word processor then could be configured to auto-replace two consecutive strikes of the space bar with such an em space character. Of course, auto search-and-replace invoked by the editor/typesetter would soon make mincemeat of that. A child of the ’50’s, I’ll continue to type two spaces at the end of sentences, and will likely to do so for colons as well (but not for semicolons).
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Clearly the technological process of “printing” is changing. But my preferred guideline for this (as for many things) is clarity. And in anything I print out for myself, those two spaces clearly make things easier to read. So for me it’s not a question of perpetuating an older style. It’s a question of communication. So I will continue to make that strenuous effort of typing two spaces rather than one. (But thou art free, of course, to do otherwise! Be happy!)
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Fascinating! I usually jokingly tell authors that the only time we learn to put two spaces after a period is in school, after which we are promptly told to forget it. Those years and years of learned muscle memory make it difficult to fight the double-thumb-click urge. I never really knew where the double-space convention came from in the first place.
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So nowdays, I still put 2 spaces after the dot like it was coming from my instinct. I won’t conclude tonight if 1 or 2 is better, I stumbled here wanting to find something for someone else (as lot of people type without being constant. A space after a comma, sometime yes, sometime no, etc. — they just probably never learned any standard and/or they are probably not sensible to such details).