143rd yeah write: TO SPACE OR NOT TO SPACE



When I first started writing my blog on WordPress, I noticed a peculiar thing. As I typed my stories I would double space between sentences. When I previewed the story, I noticed a space had disappeared. Annoyed, I would go back into my edit mode and add the spaces back. After awhile, I would sometimes forget, and eventually gave up. I always wondered why this happened. Not enough to do a Google Search, but I wondered.

Two weeks ago, I was listening to a show on NPR called ‘The Dinner Party Download’. I don’t usually listen to NPR on a Saturday afternoon, so the show was new to me. I wasn’t sure I liked it, but then I was driving so maybe not paying 100% attention. It seemed too busy, with a bunch of people trying to be cool, maybe that was the idea… dinner party… people conversing. They did have an interesting story about the 100 anniversary of the Mona Lisa being returned to France, after an absence due to a brazen theft by Italian Vincenzo Peruggia, which is a cool story in itself. But the gist to this story was an interview with some Italian bartender who had invented a cocktail for the occasion, called the Mona Lisa. Here’s the recipe if you want to try it.

Into a tall glass, add:
1 part Alkermes, an Arabic-turned-Florentine liqueur from the de Medici era.
1 part orange juice
3 parts Champagne

As the show went on, they would sit around shooting the breeze between stories and I kind of half-listened, until I heard something about double spacing. I perked up, and one guy said that it depended how you learned to type. If you learned on a typewriter, you double spaced. If you learned on a computer, you single spaced. “If you double space on the internet (a funny way to put it I thought), it ate one of the spaces”, he said. So that’s what was happening! I was typing on the internet and my spaces were being gobbled up.

I wondered if that was true. I learned to type on a typewriter in junior high school… I think eighth grade, maybe ninth or seventh. Hey, that was 55 years ago. I do remember a classroom with a hell of a lot of typewriters and kids clacking away. It was hard at first, but I got the hang of it and am a pretty good typist to this day. My granddaughter Isabel types a lot faster than I do. I’m sure she learned on a computer, I’ll have to ask her if she double spaces, maybe that’s why she’s faster if she’s just single spacing.

A computer keyboard is easier on the fingers, I know that. My first typewriter looked just like the one in the picture above, the keys were hard to push, but I liked the feel.  I remember when we got our first electric typewriter… that was something… and then we got one of those ball ones later on, that was fun to watch.  I don’t remember the last time I used a typewriter. I’ll probably always double space, but I don’t think I’ll go back and add spaces on my blog now… I wouldn’t want to mess with the internet.

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  I wonder how many of my writer friends double space.  I wonder if any of my writer friends use a typewriter.  Here is a link if you want to read some of my writer friend’s stories… yeah write weekly writing challenge  See if there’s any double spacing.

Here’s the link to The Mona Lisa Returns to Italy story on at the Dinner Party Download, in case you are interested.

24 responses

  1. I learned on a typewriter as well, some 20-odd years ago. I remember being so excited when I got my first electric typewriter. I used to double-space, but with a computer I just set it to whatever is called for by what I’m writing at the time. I’m still learning the in and outs of the vagaries of WordPress though. It doesn’t like it when you do something out of the ordinary, at least for me 😀

    1. Well, since everything you write is ‘out of the ordinary’, I’m surprised WordPress even lets you publish… I’m glad they do though.

  2. This made me laugh. I am 40 (creeping on 41) and I learned on a type writer as well. I remember my other laptops just had an “enter” key and I would tell my kids to hit “return”. My mac says both. 🙂
    I was in an antique store with my daughter who got lost playing with a typewriter. She longs to use one….

  3. I knew when I decided to join the Speakeasy,yeah write crowd, I would not win anything but I’d learn a lot. This double spacing tip is amazing. Thank you Ted.

  4. Typewriter for me. I used to always double space, but I’ve gotten over it. I still sometimes do the double space after a period though. That’s been much harder to unlearn!

    1. Agreed. I was taught that we should double space after periods, and now it seems like everyone’s all like, “Psyche! Only one space!”

  5. ah, so that explains it. i learned on a typewriter too, and i’ve accepted that the computer just does its own thing, including spacing. but at least i know the answer to one of my questions now – thanks.

  6. I was wondering about losing my spaces when I post my poems. I gave up. I too learner to type on a typewriter. The manual one because the class only had two electric and I never made it to class on time to snag one.

  7. I learned to type on a typewriter and I am trying so hard to break the double space habit. Double spacing messes up the mobile view, which I only recently found out. I didn’t realize that some places eliminate the extra space. That’s interesting.

  8. I’m a webmaster during the day and learned that the “non breaking space” ( ) will give you that extra space at the end of sentences. I was taught on a typewriter in the 80’s and it really hurts my brain not having those two spaces at the end of sentences. I remember being told to put that extra space in to make it visually easier to read (I believe that was the gist). And it was! I loved it!

    Fast forward to my webmaster days and posting content and I would religiously add those  ‘s to the code to get the double space.

    But with the new endeavor of a blog, I’ve officially thrown in the towel.

    Great post. I think you’re on to something about learning on the typewriter. I thought I was just OCD.

  9. I learned to type in high school. I learned on a manual Burroughs typewriter. The keys were blank and the machines were extremely heavy. The typewriters looked very much like the above picture. As I learned and my speed increased, I had difficulty with two keys simultaneously going up and becoming stuck together.

    I too was taught to double space after a period and when I type anything on the Internet it drives me crazy. When I type an email and I put a period at the end of the right margin it will indent one space on the next line, because I double spaced, which I find totally frustrating.

    In the work place (I was a medical transcriptionist) I used an IBM electric typewriter with the ball that would spin around to place the letter. This machine drove me crazy as I would type and see a number of “—-” in a report. This was the rest key on the ball and apparently, because I typed so fast, the typewriter didn’t have enough time to go to the correct letter. Many calls were made to IBM to correct this with no results. Finally, one of the VP’s of the company came out to the office to watch me type. He immediately saw the problem, but was not able to solve it. I was told to cut my speed down!! Thankfully this doesn’t happen on the Internet, but the spacing after a period still bothers me!!

    Ted I am glad I am not the only one that finds double spacing annoying!!

  10. Natalie DeYoung | Reply

    How strange. I learned to type during that age between computers and typewriters, so we learned to double space, but quickly had to adapt to a new way. That’s my generation, I guess, always adapting…

  11. I, too, was typewriter taught. Strangely enough, the disappearing spaces on the internet rarely bothered me.

  12. I learned on a computer and I single space. But my husband also learned on a computer and he double spaces!

  13. Author Catherine Townsend-Lyon | Reply

    Can’t help you on the one. I had to drop out of typing because I had/have Adult Attention Deficit Disorder, so I couldn’t keep up in the class. I’m self-taught, that’s why I stink at typing!…LOL….Great Post! *Catherine* 🙂

  14. I had never used a type writer and I love watching people typing on it. I will buy it in future if I could. No idea how those double spaces work ! But I really wish to go backwards on the path you people moved forward ! 🙂

  15. After a year of effort, I think I’ve weaned myself off the double space. But my boss still does it, so when he edits my work, he puts them all back in! Grrrrrr. I’ll have to find an archive of that NPR show to share with him.

  16. I took typing in high school but I don’t remember the double space thing. It could be because I didn’t really learn to type until years later courtesy of Mavis Beacon.

  17. Don’t mess with the internet indeed – the cats will know.

    I learned on a keyboard and I don’t typically double space between sentences, although in university I learned that a lot of professors preferred it, presumably because it made the reading easier, although now I wonder if it could also be that they were raised in the typewriter era and just preferred it that way? Interesting!

  18. The last batch of edits I got back from my editor has a little reminder about my double space issue. I learned 2 years ago I needed to stop the extra space, but sometimes i slip. I guess typewriter skills run deep. 🙂

  19. yep I learned on a typewriter like one in the photo too (when I was in high school- freshman year 1986). 🙂 and yep the double space. ha. my 4yo won’t even know what i’m talking about if I ever bring it up. she’ll learn how to type on a flipping phone, no doubt. actually, I guess to her it will be text. ???

  20. I learned on a type writer as well, but I like the computer keyboard so much better. I don;t have to listen to the clack, clack, clack or hit the return button. I also don’t have to pay attention to where I am, not to mention the correcting. Double space just looks really horrific to me now after so many single space articles.

  21. I’m 40, and learned to type on a typewriter. I still double space after a period. Sorry, I can’t let that one go. I swear, someone sits around and changes “rules” to keep us in a state of confusion. (Don’t even get me started on whether to put a comma before the ‘and’ or ‘or’ in a list of things… they didn’t do it when I was in school, and now, apparently it’s fashionable 🙂 )

    I’ve noticed that WordPress removes the extra space, too. I rarely go back and fix it, although it does bother me just a little. I know, I need to get over it!

  22. Yeah, I’ve noticed that too. Nice post Ted.


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